A diagnostic and responsive approach to teaching Maths Functional Skills and GCSE Re-sits

By Shabana Raman, Director of Mathematics Improvement, East Kent College Group.

The East Kent College (EKC) Group takes a responsive approach to teaching Mathematics Functional Skills and GCSE Re-sits.

Whilst there is a curriculum intent, tutors do not follow a cyclical scheme of work.

Using diagnostic methods

Following the Centre for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) Action Research Project of 2020-21 and this academic year’s ongoing research and based on the work of A. Bell (1993), it was evident that the cohort of students taught using diagnostic methods achieved more favourable outcomes than those students who received the normal curriculum with no use of diagnostic teaching.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also created larger knowledge gaps, and a responsive approach to teaching mathematics is proving much more beneficial.

Bell lists the following strengths:

• The work deals with the common student misunderstandings.

• This makes the teachers’ daily work more rewarding and effective.

• The discussion helps students to build a well-connected body of knowledge.

A change in practice

As a result, the following change in practice was implemented in the EKC mathematics provision:

Practice before the project  Current practice
1. Following a Scheme of Work, in order, regardless of prior knowledge.  1. Diagnosing gaps in student knowledge & selecting relevant episode.
2. Teach until Easter, then students take the exam.  2. Working closely with student to determine exam readiness.  
3. Achievement Tutors and Learning coaches support in a linear fashion.3. Support in now targeted based on individualised learning plans.
4. Lots of fluency, few opportunities to tackle wordy problems & exam questions.4. Time dedicated to master concepts, then apply & tackle exam material.

Early indications, through learning walks and students’ feedback indicate that diagnostic teaching can be a very successful strategy and have a positive effect on functional skills outcomes.

Where implemented effectively, leaders, teachers and students embrace diagnostic teaching tools and a responsive approach to TLA.

More needs to be done to embed in our larger colleges, however leaders have seen the impact and our commitment to continuing to implement diagnostic teaching and the use of the Question Level Analysis (QLA).

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