What impact does focused teaching of computing across the primary school curriculum have on pupil and parent engagement with online homework?
This is a question that drove a research project at Cambridge Primary Education Trust (CPET), undertaken during the last summer half-term, as they looked at key issues which emerged during the national lockdowns and the potential of blended learning in the Trust going forward.
Here, James Course, a Year 3/4 teacher at Somersham Primary School, and Jon Windsor, a Year 3 teacher at Trumpington Park Primary School, both part of CPET, outline more about this research project, which was funded and supported by the Cambridge Teaching Schools Network.
Jon Windsor James Course
As computing subject leads in our respective CPET schools, what we wanted to test especially was the role of technology in pupils’ engagement with online homework, and whether an intensive period of teaching computing (enhanced skills) might foster greater engagement.
The barriers to online learning and technology
What the project has actually given us is greater insight into some of the wider barriers that children face around online learning and technology.
One of the barriers to engagement with blended styles of learning we wanted to explore was a lack of computing skills. We taught a sequence of bespoke lessons to build a strong platform to develop these skills, but the impact on pupil engagement in online learning was limited.
This reinforced that other factors were more significant for any expansion into wider blended learning: especially around creating more robust routines and expectations for home learning and engaging parents and families in supporting pupils.
Impact on pupils’ learning, and parental engagement
Whilst the research has not revealed some ‘perfect’ solution for online homework, our findings will support our objective to ensure that home learning is meaningful and reinforces teacher-led learning. We also want to make related tasks achievable and accessible to all.
As a result of taking opportunities across the curriculum to modelling the daily IT skills which we use and take for granted, we saw pupils becoming more confident, efficient and capable with their use of laptops and key software such as Microsoft Word. They evidently improved transferable skills such as using search engines safely and efficiently, as well as making their own evaluations and comparisons between different formats of technology available to them.
Going forward we will continue to evaluate how we can engage parents and families in supporting pupils in their learning, including with homework. We did learn that there appear to be more accessible types of task, especially ones that can be accessed on a phone or tablet. Tasks such as quizzes using Microsoft Forms will therefore be our starting point if and when we look to expand the use of blended learning.
Supporting future innovation
We have already shared our findings with CPET’s senior leadership team as we consider how both school-based and home-based learning might evolve in the future, and look forward to supporting next steps, both at Trust-level, and directly within our own individual schools.
We have been able to explore some of the potential barriers that children face, and our learnings will influence our future approach and recommendations for setting homework, as well as the potential continued use of blended learning
We will also evaluate our approach to teaching computing, ensuring that we are developing the kinds of skills that the children will need in future, and aiming for the skills to be both transferable and adaptable to the changes in technology that they will face along the way. A further next step will be to consider how computing skills can be developed more broadly across the curriculum: this is the bigger question.