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Key Elements (Primary): Professional Development

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 18 November 2009 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 07 April 2010 by ncetm_administrator

Features of effective practice

A good professional development strategy:
  • encourages all staff to feel valued through being acknowledged, encouraged, supported and praised
  • has an expectation that all staff are encouraged to have an element of their practice that they are developing and are supported to do this
  • includes a process of appraisal and performance management which links to the Mathematics Improvement Plan
  • identifies professional development needs in the Mathematics Improvement Plan
  • considers Performance Management outcomes and self-evaluation when deploying staff
  • takes account of individual wishes and school needs when deploying staff
  • uses quantitative and qualitative impact measures to monitor and evaluate the deployment of teachers and additional adults.

Case Study 1: School A – Establishing the Profile of Professional Development

Although decisions on staffing structure and deployment are taken by SLT, I make sure I have an input into the decisions that will affect the teaching and learning of mathematics in the school. For example, I ensure that:

  • any teacher changing year group has the opportunity to discuss their professional development  and is supported in meeting these needs
  • time is also provided for teachers to meet with teaching assistants to plan, support and review the progress of targeted groups of children
  • any teaching assistant who is allocated a new role in the school also has the opportunity to discuss their professional development and is supported in meeting these needs

There is also a performance management process in my school in which all staff (including support staff) are encouraged to select performance management targets which further their own professional development and contribute to the Improvement Plan. As part of their performance management, staff have a personal interview in which they can identify and celebrate success but can also talk with a professional mentor about their personal development needs.
In addition to the above, as a result of a self evaluation exercise at my school, I have developed an Improvement Plan for mathematics. Professional development needs for staff are clearly identified in the plan.

school improvement plan for mathematics

Case Study 2: School B – Staff Audit of Strengths/Areas for Improvement

Every year we complete a staff audit of strengths and areas for improvement. For example, the following issues have been identified as areas for improvement over the last few years:


  • (short-term) planning for progression
  • day-to-day assessment
  • questioning
  • differentiation
  • strategies for involving pupils in self/peer-assessment
  • using and applying mathematics
  • challenging more able pupils
  • SEN/Inclusion
  • practical mathematics
  • use of ICT.

We have used peer observations, staff meetings and training through external CPD providers to address the issues.

In addition, I am also keen to support staff develop their subject knowledge (the NCETM Self-evaluation Tool is helpful for this. It allows individual or groups to assess their own subject knowledge and offers a series of “intelligent” next steps and follow-up activities tailored to colleagues’ own needs). All staff are given the following list of key areas and asked to identify any areas that they feel they are not confident to teach. I then ‘buddy’ them with another teacher who supports them to develop their knowledge of this particular area of mathematics by joint planning and peer observation.

Subject knowledge

Key Stage 1 Key Stage 2
  • Counting and properties of number
  • Place value and ordering
  • Estimating and rounding
  • Fractions
  • Understanding addition and subtraction
  • Mental strategies (+ and −)
  • Understanding multiplication and division
  • Mental calculation strategies (× and ÷)
  • Rapid recall of 4 ‘rules’
  • Reasoning (about numbers and shapes)
  • Solving problems
  • Enquiring, representing and communicating thinking / understanding
  • Sort, organise and present data
  • Interpret data
  • Estimate, compare and measure…mass, length, capacity and time
  • Read and interpret scales
  • 2D shapes and 3D solids
  • Symmetry / reflection
  • Rotation
  • Position, direction and movement
  • Fractions and decimals
  • Ratio and proportion
  • Understanding addition and subtraction
  • Mental strategies (+ and −)
  • Efficient written methods (+ and −)
  • Understanding multiplication and division
  • Mental calculation strategies (× and ÷)
  • Efficient written methods (× and ÷)
  • Rapid recall of 4 ‘rules’
  • Using a calculator
  • Reasoning (about numbers and shapes)
  • Solving problems
  • Enquiring, representing and communicating thinking / understanding
  • Classify, organise and present data
  • Interpret data
  • Mean, mode, median and range
  • Probability
  • Estimate and measure…mass, length, capacity and time
  • Units ‘conversions’
  • Read and interpret scales
  • Perimeter and area
  • 2D shapes and 3D solids (including nets)
  • Reflection, rotation and translation
  • Coordinates
  • Angles


Case Study 3: School C – Improving Pedagogy

Although developing effective questioning using Bloom’s Taxonomy had been a previous focus for my school, lesson observations revealed little impact on classrooms and children’s learning. I devised a programme of three Professional Development Meetings to address the issue.

