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Mastery Magnified - school case studies

Created on 13 May 2016 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 11 December 2018 by ncetm_administrator

Case studies supporting teaching for mastery

Mastery case studies: aspects of teaching for mastery under the spotlight

Each of these case studies highlights the practice of one teacher or one school in England, or focuses on one aspect of teaching for mastery, with associated examples from several teachers or schools. In most cases, the case study reflects a time in the school’s or teacher’s life where teaching for mastery is still in a developmental phase. We are indebted to the teachers and schools for allowing their work to be put under the spotlight for the benefit of colleagues all over the country.

School sees better results through teaching for mastery

At Elmhurst Primary School in Forest Gate, east London, success in maths is well established. But their most recent results have shown that something special is happening. Embracing teaching for mastery in maths – where children develop a deep procedural and conceptual understanding – has seen pupils’ love for the subject contribute to some exceptional end of year outcomes for all year groups. We went along to Elmhurst to find out just what is happening.

Why Mastery Readiness isn't just 'mastery-lite'!

The Mastery Readiness Programme offers support to schools to put in place structures, systems and positive mathematical culture, to enable them to successfully engage in teaching for mastery. We visit a tiny school on the North East coast to find out what’s changing for them.

Teaching for mastery at secondary: is it compatible with putting pupils in sets?

Teaching for mastery assumes that, within any maths lesson, all pupils engage with the same maths. It doesn’t allow for the practice of different maths being directed at pupils on different tables. But does it allow, in the context of a secondary school with hundreds of pupils in a year group, for different maths being targeted at different sets? That’s the question being addressed by secondary schools on the Teaching for Mastery Programme up and down the country. This is the approach of one school in Surrey.

Gap tasks: maximising the impact of Work Groups

Work Groups enable the spread of the principles and practices of teaching for mastery through primary schools across the country. With 140 already up and running, hundreds of teachers are now experiencing this unique and interactive form of professional development, and thousands of pupils are benefiting from a teaching for mastery approach in their classrooms. In this case study, we visit Gorse Hill Primary School Work Group in Swindon, and find out how the gap tasks that teachers undertake in between Work Group meetings are driving powerful changes in pedagogy.

Don’t abandon counters just because it’s secondary school!

Physical maths equipment has long been the domain of the primary school classroom, particularly in KS1. In secondary schools however, concrete and pictorial ways of demonstrating a concept have often been left behind, and are sometimes regarded by pupils as ‘babyish’, or as something to use ‘if you don’t get it’. Teaching for mastery emphasises the importance of multiple representations of a concept and this is encouraging secondary schools to rediscover the power of using manipulatives. In this case study we visit Trinity Academy in Halifax, and find out how they are using place value counters to deepen pupils’ understanding of place value, addition and subtraction.

Teacher Collaboration Supports Mixed-Attainment Classes

In adopting teaching for mastery, some secondary schools are beginning to question the standard practice of ‘ability-setting’. Whilst many primary schools have successfully removed grouping by (perceived) ability, setting is more entrenched in secondary schools and structural timetabling changes are more difficult to make. Most difficult of all, an entire generation of secondary teachers has little or no experience of teaching mixed-attainment groups. St. Marylebone School in London has developed a collaborative planning model to rapidly develop teachers’ skills in this area.

Mindset: why is it so important in teaching for mastery?

Liam Colclough, headteacher at St. Thomas of Canterbury School in Sheffield, is convinced that to effectively introduce teaching for mastery, a shift in mindset is required – in children, in staff and in parents. Fundamentally, this involves a belief that all children can achieve in mathematics and a rejection of the idea that some people ‘just can’t do maths’.

While this pervasive idea is long established in British educational culture, it is not universal, and is noticeably absent in high-performing jurisdictions such as China and Singapore. Research evidence shows that encouraging a ‘growth mindset’ and belief that everyone can do maths, has a significant effect on achievement. Here, we look at the steps taken at St. Thomas Canterbury, to nurture a ‘growth mindset’ in pupils.

Teaching for Mastery: “Isn’t it just good teaching?”

Emma Patman is a Y4 teacher at Farnsfield St. Michael’s Primary School in Nottinghamshire, with 14 years’ experience in the classroom. Her teaching has been transformed in the last 2 years by her exposure to teaching for mastery pedagogy. And yet she says:

“It’s just good teaching really. It’s all packaged up as something quite mystical and magical but it’s just common sense, a lot of it.”

Despite this, Emma tells us that what is happening in her school looks and feels so different as to be revolutionary. In this case-study, we pinpoint key changes in Emma’s school that contribute to this.

Using a high quality textbook to support teaching for mastery

Textbooks have historically been seen to occupy a more passive corner of mathematics teaching. Recently, some teachers have become interested in the more active way that textbooks are used in Singapore.

Hannah Gray, from Thorn Grove Primary School in Bishops Stortford, is one of the teachers involved in trialling new Singapore-style textbooks, designed to support a mastery approach to mathematics teaching. Here we visit her classroom to observe the effects on teaching and learning.

Meeting the needs of all without ability setting

Teachers accustomed to working with ability sets often express concerns about whether it is possible to cater for the full range of pupils in mixed-attainment classes. We visited Tom Collins, in a Y3 class at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Guildford where setting has been removed, to find out how he manages to challenge high-attainers and scaffold for those that take longer.

“Previously my high-attaining pupils would be siphoned off to tackle higher level material and whilst they are able to answer the questions at a procedural level, they often do not recognise the concepts and connections. Now I see high-attainers enjoying maths more as they really unpick the concepts.”

TRGs: Collaborative professional development in action

“The label ‘Teacher Research Group’ was hard for me as I am used to providing CPD but I think I am finding my way into the idea of a research group…This model of CPD is much more effective than going on a course”

This case study follows Angela Linford from Barnby Road Academy in Newark, as she leads the second meeting of a local Teacher Research Group. Here we find exciting collaborative professional development amongst teachers at various different stages of the mastery journey.

How can teaching for mastery work in a mixed age class?

Lucy Westley, teaching in Tiffield, Northamptonshire, is undeterred by the mastery principle of ‘keeping the class together’, despite her class spanning Years 2-6.

“I think you do have to jump on board and try it and see the difference, really see it pay off, and then make your mind up. I think people have to give it a go.”

If you’d like to offer your views, or experiences, on any aspect of teaching for mastery, please contribute to the discussion threads in the NCETM’s Maths Café Community. NB: To access and make posts in the Maths Café Community, you need to be registered with the NCETM and logged in.




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