How to get the most out of homework without really setting it

By: Mark Creasy


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 210 x 148mm
Pages : 160
ISBN : 9781781351093
Format: Paperback
Published: February 2014

In a dynamic and ever changing education climate it is important to re-evaluate practice in schools on a regular basis in order to ensure that we are doing the right thing for our children. With questions being raised over the value of homework, Mark Creasy advises teachers and parents on how to get the most out of homework without letting it get in the way of their lives. This book questions the necessity of homework while recognising that most teachers have a statutory duty to provide it. The author provides suggestions for how teachers can make homework more effective, applicable and less pointless; organising classroom learning to allow children to set their own homework and creating opportunities for learning out of everyday situations.

Founded on over 10 years of Mark’s real teaching practice in both primary and secondary schools, Unhomework is entertaining as well as informative, being underpinned by personal anecdotes from his teaching career. It challenges the current status quo of traditionally set homework and provides an insight for parents and educators about how homework can be done differently, for greater effect as an extension to classroom practice. Unhomework is based on the 5Rs and these are detailed for teachers to implement to secure Unhomework successfully.

With practical ideas for teachers across year groups and subjects to use Unhomework is for teachers (Years 3–13) at all stages of the profession, senior managers in primary and secondary phases, independent and state sectors, parents, and teacher trainers.

Picture for author Mark Creasy

Mark Creasy

Mark Creasy is an Independent Thinking Associate and experienced primary school teacher. His contemporary and down-to-earth style of teaching has allowed him to view learning as a tool, not a rule, to ensure that his pupils are given the right to an education that suits their needs and maximises their potential for future success. Mark is also the author of Unhomework, which challenges the orthodoxies about work outside the classroom.

Read Mark's article featured in The Guardian on Tuesday April 1st 2014.

Click here to listen to Mark discussing The Great Homework Debate' on the Pivotal Podcast (from 4.30mins).


  1. This will revolutionise the way you approach out of class working. Creasy shows a clear understanding on the demands of teachers, pupils and parents yet manages to produce multiple approaches that won't just appease the issues with homework, it will inspire them.
  2. I know, it seems somehow wrong to reference homework during the summer, but it's actually a good time to reflect on the purpose and efficacy of homework, whether you're a parent of school-age kids or an education professional.

    Unhomework is a valuable read for anyone interesting in looking at homework differently. It's written by a teacher from the UK, so sometimes the phrases seem a little foreign to US ears, but the points are valid and well-written. It's not that homework is bad, in and of itself, it's that it's often not used effectively. In the book, Mark Creasy lays out the 5 Rs that guide homework, the rules for creating homework assignments, and questions to ask to make sure it's effective. In his classroom, students often set their own homework, which is very odd to most teachers, but I think is a great option in many classrooms! I actually often allowed a lot of choice in my first teaching job, and the kids loved it - they were more engaged and happier about their assignments.

    If you felt like your kids were burdened with busywork last year, or you're a teacher who wants a fresh approach, check out the book for summer reading.

  3. There was an advert several years ago which was slightly tongue-in-cheek if memory serves us right and featured the slogan:

    -˜Min Eff
    Max Res'

    Minimum Effort Maximum Results is an attractive idea if you're buying a car or cooking a meal - fantastic results for as little effort as possible. Efficiency.

    The world of education, as is so often the case, runs according to different rules. Maximum results, yes - but teachers don't mind working as hard as is necessary (or working their students as hard as is necessary) to get there. Min Eff just isn't how conscientious educators do things.

    -˜Nec Eff Max Res' is perhaps more like it.

    And then there's homework.

    Is the amount of time preparing it, stress getting students to do it and catching up with those that don't and hours spent marking it worth the benefits that come from it? In our experience parents are divided on the subject. Many a parents' evening was spent bouncing between “Why do you set so much homework? She just doesn't have the time after Gym Club, trombone lessons and walking the dog-¦” to “Why can't you set more homework? She doesn't have half as much as her sister had-¦” Students are more predictable. If it's interesting, it's a good thing and will capture their imaginations. If it's not, it isn't and it probably won't.

