Posted on December 14th, 2020
Blog by Eddie Playfair, Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges, for the Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) programme.
This term’s CfEM Continuous Professional Development (CPD) events have been inspiring and rich with a seam of ideas and practices to think about. To view the replays of the CPD sessions, please click the links below.
We started with the programme with the mastery CPD meeting. This session focused on the challenges of teaching for understanding in GCSE resit classrooms using Mastery approaches and how this can be reconciled with the demands of teaching a substantial curriculum to a tight timetable.
We then had the motivation and engagement CPD meeting which looked at different approaches to motivating and engaging students, from the perspective of developing positive student identities within a mathematics learning community.
The data and technology CPD meeting explored the potential of technology to connect teachers with students and enable remote collaborative working.
We ended the programme with a CPD session on contextualisation which considered how we might best use meaningful contexts to provide insights into mathematical structure.
I would like to highlight three themes that the sessions prompted me to reflect on:
- Our view of time
Teachers will always feel time-poor. There’s never enough time to research, plan and evaluate as much as you’d like. That’s a given. Many maths teachers feel that they have too little contact time to support their students with a ‘retake’ programme. So making the best use of time often means tapping into the collective experience and wisdom of other colleagues.
A few minutes drawing on your support network to find out about a new resource or technique can save you a lot of effort re-inventing the wheel. There is nothing better than hearing from a trusted colleague about the strengths or weaknesses of a particular approach to teaching which you’ve not yet tried. And when it comes to students, it is always better to invest what time you have in teaching for understanding rather than tricks and short cuts. In the longer term, this will save everyone time.
- Our relationships with students
The knowledge we have of our students is one of the greatest assets we have. It is not just about liking them or caring for them, although that’s important. It is about knowing what motivates them, how they feel about maths, what their previous experiences are and what their fears and misconceptions actually look like. Knowing your students, their aspirations and the extent of their self-belief allows you to work out how to make maths important to them.
This is a big asset and it will help you make good judgements and support each learner appropriately. We know from student focus groups that post-16 students really value the fact that their teachers understand where they’re coming from and that they have had a difficult relationship with maths and are absolutely committed to their success.
- Our culture of learning
Maths teachers are often the greatest champions of a ‘no cap on aspiration’ approach. Whether we call it growth mindset or positive thinking we have to really believe in the learnability of our subject if we are going to expect our students to as well. This culture runs deep in FE; above all, we are the sector which believes in people’s inherent ability to learn and grow throughout life. By modelling this in our teaching as well as in the way we talk to and think about our students as well as creating plenty of opportunities for success and feedback, we are constantly reinforcing this belief system.