Reflecting on developing a common purpose and a shared culture
Key Element: Vision and Aims
The organisation of the NCETM EiML microsite is such that the ‘Vision and Aims’ Key Element sits at the top of the opening diagram, and this importance was reflected in the first question posed by Jane Jones in her speech to delegates at the Embedding EiML conference: ‘What is your top priority?’. New subject leaders especially will be faced with the challenge of moving a department in the direction that they have identified is appropriate, while maintaining – if not raising – the current standards of achievement. Delegates’ responses to Jane’s question ranged from ‘that learners enjoy mathematics and arrive to lessons with a buzz’ to ‘that learners achieve their potential’. It is interesting to note that the EiML case studies from new subject leaders in Gloucestershire LA show that, faced with the range of key elements on offer, most chose to focus on ‘Vision and Aims’ as the aspect that could make the biggest difference.
When thinking about a starting point for developing a longer term vision pose a big question such as:
What type of learners do you want to create? Start with this question and shape your curriculum to deliver it. Make a list of what you want from your students and keep referring to it. For example,
- to be autonomous learners
- to be able to explore things mathematically
- to be successful
- to be able to apply maths from one situation to another
- to be able to talk maths
- to be engaged
- to see the relevance of maths.
If you want autonomous learners then you need to teach learners how to become autonomous! If you want your students to be able to explore things mathematically then you need to teach them about the tools they need to do this. What do you want your learners to be able to do?
Then having established the type of learner you want to produce, how do you actually progress towards that? Consider the following ideas, with staff assigned responsibilities – possibly along with purposeful, achievable performance management targets:
- monitor and review the vision statement
- monitor student voice to make a positive contribution to the curriculum
- encourage positive engagement with mathematics beyond the department (transference)
- change the learning environment to reflect current teaching and learning practice
- encourage mathematical study post-18.
It is possible for a head of department to carry out the performance management of all team members. This can be pivotal in helping to move the department forward in the desired and agreed direction.
One of the online seminars for subject leaders focused on the question ‘What is your favourite resource?’. This turned out to provide a fascinating insight into teachers’ beliefs about, and approaches to, mathematics teaching. As such, this could be a very interesting – and non-threatening – question for a new subject leader to ask their department. Answers to the question included a variety of commercial and free resources from across the web and practical materials, including resources for:
- consolidation and practice such as 10 Ticks, MathsWatch, MyMaths and MathedUp
- exploration and problem solving opportunities such as Geogebra, NRICH, Kangaroo Maths and UKMT, Risps (for A Level)
- games for group work to embed understanding such as the Standards Unit Box
- interactive materials for the interactive white board
- post-it notes - always useful for plenaries, or just for pupils to write questions down
- matching cards as a kinaesthetic resource for those students who are more hands on in their learning
- some older texts include many questions which are useful for the new AO2 and AO3 assessment objectives.
- mathematical magazines such as Plus and Circa.
It then provides a starting point for interesting discussions about how the resources, their presentation and content impact positively on achieving the department’s aims and objectives.
When you are developing your departmental aims and objectives you may want to look at other items of interest on the NCETM portal, such as:
- the case studies in the Vision and Aims Key Element
- Professional Development Activity from Issue 2 of the Secondary Magazine, Why do we teach mathematics?
- Pofessional Development Activity from Issue 3 of the Secondary Magazine, Learning mathematics in my school
- relevant quotes from the Ofsted summary report, Mathematics: understanding the score.
A final reflection about vision and improvement planning: “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world” (Joel A Barker).