Utilising existing resources
This school was a mixed comprehensive school in a suburban area, with around 1200 on roll with a pass rate at the time of writing of 70% A*-C for Mathematics, 84% including English and Maths. The mathematics department consisted of 7 mathematics specialists and 1 other. The department had suffered a high turnover of staff and standards were felt to have fallen over previous years.
The general teaching style was very traditional, following a scheme of work in line with the text books allocated to Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4. It was felt a move away from this style was imperative to move the department forward in line with the school’s Mathematics and Computing specialism.
Lessons in mathematics were gradually moving from being graded consistently as unsatisfactory / satisfactory to satisfactory / good, but some members of the department were feeling uncomfortable with changes in teaching styles and needed guidance on designing, developing and utilising new and existing resources to their fullest potential. For this reason, it was deemed appropriate to look at CPD on the use of resources to facilitate the transition to innovative and outstanding teaching.
Aims of project
The department needed to move away from a heavy reliance on textbook-driven lessons to providing more engaging, student led lessons. It was necessary to provide CPD on the effective use and implementation of existing resources; to start with we used resources from the National Standards Unit files.
CPD activities planned and undertaken
The project was introduced to the department during a departmental meeting, outlining its objectives, and allowing the staff to acknowledge their instrumental role in determining the successful outcomes. A discussion on how we each see the department developing on its journey to an outstanding, high profile faculty ensured a shared vision amongst its members.
An existing resource was distributed amongst the department members in small groups and discussed. Ideas on its use were discussed with an emphasis on atypical approaches to promote their creative use. Various ideas were considered varying from typical number sorting activities to more complex sequence work. To really consider its impact in the classroom, I asked the department to use this resource, over the course of 2 weeks, with an emphasis on the lesson being rich and open-ended.
This approach to teaching perturbed many members of the department who felt uneasy with conducting a lesson that could lead down any number of paths and result in a variety of outcomes for the lesson topic and the students’ understanding. To overcome this and ensure the use of the material in the intended application, I asked the department to film the students’ interaction and, if they felt comfortable, their delivery of the lesson. Both laying down a timescale and requiring evidence of the use of the resource helped to guarantee its use. This proved to be the case with the majority of teachers in the department effectively implementing the resource as a rich task. This gave those teachers using the resource a lot of confidence in not just this resource, but also provided them with the confidence and conviction to use this ‘open-objective’ format of lesson and other resources that could lead to similar outcomes.
It was not used by the entire department, mainly due to a lack of belief in the resource and perhaps their ability to deliver this type of lesson without the scaffolding of the more structured, archetypal lesson that they had become used to conducting. However, the feedback session that followed after the allocated fortnight provided encouragement for those teachers who initially felt reluctant. With this is mind, I proposed ‘working partners’ to help each other use the resource, one partner who had used it successfully, the other needing support with its use. The pairs were to feedback at the next meeting, scheduled the following month. To further bolster the importance of the implementation of the resource, I used some PPA time to observe and further support teachers in the classroom. This also assured the lesson would go ahead, knowing it was being supported by other members of staff.
The final feedback session allowed the department to reflect on not just the resource and its effectiveness, but also the new style of lesson it demanded. The main positive factor to arise was the students’ engagement and the ease of delivery because of this. Whilst this was not to become a standard method of teaching, it allowed for a diversity of teaching styles, providing attractive and enjoyable lessons for the students, making lessons easier to teach due to the attentive audience.
To make certain this did not become a futile exercise we decided upon where to place the activity in the scheme of work by determining which year group would find it most effective and which topics it would best support.
Success of the CPD approach used
After the initial introduction of the resource, not all teachers engaged with the task set. By allowing the department to take ownership of the resource and its implementation, partly through the ‘selling’ approach, most teachers did. After the second CPD session, feeding back to the department on its use and allowing others to ‘sell’ the resource, more teachers came on board. However, effective ‘participation’ guaranteed its use. The impact in the classroom was observable. Students were highly engaged, motivated and taking pride in their work and determining and assessing their own and their peers’ outcomes. Students were asked to assess the lesson, noting its positives and what they would like to see more of. The vast majority enjoyed the lesson and would like to see more of its type in their maths education.
Teachers were surprised by the outcomes:
‘I would never have thought they would have been that engaged.’
‘I was petrified at the idea of teaching a lesson where the students determined the outcomes, especially to a challenging class, but they were all on board.’
Evaluation of CPD effectiveness
The initial implementation of the resource was not accomplished by all members of the department. This was mainly due to time constraints, reluctance to deviate from the scheme of work (especially with modules looming for some classes) and the anxiety of some teachers to step out of the comfort zone of traditional teaching methods. This CPD activity proved to be highly effective, especially with the feedback, review and implement cycle. By supporting teachers through effective participation, we learned a lot about the department, our capabilities as teachers, and the abilities of our students to take a responsible approach to their learning.
Future CPD plans
At the time of writing, further resources are now being implemented and developed with a similar cyclical approach. The aim is to allocate existing resources to the scheme of work and develop others that will promote independent learning and problem solving to help support the changes in the GCSE syllabus.