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Research School Network: Everything is Awesome: Homework We explore the nuances of the toolkit by looking at the highest impact strands. This time, Mark Miller looks at homework.


Everything is Awesome: Homework

We explore the nuances of the toolkit by looking at the highest impact strands. This time, Mark Miller looks at homework.

by Bradford Research School
on the

The updated EEF toolkit has been available for a little while. Although there are some notable changes, most of the strands which have the highest impact remain consistent. And that means that school leaders are more likely to adopt those practices or approaches. In a series of blogs, we’ll have a look at those high impact strategies and explore the reasons why we need to be a little wary before assuming we can just do’ that thing and everything will be great. And there are certain messages that we’ll see time and again that will help you to navigate other strands in the toolkit.

This time, we focus on Homework. The impact on the toolkit is +5 months so we might be inclined to simply set lots of homework.

Homework 3

Behind the average

Before we go in all guns blazing, we need to see what the average is hiding. The +5 comes from 44 separate studies. It would be a miracle if all of these studies had exactly the same results. The behind the average’ section in the strand states the following:

  • Studies in secondary schools show greater impact (+5 months) than in primary schools (+3 months).
  • Similar positive effects are found for reading, mathematics and science.
  • Most homework set is individual, studies involving collaboration with peers have higher effects (+6 months), though the number of studies is small.
  • Studies involving digital technology typically have greater impact (+ 6 months).


There’s a handy section that you can expand to read more about the differences at primary and secondary.

Homework 1

The forest plots in the technical appendix illustrate the variation too. There’s a brilliant blog from our friends at Shotton Hall Research School that explains these really well.

Homework 2
Filtered for studies on homework in secondary mathematics

What do we even mean by homework’?

The definition given is pretty straightforward:

Homework refers to tasks given to pupils by their teachers to be completed outside of usual lessons.“

However, what we set for homework can be quite different, e.g. reading activities, longer projects or essays and more directed and focused work such as revision for tests.’ And it might have a number of purposes, such as, independent learning to practice and consolidate skills, conduct in-depth inquiry, prepare for lessons or revise for exams.’ Also, the EEF definition includes homework clubs and flipped learning. There are lots of possibilities for what homework can be, so you need to ensure that you are aware of that fact.

Implementation is key

We’re going to get badges made with this phrase on them. We saw the variation in impact earlier, and one factor that affects the impact is implementation. So rather than just doing’ homework, we might set out the active ingredients of effective homework, those features that give it the best chance of success. According to the toolkit, these may include’:

  • Considering the quality of homework over the quantity.
  • Using well-designed tasks that are linked to classroom learning.
  • Clearly setting out the aims of homework to pupils.
  • Understanding and addressing any barriers to completion, such as access to a learning device or resources.
  • Explicitly teaching independent learning strategies.
  • Providing high-quality feedback to improve pupil learning.
  • Monitoring the impact homework on pupil engagement, progress and attainment.

We know that homework is ubiquitous in schools, but like anything that is used widely and has a degree if effectiveness, there is much that should be taken into consideration. Have a look at the toolkit entry and consider how aligned your homework policy is.

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