    And so, the design and setting of homework is a balancing act. Balancing the differing views of parents, the need to steer clear of death by worksheet and come up with something to fire imaginations/interest/learning; and to limit the time taken in preparation and marking for teachers. We want to get maximum results, but with as little time wasted as possible.

    Here is where Mark Creasy comes in. His new book UnHomework carries the sub-title: “How To Get The Most Out Of Homework Without Really Setting It”. In it he describes the “hackneyed game” of homework being played out in classrooms across the country.

    Mark Creasy's book comes from his belief that homework doesn't have to be this way. It can be stimulating, meaningful, interesting, motivational and worthwhile (incidentally, all words that can be used to describe his book on the subject). Unhomework, for those unfamiliar with the concept, is the author's word to describe student-centred, student-devised work/mini-projects/activities that fulfil the same learning objectives as traditional homework with ten times the efficacy.

    The beauty of Unhomework is the fact that it's not a collection of ideas that are just dumped on the reader. “There you go - try that lot out-¦” Instead, Mark Creasy writes from experience, giving examples of the sorts of unhomework activities that have worked successfully in the past and how students have taken an idea and made it their own. Surely this is the sort of “homework” we long for as teachers? Where a theme can be set and then students return with over and above what was required. Instead of a class worth of tatty worksheets about WWII propaganda, how much more satisfying to have one student design their own propaganda video, another interview their Great-Gran about wartime posters and someone else create a Powerpoint presentation on WWII leaflets. How much more satisfying for you as teacher and how much more satisfying for them as learners.

    Students are absolutely central to Unhomework. From loveable rogue Dale who, in a GCSE English class, lit the lightbulb above Mark Creasy's head (“Surely there's a better way than all this, isn't there?”) to each student's homework ideas themselves. The author has been teaching for around ten years at both secondary and primary levels and his experiences are crucial to backing-up the Unhomework concept and showing us how it can be done. This experience is particularly noticeable in the book in two areas-¦ Firstly, he gives us several conversations (in script form!) between himself and students. Secondly, he spends time discussing how to introduce Unhomework without offending colleagues' sensibilities and, eventually, how to get them on board too. A lesser book wouldn't contain these. Why? Because a lesser book would be just written by a writer, not a teacher. Unhomework isn't a fad that has been invented to sell books. It has been initiated, shaped and implemented by students and, thankfully, Mark Creasy is one of those teachers who sees this as important. His students' fingerprints are all over this book.

    In recent months, you can't have failed to have noticed the popularity of -˜Take Away Homework' ideas being shared by teachers. These give students a choice of activities from a given “menu”. Reading Unhomework, you can't help but feel like shouting “But this guy's been doing it for years! This is just Unhomework by another name!!” Perhaps the current keenness to provide learners with a range of open-ended homework ideas will work in Mark Creasy's favour. If you're intrigued by Take Away Homework or use it and want to consider how to get the best from it, Unhomework is the book for you.

    In many ways, this is a great book to include as a summer read. If you're stuck in a rut, setting homework that generally consists of researching something (inevitably from the first page of Google) or filling in questions on a worksheet, there is a better way. If you're a headteacher or leader of a department who realises this, get copies for your colleagues and start implementing something special. Get Unhomework and start your new year by doing something different. Your students will be motivated and inspired. Their parents will appreciate it. And you will be pleasantly surprised at the results you can get by leaving students to it. Far better learning opportunities. Far more facts learned. Far deeper understanding. Far greater chances to push topics into new areas. In fact, maximum results with very little fuss. Or, as we like to think of Unhomework:

    -˜Min Eff
    Max Res'
  4. Mark Creasy is absolutely correct in his assessment of homework, it must have value, purpose, and authenticity to students. The students should take the content in the direction that interests and gives power to the students who become vested in the learning process. Once this vesting occurs the learning becomes authentic. The teacher's role is to provide support, feedback, structure, and expansion of the student-directed learning -” this is the main premise of Unhomework.

