When students learn in the classroom, they are using their working memory which is essentially the short-term memory. Their short-term memory will be continually updating during class and then will be pushed aside when they go in to their next class.
We get a similar reaction when walking in to a new room. Our working memory gets to work, picking up the new lighting, layout and any other features, displacing information that was previously in our short-term memory. If we were then to enter that space again, we start to remember key information.
This is like how homework works, it helps to solidify key information by rejogging memory. For students, it is about more than just repeating information. Students need to access the information in ways that are relevant to their world, and to transfer knowledge to new situations.
Revising key bits learnt in the classroom through homework increases the likelihood of a student remembering information and being able to apply skills in a variety of situations in the future, contributing to their overall education.
Primary school students will often respond better to and learn more from being shown real-life examples of a concept rather than being overloaded with lots of excess information and complex tasks. In comparison, those in the higher key stages will benefit from tasks that elaborate on the learning done in class and help to solidify key points.
Here are some key things to consider:
- Set work that’s relevant and engaging.
- Match homework to a student’s age and skills
- Get parents involved, this will allow them to see the value behind homework and will encourage them to make sure homework is completed.
- Always give feedback with homework and ask the children how they found various tasks.
While there is no data on the effectiveness of homework in different subjects, these general rules could be applied equally to all subjects across KS3 and KS4.