CfEM blog: motivation and engagement action research at the Lakes College partnership

Blog by Anna Lister, Project Lead at the Lakes College partnership for the Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) programme.

The Lakes College partnership is made up of five colleges, with Lakes College as the lead, supported by Carlisle, Furness, Kendal, and Lancaster and Morecambe colleges.

Our action research aim considered how we could use qualitative and quantitative data to adjust pedagogical approaches to improve outcomes for Level 2 learners of mathematics. The focus for our research was on the learning environment, exploring if a dedicated mathematics classroom could promote and support learning, and how learners use visual aids and equipment within this environment in order to develop mathematical skills.

Our data collection approaches included tutors’ reflective logs, regular learner feedback on the displays and equipment they accessed, a partnership midpoint check, a final questionnaire, and a tutor focus group.

At the start of this action research intervention, none of the five colleges had a dedicated mathematics space. Each college was tasked with sourcing a dedicated mathematics room, displaying posters supporting different key mathematical functions and offering a selection of resources to support learning. The resources used were limited to visual wall displays and a small selection of manual resources.

All the colleges observed that a dedicated mathematics environment had a positive impact on learning. It sent a clear message to learners that mathematics is an important subject, meriting its own space alongside other aspects of the curriculum. The environment promoted learner confidence, enabling them to progress independently through accessing information from wall displays. An increase in learner collaboration and mentoring was observed, leading to further discussion and support with problem solving. Calculators for every learner led to a significant drop in disruption from mobile phones being used inappropriately. Tutors commented on there being a different atmosphere where learners appeared to feel more valued, with increased levels of self-esteem, self-belief, motivation and engagement.

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