Homework for students not teachers

Matt Everett

Senior Assistant Principal, Cardinal Wiseman Catholic School

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It doesn’t really need to be pointed out that setting and marking homework is a drain on our time. As an English Literature teacher, marking extended essays by each student always took a big slice out of my day. Technology has helped me make this process a lot easier, and it has given me tools to really engage my students.

Let me explain how.

Firstly, in terms of being more effective, I refer to a comment from Amanda Spielman, HM chief inspector of education, children's services and skills. In 2017, she said that “schools are focusing on preparing pupils for SATs and GCSEs at the expense of giving them a “rich and full knowledge”. 

It appeared she was highlighting some schools’ tendency to teach to the test. With the pressure we’re under to raise standards, this isn’t really surprising. However, with the video pod resource we use, teaching those aspects of a story that are harder to grasp (often sub plots to the story – crucial but not the main concept) actually became a lot easier. By bringing the plots and sub plots to life visually, literature at Cardinal Wiseman is now made much more ‘real’. The students appreciate its meaning; they understand how the storylines evolve and relate to the world around us. This is a big part of making English Literature engaging to today’s students.

Put simply, using these videos helps the students to gain the “rich and full knowledge” that Amanda Spielman was calling for.  

In terms of making homework easier for teachers to manage, I feel we’ve achieved this too. Once we have studied and discussed an aspect of the story or play we’re working on as a class, I set the student’s assignments and homework based on any gaps in their knowledge. The fact that I can do this so easily, with related videos as support and the relevant pre-loaded multiple-choice questions, is a real game-changer. The marking is done for me and I am automatically notified of any students who haven’t grasped the learning objective. This tells me how much knowledge each student has, and the areas where they need extra support in a much more meaningful way.

We see more research that suggests video technology is ideal for grabbing attention in many areas of learning but, for me, it’s ideal for English Literature. The mixed-media approach just resonates with young people incredibly well. 

By following this teaching pathway, our students develop an in-depth understanding of the wider context of plays, their themes and the complexities of their characterisation and purpose.

Back in 2013, Cardinal Wiseman was rated inadequate, and one of the major issues identified was the consistency of our teaching. By ensuring that all teachers use curriculum-based and curriculum-aligned technology, we’ve been able to standardise the content, minimise planning time and ensure our students get consistent delivery of the highest quality of learning. We’re now rated as outstanding, and our approaches and the resources that we use play a major role in that achievement. 

Matthew Everett, Senior Assistant Principal, at Cardinal Wiseman Catholic School, in Coventry, uses GCSEPod for its cross-curricula videos and supplementary learning content. 

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