The first Professional Development Meeting (PDM) focused on identifying three key questions which could be used to drive the learning. This was started generically and linked particularly to literacy.

improving pedagogy

I then led the staff through a mathematical activity using the questions ‘What’s the same, what’s different?’ ‘Why?’ and ‘What if…?’ Teachers agreed to display the questions in their rooms and use ‘What if ..?’ in at least three plenaries per week.

At the second PDM teachers fed back on the impact of the ‘What if..?’ question and were then I led them through another activity focussing on the power of the ‘What’s the same, what’s different?’ question.

For example, instead of teaching children to add 9 by adding ten then subtracting one, if children add 9 to several 2 digit numbers and are then asked ‘What’s the same, what’s different?’ they realise the strategy for themselves and if asked ‘Why?’ can move to explaining the reasoning behind it.

Whats the same, whats the difference


This makes the learning their own so they are far more likely to use it! As a result of this PDM I asked the teachers to commit to using the questions ‘What’s the same, what’s different?’ ‘Why?’ as part of their mathematics lessons at least once a week.

The third PDM, I introduce the ‘Always, Sometimes, Never’ activity (these can support children in their reasoning skills – e.g. “If you make the perimeter of a shape bigger the area gets bigger: is this always, sometimes or never true?”), and I engaged staff by introducing the statement ‘When I count in 4s along the number line I land on multiples of ten’. Teachers identified ways to introduce and scaffold the activity with children and committed to using this type of activity at least once a week. I provided another resource which had several of these type of activities to support their planning.

Six months down the line, lesson observations show that open questioning and challenging reasoning are embedded in some of the teachers’ practice. For others there is a need for further support so I plan to implement the peer lesson study approach as the next step in this process of professional development.

What does Ofsted say?

(Excerpts from the Ofsted report Mathematics: understanding the score).

This report offers a range of external perspectives, examples of good practice and indications of national trends and standards which can be very helpful to a subject leader.

Here we have included elements which are relevant to this section on professional development.

81. Over the past few years, school-based training days have increasingly concentrated on whole-school issues such as assessment for learning and pupils’ behaviour and attendance. Schools do not make enough use of this time for subject-specific development. Meetings of secondary departments and primary school staff in some schools provide opportunities for professional development which are most effective when tailored to their particular needs.

82. The new professional standards and arrangements for performance management provide schools with a framework to support collaboration between staff and the sharing of good practice. While collaboration offers potential for professional development, the potential will not be realised if teachers’ development needs have not been identified accurately enough.

83. Overall, opportunities for professional development are fragmented and not matched closely to teachers’ individual needs. They do not help them to identify what they need to do to improve their subject expertise and how they might do it, building this up systematically. The most urgent needs are to develop primary and non-specialist teachers’ subject knowledge and secondary teachers’ subject-specific pedagogy. In particular, many teachers might benefit from professional development on planning and teaching for understanding.

85. A prime reason for improving professional development is the need for schools to nurture and develop their staff. This is especially important in secondary schools, many of which experience severe difficulties in recruiting teachers and departmental leaders. Some schools are ‘growing their own’ mathematics staff, through a combination of further study of mathematics and classroom practice.

Reflection and next steps

  • reflect on the features of effective practice and think about what key areas within ‘Professional Development’ you want to develop now
  • look through the case studies and the excerpts from the Ofsted report Mathematics: understanding the score and decide whether there are any tasks or actions you might want to take that are prompted by these
  • use the NCETM Personal Learning Space to record any personal reflections, actions or tasks
  • from policy to practice.

Use this pro-forma to support you in planning your next steps

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