By Adam Boxer
In part 1 of this series, we looked at the evidence around retrieval practice and how it relates to Carousel. In part 2, we will look at the evidence around homework.
Part 2: Homework
Setting homework is a central part of schooling in the UK, though there is variation from subject to subject and from phase to phase, with the amount of homework roughly increasing with age. The Education Endowment Foundation’s review of the evidence suggests that for secondary students homework can improve progress by 5 months and for primary students by 3 months.
Practically, homework often does not result in improved student outcomes for a variety of reasons (see here for more).
Improving homework: making sure it is set and completed
Obviously, homework cannot be effective if it is not set by teachers, and even if it is set it will not be effective if it isn’t completed by students. We have worked hard to make Carousel painless for teachers to set and painless for students to complete, for example by:
- Simple and clean interface: it takes less than a minute to set a homework on Carousel. You can also duplicate quizzes and just change the questions to save even more time.
- Access to content: writing your own question banks will always be better than using Community ones, but thanks to the Carousel Community there is now a huge amount of resources to choose from to match your course (including the premium John Catt Education Knowledge Quizzes).
- Device and browser agnostic: Carousel works on all devices and all browsers, so students should be able to access it on anything from anywhere.
- No logins: students just use their name, so there are no late night emails asking for their logins or passwords.
It is also very easy to see which students have and which students haven’t completed the work — you just click on the “completed” column. This enables you to hold students accountable for their work and increase completion rates.
Improving homework: digital technology
The EEF suggest that homeworks involving digital technologies tend to show better outcomes than other homeworks. Having reviewed the studies referenced, I don’t think a clear causative mechanism can yet be proposed, and therefore I would be reluctant to cite this in favour of using Carousel, at least for the moment.
Improving homework: explaining the why
Another suggestion from EEF is to explain to students why Carousel is an effective use of their time. Blogs like this one are our way of helping with that: teachers should be explicit and clear with students that self-testing is an effective way to learn, and that they shouldn’t take any shortcuts.
Improving homework: integrating with class work
A final EEF finding is that:
Homework that is linked to classroom work tends to be more effective. In particular, studies that included feedback on homework had higher impacts on learning.
As above, we have built in mechanisms that help teachers to use the findings from Carousel homeworks in class:
- Our Whole Class Feedback tool’s “What you found hardest” area displays the questions with the worst scores, and can serve as a lesson starter. Using this shows students how Carousel feeds into classwork, and that you are paying attention to their work and responses and expecting them to improve.
- The Whole Class Feedback tool’s “What I found interesting” section, as above, allows you to highlight interesting responses for class discussion, further integrating homework into classwork and in-class culture.
- Our upcoming new feature, Whiteboard mode, allows you to use the same questions from Carousel as part of your day-to-day classroom-based retrieval, and shows students that working at home will help them get better in class and vice versa.
From the start, we have worked hard to align Carousel with the evidence, and use the evidence base to help guide our development. We certainly have areas on which to improve, but think we have made a very strong start.
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