    The struggles with parents that Creasy describes are all too common. Parents and other adults believe that because they went to school -” the accidental apprenticeship of teaching -” they understand education today. These stakeholders want their children to have similar educational experiences -” HOMEWORK, traditional homework (e.g “complete math problems 1-48 on page 124”; “write your vocabulary words 10 times and place in a complete sentence”, etc.) Parents fail to understand that things have changed when it comes to learning -”the process, the tolls, the instructional methods, and the resources -” we as educators need to adapt to the change and continue to “push the envelope” as we educate our children. Mark Creasy is spot on in his process and the concept of “supported failure,” this makes mistakes/errors OK, as they are used as a new starting point -” not a road block to success. True educators support students through failures and demonstrate tenacity to their students.
  5. I particularly like the way the text contains specific examples to illustrate points and there are clearly set guidelines to follow. The concept of unhomework marks a change in behaviour but reinforces what most teachers would like to be able to do.
  6. Do your students feel smothered by homework? Are your hands aching from grading papers? Maybe it's time to give out some “unhomework.”

    In Unhomework, Mark Creasy argues that certain homework staples are ineffective. If worksheets are your style, prepare to be threatened.

    Creasy heavily emphasizes at-home, project-based learning as a substitute for traditional homework assignments. He also encourages independent student learning, which reduces stress and develops self-motivational skills that kids will use in the real world. Unhomework his philosophy promotes students' inquisitive nature while equipping them to use critical thinking skills. In turn, the process produces independent thinkers who-at a younger age than is now typical-take responsibility for their own success.

    Letting students pick projects and timeframes taps into their emotional settings and increases engagement. “Unhomework” assignments also can boost self-esteem and enhance young people's ability to effectively communicate during class discussion.

    Bottom Line: Students can gain a variety of skills when educators implement the strategies outlined in Unhomework. Instead of merely following rules to avoid upsetting adults, kids will understand and appreciate the benefits of at-home work.
  7. Ah, homework. Everyone has a view on it, ranging from the total conviction of certain parents that it's simply a scam on the part of teachers who can't be bothered to do the job they're paid for - to the equally deeply-held belief of others that their darlings will surely leave school sans qualifications if they are not piled with challenging tasks to complete (or have completed for them) at home from the age of four. Certainly, teachers often struggle to set meaningful homework that's interesting enough to inspire independent learning. Mark Creasy's solution is wonderfully simple: a learner-led model, in which students essentially choose what it is they want to do, come up with their own timeline, parameters and success criteria, and are involved with assessment throughout. This way, he is able to ensure that work completed at home is 'relevant, purposeful and engaging for them, whatever their age or phase of education." And everyone is, finally, satisfied.
  8. The contents of this book are dear to my heart and remind me of similar initiatives I promoted as a primary school teacher and Head over the past 30 years.

    I applaud the author for a really practice based account of introducing a new philosophy of home based learning. Not only has his approach raised standards of attainment and self esteem in his pupils but also introduced a family learning basis for homework.

    Being inspired by others is one of the most impressive effects of this work and I can recommend it as a primer for teachers wishing to promote independent learning, resilience and and family involvement in their classrooms.
  9. This is a book which should be read by anybody involved in education, from parents who wish to know how to support their children's learning, to government ministers who desire to solve the country's apparent falling behind in academic league tables in recent years.

    I've taught in a number of schools, both state and independent, in this country and overseas, and homework has always been an issue which causes controversy. In many cases, it's a necessary evil for teachers, a source of misery for children and exasperation for parents. But this is not how homework, indeed learning, should be. Mark's philosophy for the way children learn makes total common sense.

    The book clearly sets out the reasoning behind Unhomework, as well as the methods by which it can be applied in both the primary and secondary sector. Success stories of how it has been used are an inspiration and I was eager to start using some of Mark's ideas with my class before I even finished the book. As a parent, I also found the section on how parents can get involved very interesting. My daughter is just a toddler, but I'm sure Mark (and many parents and educators for that matter) would agree with me in the belief it's never too early to encourage creativity and develop learning skills.

