Independent Learning or IL is what the students and teachers at Ark Greenwich Free School call homework. Independence is the key to students being successful when completing extended work outside the classroom; we encourage our students to be independent learners and to value the extra work given to support their learning.
Our independent learning policy is driven by research to ensure we understand how to maximise the learning for each of our students both inside and outside of the classroom. Research suggests that high quality homework can lead to an average of five months’ additional progress. Teachers think very carefully about the work they, set making sure it is integral to the learning and not just an add on which has no purpose. To maximise the impact of independent learning students are provided with high quality and timely feedback on their work by their teachers.
Research shows that independent learning is most effective when it involves practice or rehearsal of the subject matter which has already been taught. Typically, students will not be exposed to new material to learn at home as this has been shown to be less effective. Students may be given some work to do in preparation for their lesson or may be asked to do some research on a topic, but this will be consolidated in lessons. Studies have shown that independent learning tasks which are shorter in length, but issued more frequently, have shown a bigger impact on a child’s learning. At AGFS we take inspiration from the standards set out by Cathy Vatterott (2010):
Cathy Vatterott (2010) identified five fundamental characteristics of good homework: purpose, efficiency, ownership, competence, and aesthetic appeal.
- Purpose: all homework assignments are meaningful & students must also understand the purpose of the assignment and why it is important in the context of their academic experience (Xu, 2011).
- Efficiency: homework should not take an inordinate amount of time and should require some hard thinking.
- Ownership: students who feel connected to the content and assignment learn more and are more motivated. Providing students with choice in their assignments is one way to create ownership.
- Competence: students should feel competent in completing homework. In order to achieve this, it’s beneficial to abandon the one-size-fits-all model. Homework that students can’t do without help is not good homework.
- Inspiring: A well-considered & clearly designed resource and task impacts positively upon student motivation.
(Huntington Research School, 2017)
At Ark Greenwich Free School we have set the following independent learning standards which all our department embody:
- In all written subjects* at KS3 and all GCSE subjects at KS4, pupils will receive Independent Learning (IL) typically once every 5-6 lessons. In subjects where work is not evidenced in books and often more practical** in nature, independent learning is received by pupils once every term
- Teacher’s will set quality homework over quantity
- Homework timetables will not be used; teachers will set meaningful homework which links with the learning which has taken place in the lessons. Students will understand the purpose of the Independent Learning and why it is important in the context of their academic experience.
- Timely feedback will be given in response to Independent Learning. This could be given in written or verbal form
- Homework will be written into students’ planners. Teachers will ensure all students have access to resources for homework.
*English, mathematics, science, geography, history, MFL
**Computing, ICT, music, PE, drama and art