Mark has been Head of History at Oasis Academy: Mayfield for two years and last year became a National Lead Practitioner for Oasis Community Learning.
Over the last year, I’ve attempted a number of different homework policies. The aim was that they:
- Were good for the wellbeing of my staff
- Had purpose beyond just generic revision
- Were straightforward for students, so I could have high uptake and success
Once I had trialled homework booklets, practice exam questions and various other online platforms I finally got around to trialling Carousel Gold and have found it to be the most effective method by far.
Carousel allows me to create and set questions on the factual knowledge I need my students to know to reinforce their understanding of larger concepts. This is standard retrieval for them without any distractions: just a set of flashcards to revise from followed by a quiz. The access to Revision Mode with the flashcards was the most appealing for me; if a student can’t do the quiz, I didn’t want that to be the end of their homework as there would be no improvement. Revision Mode therefore not only allows students to prepare for their first quiz attempt, but also to go back and shore up their knowledge if their score in the quiz wasn’t good enough.
I need my students to practise revising much of the factual knowledge in History by themselves. ‘When was the Battle of Fulford Gate?’ is simple revision of a date. Students can practise autonomously and need no input from me beyond “you need to learn this.” The follow-up from me normally involves accountability measures like a conversation in class, contacting home, or even a sanction.
However, there was some knowledge that required more input from me, because significant numbers of students getting it wrong showed me that they misunderstood a larger concept. After using Mark Quiz/Analyse Results features to quickly skim through the areas that needed major intervention, I could easily adapt my next lesson using the Whole Class Feedback feature. Because this feature holds all the relevant data in a format I can instantly use with my students, it means I no longer have to resource feedback slides. I can change my Do Now for additional practice or plan a reteach next lesson. Future homework would then tell me if this had been effective or if I needed to make a note for future intervention at a point when returning to it made sense.
This is from a quiz my Y10s took last year:
Instantly, I can see that the majority (73%) of the class did get this right. But Carousel allows me to mark certain responses as “interesting”, which I can then revisit in class during my feedback session. There could be a whole host of reasons why I would mark an answer as “interesting,” and in this case I chose these two answers mainly because they were not technically wrong. A peasant and a villain (by which they meant villein), are both examples of tenants. But so are a baron and a knight, in the Norman feudal structure. This misconception meant that in some of my students’ minds, tenancy only applied to one class of people, when in fact its breadth was what made William I so powerful compared to previous kings. This is where in class I took to reteaching the feudal pyramid again, paying close attention to what the king rented and what he received from all his tenants.
The first answer here shows me that students have an issue with chronology. The Roman Empire had long collapsed by the time of the Abbasid family, and students studied two units which had reiterated this. I had displayed a timeline with the distance between the two shown. But without seeing these results, I would have gone on believing my students knew and understood it. Chronology is sometimes seen as a lesser skill in History, with causation and significance seeming more complex, but without a working ability to sequence events, cause and effect end up being written as effect and cause. As a result, I ensured that the quizzes over the coming weeks hammered events, dates, and a better understanding of chronology.
The second answer above, “The Middle East”, is too vague. The students have studied another Islamic dynasty called the Umayyads, who were also in the Middle East, so making it specific to ‘Baghdad’ was crucial. Whilst the student could have provided a more accurate answer, it also made me reflect on my question. Would they have got it wrong if it had been ‘Which city did the Abbasids build and base themselves at?’ That way the student would have known to give me a more specific answer. As much as students reflected on their answers, it also let me reflect on what questions I was asking in the first place.
To respond to the difficulties arising from both answers, I also began using two additional tools at the beginning of most lessons, after my Do Now. I needed a quick and easy way to move into a reteach if it was necessary, based on the results of the homework. I therefore prepared a blank map and a blank timeline. I teach on a tablet, so it’s easy to circulate the room and annotate the board and with these two templates, there was not much I couldn’t reteach. I could recap events and geography easily. Just recently, I’ve been teaching the French Revolution and have kept a blank pyramid spare on my tablet to annotate for a hierarchy system. The data the quizzing has provided has stopped me from being just a broadcaster, and instead has helped me to respond to the actual errors in my class. Before Carousel, I wasn’t actually aware of how many of these there were!
Carousel has helped us to reconceptualise the way we think about and implement homework, and we now use it following a cycle that allows us to respond and adapt to our students’ knowledge as it grows:
It is a superb tool to have in the History teacher’s toolbox.