    The chapter on how to convince colleagues is an interesting one based on Mark's experience. We teachers work very long hours and often feel like we're struggling to just keep afloat. I know we can torture ourselves by thinking we've still not done enough and if only we had a few more hours in the day... In adopting Unhomework, once you've taken the time to really get the hang of it and ensure your pupils do too, I can see this burden would be somewhat lifted. And of course the results are children who want to learn, who want to do their best, who want to achieve their goals and who ultimately (Mr Gove) get better results.

    I could see Unhomework working in any of the schools I've taught in. I'm currently both a class and MFL teacher and after reading this, wished I was responsible for -˜setting' more homework than I currently do! However, it's not just about homework, it's about a learning philosophy that can be applied in our teaching really quite simply and without a great deal of onerous work that can often be the case.
  10. Homework, homework, homework. As a teacher it can sometimes feel that you're damned if you do, or damned if you don't set enough. Some parents complain that you are setting far too much -” others complain that their child needs more! Setting a -˜creative' project for homework will get many parents scrambling for cereal boxes as they make a model in the same vein as Blue Peter's Tracy Island model back in the 1990's -” usually the night before the project is due; whereas other parents leave their children to it -” you can generally tell the disparity.
    We have discussed the purpose of homework previous on UKEdChat when we explored the question, “Is homework a vital learning tool or an outdated educational throwback?” concluding that if children are asked to work at home, the activity should be useful and relevant to their school work, allowing pupils to follow their interests and passions to instil a love of learning and it should indulge their curiosity using their creativity to push their learning forward. Fire up your class with stimulating collaborative projects which will be enjoyed by both child and parent. Let -˜will this light them up?' be our mantra.
    There usually are two schools of thought regarding homework: On one hand, let children be children. They spend enough hours sat down motionless in school. Let them play and explore the world; On the other hand, homework should extend the learning children do at school, reinforcing concepts explored. Schools will have homework policies, which vary wildly in the amount of homework teachers are expected to assign, however there will be very few schools that have an -˜UnHomework' policy -” the philosophy advocated by teacher Mark Creasy, which ensures that the work students complete outside the classroom is relevant, purposeful and engaging for them, no matter the age of the pupils. The main assumption with the -˜unhomework' philosophy is that children are inspired to complete without being told to do so. It is always pleasurable when pupils come into school sharing a project that they have done, as they are inspired by their learning / topic -” with no homework task set.
    The philosophy works at all stages of school education, with Creasy stating that he has taught children from aged 8-18 with his approach being no different, although does concede that secondary pupils need more support and encouragement as it is a different approach to what they are used to.
    The book supports teachers in developing this philosophy- which many primary colleagues already pursue -” introducing the DAD Model, which is essentially a more discussion or collaborative based formula for home tasks, including: tips on getting parents on-board with the philosophy; convincing colleagues; developing the concept as a whole-school project; plus a collection of ideas and tips to create ideas and put them into action.
    This book is a great supporter for how homework should be -” a pleasurable experience for pupils, parents and teachers. It should not be a chore, but an activity that consolidates, extends or enthuses pupils further in the learning experience.
  11. I was hooked from the off, as the book was inspired by a child's comments, not dreamt up due to government reform or an Ofsted checklist, although I am sure it would satisfy both. Mark draws on many sources, from Pablo Picasso to Vicky Pollard, yet it is children who have clearly been his defining teachers and inspiration throughout.
    I continued with a wry smile as another savvy pupil exposed the flaws in setting traditional homework: only completing it when he thought it was for his benefit not the teacher's, “Sneaky!” Like any good educational book, this held a mirror up to my own practice and made me question whether I was merely obeying the homework policy, checking that task off and moving on the learning without allocating quality time for children to reflect. Am I allowing opportunities for them to develop and show off their strengths as they complete homework, or just confirming what I already know?
    Mark continually reinforces the need for consistency and trust in the children, with his philosophy of the 5Rs at the heart. The students can then take responsibility for their own learning with the teacher as the trusted -˜guide at the side'. -˜Ungoogleable' tasks are set but the teacher is there to support children wrestle with their own insecurities or fear of failure.
    I loved reading the personal and shared successes through scripted anecdotes, particularly where children had surprised themselves, their teachers and/or their parents. Also, the wonderfully moving tales of pupils empowering each other through praise and constructive criticism, modelled by their -˜guide at the side': children hailing their peers as the motivation to challenge themselves further, “I didn't know what I could do until I saw others doing it -” they inspired me.” It is child-led learning at its most powerful, as they set the timeframe and success criteria, which they can then use to assess against. And it will be completed because they want to; they understand the responsibility that this freedom brings.
    Now is the perfect time to reflect on your own practice as educational policy puts homework back in the hands of head teachers. -˜Unhomework' is purposeful and stimulating, a chance for children to develop their learning skills whilst exploring the new knowledge-heavy curriculum: this is truly a platform for children to prepare socially and emotionally for the unknown challenges of the 21st Century.
    -˜Unhomework' addresses how to involve everyone -” I will be sending out Mark's list of how parents can help develop their child's learning skills at home and adding my own. There are even examples and resources to help practitioners, from NQTs to head teachers, get started. As well as scripts, using first hand experience to win over pupils and colleagues alike. Again I was moved at how the children had inspired colleagues and convinced parents, as a unit, using the 5Rs: a personal reminder to share my own and my class's successes, not by preaching but ensuring I don't become an -˜educational Gollum'.

