St Mark’s Primary School, Merton
St Mark’s Primary School is a single-form entry school in Mitcham, south London. A group of teaching assistants at the school, led by the school’s mathematics coordinator, explored the NCETM self evaluation tools in order to consider its suitability for developing their own subject knowledge in the context of their work supporting groups of children within the school.
There are several teaching assistants working in classrooms across the school from Reception to Y6. The Teaching Assistant (TA) who is currently working in Year 5 has been a TA at St Mark’s since 1996, supporting children who are lower attaining in mathematics. A key priority for her was to develop her understanding and confidence in mathematics subject knowledge in order to help the children with whom she works. She has explored the Mathematics Content Knowledge and the Mathematical Specific Pedagogy sections of the self-evaluation tools micro-site for Key Stage 2.
Although initially overwhelmed by the vocabulary, she found the examples very useful in helping to understand what the questions were asking and became more confident to continue with the study. The Content Knowledge was extremely useful as a visual example and helped during class lessons when explaining various methods to children of all abilities. The ‘My Notes’ section was useful for quickly noting opinions/comments etc as they came to mind.
The Pedagogy aspects of the self-evaluation tools are less relevant to teaching assistants but content knowledge was a boost to confidence and has encouraged her to view maths in a different way and to be more open minded in her own learning and understanding. Self-evaluating her own knowledge and understanding of mathematics has made her feel more relaxed and confident in her teaching, enabling her to vary her teaching styles to suit the needs of the learners. Some children learn best by visual examples, where as others need a more kinaesthetic approach (counters, cubes, digit cards). She does recommend the site to other colleagues.
She is also aware of a greater understanding of mathematical vocabulary which has helped when working with children of all abilities and notes a significant impact:
- on herself: how much she actually knows and also where to improve that knowledge
- on colleagues: confidence to discuss any mathematical query, not just with class teacher but with the maths co-ordinator and colleagues within the school
- on the pupils: it has boosted her confidence in working with groups of children or on a 1:1 basis.
Another teaching assistant has worked at St Mark’s since 2009, currently supporting the teachers and children in KS1. Once again her aim was to improve her knowledge and understanding of KS1 mathematics in order to gain confidence to teach the children in a way that is individual to their style of learning, to help them to learn and also to enjoy maths.
She found the website was easy to use. The clear examples made her realise that she understood more than she thought. She was pleased to come across some methods that she had not used before, for example, the grid method. The examples enabled her to try out these methods with confidence and soon get a good grasp of them. The next steps sections were really useful in helping develop and extend questions and understanding for the children. Her own greater understanding of subject content has helped with her awareness of the vocabulary which she can now share more confidently with children.
She is now more confident in helping children understand maths in a way that means something to them, rather than just sticking to one route. She realises that she understands more that this will help the children with whom she works. She found that the pedagogy next steps offer fantastic links to activities for children with special needs.
Both teaching assistants acknowledge that the flexibility to be able to go away and come back again without losing anything was very useful and they intend to recommend it to colleagues.
Finally, they each found that the self-evaluation tools were a positive experience and have had significant impact in the following ways:
- improved confidence, knowledge and eagerness to continue with this self study.
- a better ability to explain topics to the children in a way that they will understand
- when pupils ask a question about their mathematics, they can more easily answer it