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Professional Learning and Professional Learning Communities - Exploring a Mathematical Topic

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 16 July 2009 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 31 March 2011 by ncetm_administrator


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Exploring a mathematical topic

Planning lessons is a complex job and entails really thinking hard about the important mathematical ideas and themes as well as aspects of pedagogy.

However, quite often this activity is performed in isolation and, therefore, doesn’t benefit from any discussion or debate between colleagues.

Many people are beginning to report that making lesson planning a collaborative professional activity, is one of the best professional development activities they have engaged in.

Some suggested ways of working:


  • Decide on one or two colleagues who you want to work with, who you trust, are willing to work on their teaching with you and who teach similar year groups to you.
  • Agree on an area of mathematics that you agree are either difficult to teach or difficult for your children, pupils or students to learn, or both.
  • Begin by discussing what the issue is with this topic – what is involved in understanding this bit of mathematics? Why do children find the idea difficult? How you have each taught it before and what the successes and failures have there been. [Be prepared to be open and honest about this – encourage a no-blame atmosphere in the discussion].
  • Discuss what is it that you want your learners to be able to appreciate, do and understand in this topic?
  • Discuss what ideas and resources are available in this area and whether any could be modified to meet your aims.


  • Plan a lesson or sequence of lessons on this topic together making sure that everyone is really clear about the detail and would be able to teach the lesson themselves.
  • At least one of you should teach the lesson.
    [N.B. You may decide that lesson observation is a part of this structure and that each of you will teach and be observed. In this case your PD activity will be more akin to Lesson Study, however, it should still be a very useful PD activity when done without this element].


  • Have a meeting where the lesson and the plan are discussed, analysed and, if necessary, improved.
  • Reflect on what you have learned together about the mathematics itself, the learners’ understanding of the mathematics and the pedagogical decisions you made and whether they were effective.
More about Professional Learning Communities

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