  12. Mark Creasy expertly steers you away from the trials and tribulations of homework and into the realms of -˜Unhomework'! This book is not just about making the most of lost opportunities for additional learning but it really gets to grips with how and why children learn and how the traditional concept of homework does not necessarily do what it is supposed to. As a teacher or school leader there is much to consider here. Be prepared to read this book, reflect on your own experiences of homework, be convinced there is a better way of doing things and then go to school and make some changes!

    Allow Mark to help you with ideas and inspiration for making a difference to your children's learning. Allow him to inspire whole school policy on learning and explore the true benefits of -˜Unhomework'. When you read this book, and you should, you will see how important it is to make the most of learning opportunities in school and at home.

    As a parent I often get frustrated with the standard and relevance of the homework my own children receive. Maybe at the next parents evening I should casually leave a copy of -˜Unhomework' on the desk and see what transpires!

    -˜Unhomework' will give you the inspiration and practical guidance you need to break free from the -˜curse of the worksheet'
  13. In my professional opinion, in this book Mark Creasy has tackled an area of education (homework) which has long needed addressing. As a Year 4 teacher and as a former colleague of Mark's, I can readily connect with his ideas and the thinking behind this book. I am sure that other teachers will do the same.

    The book's informal style makes it enjoyable to read whilst dealing with what can sometimes be a -˜touchy' subject between teachers, children and parents.

    Mark has used some catchy chapter headings to engage the reader and in each chapter he -˜says it how it is' in real life situations. In order to be able to do this, he has drawn on his extensive personal experience. I am sure all teachers alike will appreciate this refreshing approach to the subject. Interspersed with the theory, are snippets of humour and wit which reflect the personality of Mark himself. Each chapter leads effortlessly onto the next and where questions are posed, Mark always delivers the answers.

    After having worked as part of a Year 4 team with Mark for 3 years, I have seen first-hand his methods in practice and indeed have incorporated some of these in my own teaching, seeing positive results from the children and approval and interest from the parents.

    Not only will this book appeal to teachers but will interest parents as well. As I am sure Mark will agree, getting parents on board, with regard to homework, is half the battle.
  14. Avoiding stagnation at all costs and maintaining an enviable passion for children and the learning process, MC is a teacher who thinks outside the box, outside the classroom, and outside the norm. He transcends the perimeters of the classroom walls and takes his students with him! Fanatical about teaching and learning, he endeavors to make learning exciting, meaningful and memorable for the students. He seeks strategies that give his students opportunities to investigate real world knowledge, taking learning to the next action-packed level. Think maverick innovation, the unexpected, movement-oriented, and a little bit crazy... then you'll be on the right track.
    Both as a teacher and a parent in daily contact with adolescents I believe there has been an erosion in the ability of young people to engage in rigorous analytical thinking, creativity and problem-solving. It would seem to me that Mark's UNHOMEWORK addresses all of these skills. UNHOMEWORK stresses that the role of a teacher is crucial in not only guiding young learners in their search for information, but also to provide the tools to evaluate the usefulness and veracity of that information and to formulate their own thoughts and arguments on the basis of it. At a time when a curriculum and exam driven education system straitjackets even the most dynamic teacher, so that schemes of work and lessons often become stifling and not stimulating, UNHOMEWORK inspires the practitioner to not only facilitate thinking skills and PLTS but to also build in opportunities for young learners to become creative, critical thinkers: room to make lots of mistakes, to build resilience and know HOW to learn anything they choose to. UNHOMEWORK emphasises the need to give all young people a huge -˜toolbox' of thinking skills -” a toolbox they can dip into at the most appropriate moments. MC reminds us that it doesn't mean we don't teach the basic skills of literacy & numeracy but we choose skills driven methods to allow children to see the different ways there might be to learn things.

