We had a real issue here last term. The mathematics department is perceived by the rest of the school to be really good at two things, getting good exam results and keeping pupils’ noses to the grindstone in lessons. I’m delighted that our pupils get good results but I am aware that we also need continue to develop them as good mathematicians who are less reliant on being ‘drilled’ or ‘spoon fed’. We’ve just had a series of whole school ‘visioning meetings’ where we, as a whole staff, have agreed that learning across the school needs to be active, interesting, fun.
We didn’t know what to do about this? The school appears to be happy with what we are doing but this isn’t what the school is saying it wants. Do they mean everywhere except mathematics, learning should be active, interesting, fun?
I asked for this to be on the agenda at my Line Management meeting. I tried to say that the department was getting mixed messages – if you want to show prospective parents (or other visitors) a class of industrious, silent pupils this does not fit with active, interesting and fun learning. I tried to explain that silent classrooms did not fit with our image of good mathematics learning but we were anxious about making too many changes – would the SLT think we were losing our grip?
I think we are beginning to get this sorted now. My Line Manager hadn’t really seen it like that. I felt I needed to be quite pro-active so I invited her to some mathematics lessons my Year 11 class did some card sort activities which they found quite difficult (so did she!) but it did reinforce the power of active learning and also how it might seem to an observer in the corridor. The department has agreed, after some debate, that we need to be brave and have asked that the focus of all our ‘quality assurance’ observations and learning walks this year will be ‘active learning’ so that we will all get a chance to talk with SLT about what goes on in our classrooms – not just what comes out of them at the end of Year 11!.