Adopting a whole college approach to the organisation and teaching of mathematics

Dr Diane Dalby, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham

In our Centre for Excellence in Maths planning meetings and CPD sessions, we have often discussed the benefits of nurturing college cultures which positively emphasise the importance of maths and numeracy to everyone.

As a result, the four key themes have been joined by a fifth strand, which we have called the ‘Whole College Approach (WCA)’ to the organisation and teaching of mathematics. The WCA aims to achieve an improvement in the understanding, planning and implementation of Whole College Approaches for mathematics in college setting. This means that improving students’ mathematics skills becomes a shared responsibility, supported by all staff through their active engagement in a collaborative effort. The approach explores both the systems and processes that college use and the culture, with the aim of moving away from fragmentation towards collaboration and active participation.

Using a CHIME framework

The central key concepts of WCA are that it is: Contextual, Holistic, Interconnected, Multidimensional and Evaluative (CHIME). This CHIME framework is being used by WCA college teams as part of their self-assessment activities to develop a shared understanding of their areas for improvement from multiple perspectives taking into account the particular issues in their own context.

An accompanying research programme will inform further refinement of the self-assessment tools and processes into a package for wider use by colleges in the future.

Eleven of the Centres are participating in the WCA project and are currently working with a team at the University of Nottingham. Each college has formed a WCA team which includes senior leaders, maths teachers, managers and vocational staff who will work together to explore a self-identified area for improvement and plan, implement and review an intervention to address the issues. The college WCA teams are being supported by a programme of professional development and self-assessment tools, with input from a ‘critical friend’ and opportunities for collaboration with a group of ‘buddy’ colleges.

In many ways, WCA is the added ingredient which can ensure the maximum impact of the work taking place in the other four strands and the overall success of the project. If all college leaders and all college staff are visibly communicating the importance of mathematical skills and encouraging everyone to develop their mathematical confidence and competence, the challenge of raising achievement becomes a whole lot easier!

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