  15. This book offers an inspiring alternative to the setting of homework for homework's sake. Mark shows us how to turn the sometimes dubious exercise of ritual homework-setting into a genuinely useful and positive experience. He demonstrates how homework can play a significant role in pupil progress so that it is no-longer seen as a bolt-on activity by learners or their teachers.

    Written in a lively and accessible way, Mark's theory of “Unhomework” makes differentiating for every learner both simple and tactful. His innovative approach is sensitive to all three faces of the homework experience -” Learner, Teacher and Parent.
  16. Whenever I run a parent's session about homework, the results are almost always the same. Some parents believe that schools should be chastised for setting second rate homework such as -˜finish of what you were doing in class' or, just as bad, MOTS (more of the same) and so miss an opportunity to stimulate additional learning in their children. On the other hand, some parents question the value and purpose of homework as a substitute for the many exciting things they could be doing with their family instead; whilst still others believe the school is trying to turn them into teachers at best or at worst dictators who police the quality and quantity of the child's homework . For any child caught in the middle this can be extremely frustrating; but for a highly able child it can be nothing short of torture. Imagine having all those ideas going round in your head and being told to do something far more boring and meaningless! I was therefore delighted when I was asked to read and review Mark's book about -˜Unhomework'! The structure it suggests for challenging children so that they go as far as their potential allows is so interesting that I would recommend it to every teacher and challenge them, whether they are in primary or secondary school, to implement it for just one term and evaluate the results. I will certainly be including reference to his approach in our future workshops on homework!
  17. Unhomework is an interesting concept, and one which may strike fear into a few colleagues who cling onto the security blanket of the worksheet style approach to homework - after all it is a rare constant in this ever changing educational landscape! At a time when a new curriculum is being introduced this book suggests how we may grasp the chance to try something new, and -˜dovetail' it into a creative approach to all that we do in school. This is a golden opportunity to truly let pupils lead their own learning and follow trails of enquiry that will motivate and engage them and not only that, but increase the chance of getting parents on board! A book with plenty of ideas for teachers and practical ways for parents to support their children.
  18. Unhomework' furnishes a philosophy for all primary and secondary teachers with a reliable array of homework tactics, resilience and thought. This book re-kindles the value of home-learning and fosters the process from a creative-curricular experience. This completes the perfect homework utopia. Using project-based learning, Creasy shuns the traditional homework-setting and chasing methods and shares his epiphany millisecond (which you may also have experienced) that transformed his thinking about homework altogether! 'Unhomework' promotes inspiring, well-thought-out and differentiated homework that has stirred my own practice. This will add value for all individual teachers and students alike in any school and in reading this book, you will secure a classroom experience that lowers teacher-workload, yet heightens student grit and independence.

    Creasy showcases -˜enquiry within a context'; learning beyond the classroom and equipping students to think, in order to take responsibility for themselves to increase rewards both emotionally and intellectually. He quite rightly berates the worksheet and advocates self-selecting timeframes and missions. 'Unhomework', full of intrinsic values to shift school policy, has thoughtful analogies: -˜When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad!' In a nutshell, 'Unhomework' is the passport to -˜free children from the straightjacket of standardised homework'. I cannot wait to get back into the classroom to mutate my plans from homework to Unhomework. A brilliant read that I want to devour all over again!

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