By Julie Savage and Georgina Norris, Cambridge Regional College
The historic legacy of anxiety surrounding mathematics in the UK remains prevalent within the walls of Cambridge Regional College and the fight against this has been, and continues to be, the driving force of our action research.
Our 2020/2021 project investigated the impact of Student Engagement Coaches on the motivation and engagement levels of our GCSE mathematics resit learners, a role designed to help reduce maths anxiety and help learners adopt a positive mindset, build resilience and realise their full potential. Three coaches supported individual students who had been identified by their maths tutor as displaying signs of demotivation and disengagement in class. Throughout the year, learner-centered coaching was delivered using a range of strategies both inside and outside the maths classroom. An analysis of our research findings indicated that one of the biggest barriers to engaging with mathematics is a learner’s complete lack of confidence in their ability.
Coaching allowed for a safe, trusting space to be created for maths-avoidant learners, whereby they could discuss their worries and explore maths in a non-judgemental environment. Whilst the coronavirus pandemic may have created a number of logistical challenges throughout the course of the year, a post-intervention survey revealed that 63% of learners felt more confident in their mathematical ability after receiving coaching.
In addition, 81% of learners went from feeling ‘stressed/worried’ pre-intervention, to ‘hopeful or excited’ post-intervention, when thinking about mathematics. Our research findings confirmed that addressing the psychological barriers to learning mathematics post-16 is key to raising attainment in the GCSE mathematics re-sit cohort and we look forward to delving deeper and learning more from our 2021/2022 research project.