This case study exemplifies how teachers who were close together in professional experience (i.e. undergraduate teachers and newly qualified teachers), had a positive influence on improving practice and how this might be built in as part of the initial teacher education programme. The project was led by a senior lecturer at the University College Plymouth St Mark & St John (Marjon).
The project evolved from a previous NCETM project where third year BEd students provided mentoring and coaching to second year BEd students in mathematics teaching and learning. The model involved four NQTs working with seven third year undergraduate teachers.
CPD Aims and objectives
The aim was to form a small enquiry partnership between a final year student and an NQT who would work together to try to improve an aspect of primary mathematics teaching, the outcome being a mutually beneficial experience. The project was designed with the following objectives in mind:
- students should work collaboratively in an enquiry based manner
- students should have contributed to the project design time should be provided for the NQTs to take part in the project
- the work needed to be firmly based in practical classroom applications.
CPD Format/ Structure
The structure of the CPD model was underpinned by evidence provided in the Williams Independent Review of the Teaching of Mathematics in Early Years Settings and Primary Schools (2008) and the NCETM RECME (2009) report.
Prior to the first meeting, the BEd students read extracts about co-coaching and took part in a seminar designed to help them work alongside another teacher in a supportive professional relationship. The BEd students and the NQT were brought together for the first time during a half-day workshop at UCP Marjon; supply cover was paid for the NQTs.
The participants were asked to form working groups based on interests and practical considerations such as travel arrangements. They then set about devising a focus of mutual interest for their study; the proviso was that the NQTs had the casting vote since it was their class and the work had to have a legitimate pedagogical purpose for the children in that class. This process of negotiating an aspect of mathematics teaching and learning proved to be challenging, thought-provoking and ultimately rewarding. A simple proforma was completed as part of this planning process; this proved to be a successful device in focusing efforts.
Having agreed a focus, the individual groups then set up three or four school based sessions or lessons to investigate their chosen aspect. The groups carried out the work in the various schools, some using an online community on the NCETM portal to share ideas and reflections.
A final half-day of supply cover was provided to enable the teams to discuss and analyse their findings and to report on their findings. The project leader then planned in time to interview each of the groups using their findings as a focus for discussion.
Changes in practice
The case for working with another professional who was only slightly more experienced was supported in the evidence from the interviews between the project lead and the participants. The groups felt they achieved more because the NQT was more open to new ideas than a more experienced teacher, such as those teachers that students traditionally meet on teaching practices, might be,. One NQT felt that engaging with a student had refreshed her confidence because she was not viewed as a novice but rather as the ‘expert’ by the students she was working with.
There was agreement that there was a partnership whereby the teacher and student were working together to solve a professional problem. The opportunity to network with other NQTs at the initial meeting was also appreciated by participants.
As a result of this model of CPD, there was a general sense of willingness from both the students and NQTs to have a go at something different. The practitioners reported that working collaboratively in this way encouraged them to try new things, and that in turn this helped them to build an evidence-based rationale and gave them ownership of their choice of teaching approaches.
For the HEI
As a result of running this project Marjon staff are planning to use the project as a template for the 2010/11 third year BEd students. However the challenge will be whether or not schools will be prepared to provide the funding to release the NQTs for the two half days necessary. It is hoped that this might be overcome by having the advantage of being able to give schools the opportunity to start recruiting in the autumn term, ready for the summer term.
For the teachers
As a result of participating in this project some of the NQTs have been able to describe how their work is influencing professional development within their school. Further enquiry with two of the participating teachers suggests that working with colleagues using an enquiry based model has been introduced and shared within the schools where they teach. This involved working with colleagues in parallel classes or supporting a new NQT who has recently joined the school. These two teachers had also discussed the project with senior leaders within their school with the intention of spreading this form of professional development across the school
These two teachers had also continued to support the third year BEd students beyond the end of the project, particularly in the context of supporting the students during their applications for their first teaching jobs.