As a teacher, you might want to give your students some homework to further their learning, consolidate what they learnt in class, or prepare them for an upcoming topic. Students from primary school to secondary school will regularly be given homework by their teachers.

However, a teacher will often need to mark or correct the homework they give students in a way that provides educational benefits to the student. When giving out homework, teachers sometimes forget to think about how they’re going to fairly mark it so that a student or parent can clearly understand how well they’ve performed.

In this article, Superprof is looking at how to fairly mark the homework that you give your students so that it offers valuable feedback to them and a clear indication of what they’ve done well, how they can improve, and what they’ve got wrong.

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What Is Homework For?

Whether students are studying maths, science, English, French, geography, or history, their homework must be marked in a way that they can learn from the feedback.

Why should teachers set homework?
Homework should reinforce what students are learning in class. (Source: ds_3)

Sometimes, homework is given to help students revise for an upcoming exam, a marked activity that counts towards their overall grade or to help them improve upon what they studied in class, meaning that their academic performance can be affected by how well they do their homework.

The advantages of handing out homework include:

  • Homework can act as evaluation or training. This allows students to learn how to work independently and also see how well they’ve retained the information given to them during their course.
  • Mark schemes give students a goal to achieve. They can look to improve on their scores.
  • Homework is also a way to encourage students to work in groups, allowing them to improve their teamwork and communication skills.
  • Parents and family members are given an opportunity to get involved with their children’s schooling and also work on the aforementioned group skills.
  • Students can revise less if they’ve effectively used homework to consolidate their knowledge from in class.
  • Doing homework is a good opportunity for students to catch up to their peers, especially if they’re starting to struggle in a given subject.
  • Homework gives the teacher more time for teaching as they can use homework to evaluate students rather than tests and exams during class time.

That said, there are also disadvantages to evaluating students through homework rather than an exam.

  • Homework mightn’t necessarily be all the student’s own work. Family members, friends, and even the internet can help students with their homework. However, this can teach students to be resourceful and do their own research both online and offline.
  • By evaluating students outside of the classroom, their scores, grades, or marks mightn’t be representative of what they can achieve or how they would perform under exam conditions or in class.
  • Some students may struggle to do their homework and some really bad grades could knock their confidence. You may want to be merciful when giving out incredibly low scores.
  • A teacher will need to spend a lot of time making copies of worksheets, preparing homework activities, and then correcting them.

Homework can be a useful tool for encouraging students to work on their own and improve their academic performance when done right. Furthermore, hard-working students will take pride in their work and fully enjoy the benefits of homework.

Make sure that students understand why they’re doing their homework and that they’re free to ask questions about it before you set their homework. After all, they can’t clear up any confusion once they get home.

Check out our guide to homework.

Marking According to the Type of Homework

Not all homework is the same and the type of homework you’ll set will depend on the level and subject being taught. Homework gives struggling students an opportunity to spend more time on their work while also being able to call upon their parents, family members, or private tutors for help.

What type of homework should you set?
The type of homework you've set should also dictate how strictly you mark it. (Source: 14995841)

There are three main types of homework that students can be given:

  • Exercises. This type of homework is common in maths and science. To correct or evaluate this type of homework, you need to check if the student has the correct answer and has used the technique or approach that you’re trying to teach them. It doesn’t take long to correct as it’s often just a matter of checking whether the answer or working is right.
  • Research and reasoning. This type of homework is common in the humanities and subjects like history, philosophy, and languages. Students are tested on how well they can research a given topic, put forward an argument, and show their logic and reasoning. This type of homework can take longer to correct, but it’s less likely that any student will get a really low score. This type of homework includes essays, dissertations, etc.
  • Projects and creative writing. This type of homework is common in language courses and the arts. Generally, this is an opportunity for students to create something on a given topic or theme. Normally, students won’t need much help with these tasks as they’re about using their creativity to make something within a set of constraints.

The latter is a great way for students to express themselves.

Make sure that you adapt the homework you set to your students. The homework has to be at their level, on a topic that they’ve studied, and an activity that will improve their academic performance.

Check out our favourite online homework resources.

Things to Keep in Mind

There are a few things you need to consider when marking your students’ homework. The rules are stricter in secondary school and students will be expected to follow guidelines and methodologies when doing their homework but the mark scheme will also be clearer.

How can you establish a mark scheme?
Your mark scheme should be consistent so that students always know why they did or didn't do well. (Source: 14995841)

The overall grade or mark will reflect on how well the student has achieved the objectives outlined in the homework or project. If they’ve kept the objective or goal in mind whilst they did their homework, it won’t be surprising if they get a high mark.

If they’re expected to show their working or use a particular approach, you need to make sure that this is clear to the student and that arriving at the right answer using a different approach may not result in the student getting high marks.

However, in subjects like history, languages, and the arts and humanities in general, the lines are a little blurrier. If the goal is to use a particular grammatical tense or specific vocabulary in a foreign language exercise, they could lose marks by not including this in their answer, even if it’s a really well-written piece of work.

It’s important that they’ve used the right approaches or methods. While there are often other solutions to problems, you’re probably testing them on a certain approach rather than testing whether or not they can get the actual answer.

In subjects where the quality of the research is important, marks will often be awarded for high-quality research and also sound logic. In these cases, the quality of the argument will be more important than the final answer.

In short, homework should be marked according to:

  • The goal or brief.
  • The use of techniques being tested or evaluated.
  • The quality of logic or reasoning on display.
  • The overall presentation of the work and expected quality.

Of course, there is always some leeway for the teacher to prioritise certain parts of the homework. In any case, this framework is a good place to start when marking students’ homework.

Learn about the type of homework you should be setting your students.

More Things to Consider

There are a few more things you need to think about when marking homework. Again, this will depend on the subject you’re teaching, but most of these things can be applied to most subjects.

How can you mark homework consistently?
To make sure you always mark your students' homework consistently, you need to set out some rules for yourself. (Source: tjevans)

Plagiarism shouldn’t be tolerated. Of course, this is harder to prove in maths than in English.

With the humanities, it’s quite easy to check if the student’s work is original. If you search for a sentence from the student’s work on Google, you’ll be able to see if it’s appeared elsewhere online. If you search for the entire text and get something, it’s probably been directly lifted from another source.

A fully plagiarised piece of work should instantly be disqualified from evaluation. It’s important that the students understand that this type of practice is unacceptable.

As part of the rules, you may want to penalise homework that’s handed in late. You can always mark a student down for late submission or give them half marks. This is often at your discretion.

Keep in mind that your scoring needs to be consistent and that it’s a good idea to outline the boundaries. For example:

  • 60-70%: Fine.
  • 70-80%: Good.
  • 80-90%: Very good.
  • 90-100%: Excellent.

You don’t need to use these exact numbers, especially if you rarely give students higher than 70%, for example.

Now you should know a bit more about marking homework. To learn more about homework, check out our other articles.

You can even look for help from a private tutor on Superprof!

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Joseph

Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.