National Trials: Teaching for Mastery

From the University of Nottingham research team.

The research arm of Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) are working with Further Education (FE) colleges and sixth form colleges across the country to conduct randomised controlled trials of approaches to teaching for Mastery. These approaches aim to improve learner understanding of concepts underpinning the GCSE mathematics curriculum to improve outcomes on GCSE resit programmes.

Trial activities are well and truly underway now that colleges are operating as ‘normal’ as we learn to live with Covid. Almost 130 teachers and their students have been allocated to three different groups who are involved in different ways in the research. The focus is teaching for mastery, asking two key questions: “what difference does it make?” and “how does it work?”

The research is guided by the five key principles that are set out in the CfEM Handbook, Maths Mastery in Further Education, and the different groups engage with these at different levels.

  • Group 1 have attended two days of Personal Development at which the five principles were introduced, details of what is needed by the research and the first of the supporting resources. These teachers will meet at five meetings of group of colleagues throughout the year to discuss lessons that they will all teach. This form of lesson study will include discussions with colleagues about what works (and what doesn’t).
  • Group 2 teachers will also teach the lessons with the same resources but will work on their own without the meetings and opportunities to discuss with colleagues. They have also attended a day of the professional development and will join with Group 1 teachers for a further day in January.
  • Finally, Group 3 teachers will act as a ‘business as usual’ control group with teachers able to join in with all of the other activities that are part of the CfEM programme.

You can find out more about this form of randomised controlled trials research in a blog by Geoff Wake who is leading the Trials as part of the work of the Centre for Research in Mathematics Education at the University of Nottingham.

The current conditions in colleges, because of Covid, are proving difficult for students and teachers alike and the research team send a big “thank you” to everyone who is working to make sure the trials are going ahead – their support is essential to allow us to find out how teaching for mastery can help our students do better at GCSE Maths.

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