By Byron Sheffield, Leyton Sixth Form College.
Tackling students’ lack of progress and accompanying lack of motivation has been a key part of our work within the Centres for Excellence in Maths project. Our staff recognised at the start, that too much of our teaching was about coverage and not understanding with students struggling to remember a range of unconnected algorithms rather than trying to build on and apply the knowledge they were secure with.
Involvement in the national mastery trials and the training that came with it, inspired us to undertake our own research, find approaches that we liked and try them out on each other and some unsuspecting students.
In 2019-20 this led a group of our teachers to develop and implement a new scheme of work for our Grade 0-2 GCSE students as part of a two-year course. This required plenty of CPD for the Maths team, joint-planning and an action research project focussed on using representatives to support learning. The result was a very slimmed down GCSE course with the use bar models and double number lines across a range of topics. We also tried to use both conceptual and procedural variation techniques to be more purposeful in the activities and questions that students had to think about. This linked in with also exploring how manipulatives supported our students to overcome some key misconceptions. The feedback from staff, students and support staff was positive and that engagement had improved due to a curriculum that built on where students were, directly tackled basic misconceptions and looked to move them forward in small but deliberate steps.
This led us to review and improve this approach with our Grade 0-2 students but also to work on a similar type of scheme with our Grade 3 students. We were now clearer about the structures we wanted in our topic units, lessons and resources which is directing our ongoing joint planning. We have reordered many of our units to group topics that have similar underlying structures, particularly around proportionality. We know that Grade 3 students have a variable profile of understanding so we are developing our diagnostics, before and after teaching, and how we then intervene to further develop understanding and fluency or improve student’s ability to apply their knowledge.
It has been important to give our Maths staff time and support to develop their confidence with these approaches and also to enable them to spend longer teaching key topics when students need it, rather than trying to “finish” the curriculum.
Early feedback from internal assessments is positive about student progress despite the underlying issues caused by the pandemic, so we look forward to seeing how that is reflected in the GCSE results over the next few years. If you want to try out our new mastery schemes and collaborative lesson planners yourself, there are plans to share all our resources via the new CfEM legacy platform which is due to be launched next year.