Each week we will publish a new learning module, which over the weeks will build up in to a shopping list of PD activities so that you can pick and choose the materials that best suit your own development needs.
Professional Development activity - 2 hour learning module
Each week the Secondary Magazine will include a Professional Development activity. Available in PDF format, this series of learning modules are ideal for giving a focus to a department meeting or inset session.
The first twelve modules will cover the following areas: Self Evaluation, Why do we teach Mathematics?, Mathematics learning script, Pathways and option: KS3 to KS5, Mathematical vocabulary, AfL: Using the lesson objective - overview, Group Work, C/D Borderline, Revision latest, Technology for learning, Questioning script and AfL: Formative use of summative tests.
This week, our first module is about Self Evaluation. This module can be used to inform the department improvement plan and identify what needs there are in terms of professional development within the department. Completing this module gives a good idea of what future modules you may like to undertake.
"The driving force of a successful school improvement strategy is self-evaluation. A school that has the capacity to examine all that it does critically in the light of genuine evidence – including data on pupil performance – and set targets for its own development, will be an improving school." Professor Michael Barber 1996
There is no one right way to teach, no one effective set of resources, no one magic solution to successful teaching and learning in mathematics. All the evidence suggests that when a department goes about finding out, in a systematic way, what they do and how effective it is, and then use this information to set themselves targets for development then they will be an improving department.
Self-evaluation has been recognised as a key element in preparing for an Ofsted inspection and the completion of the self-evaluation form (SEF) is a central element in preparing for an inspection. This form does provide some useful prompts for departmental discussion however it is important to see the process of self-evaluation as important over and above what is required by Ofsted.
This CPD module is intended to stimulate departmental discussion on this issue and allow you, as a department as well as an individual teacher, to come up with some areas you want to work on.
You may find that after working through this module with your colleagues you will be better placed to choose from the other modules offered in this collection which are best suited to you and your department. Every department engaged in a process of self-evaluation wants to know the answers to questions such as:
• “What do we do well?”
• “What is working?”
• “What do we need to get better at?”
• “How will we get better at it?”
The booklet “Securing improvement: the role of subject leaders” (DfES 0102/2002) from the National KS3 Strategy identifies three core roles for the subject leader:
• Making judgements about standards of pupils’ achievement;
• Evaluating teaching and learning and setting priorities for improvement;
• Leading sustainable improvement by identifying targets for improvement, by developing and leading strategies to achieve these targets and by quality assuring the curriculum.
Ideally addressing these issues is not a task for one person nor is it a one-off task. It requires an ongoing sequence of activities, which involves all members of a department working together.
While pupil achievement is important, it is not the only measure of the effectiveness of a department. Also examination and other test results are not the only way of indicating the quality of this element. Some other useful questions and prompts might be:
• What is the quality of the teaching across our department?
• What do we do well which we should be shared with others; what do others do well which should be shared across the department?
• How do we work together as a department so that we can regularly learn from each other as teachers?
• What areas of the curriculum are we good at teaching and what areas are difficult to teach?
• What are our students’ views of our lessons, how do they like to learn best and are we catering for this?
You may be able to think of more.
Where are you now?
Before coming together as a whole department, reflect on where you think you are as a department by addressing these three prompts.
• What are the good things about your department?
• What do you feel you do well which should be shared with other?
• Where are there particular areas of expertise within the department which you think should be shared with everyone?
Think about what you would like to improve within your department.
Are there any questions you may want to ask in order to fully answer these prompts? Is there information that you would like to have but don’t know?
Provide a pack of Post-it notes for each member of the department and invite them to write down their thoughts from the “Where are you now?” activity.
When they have finished, ask them to stick them on the wall under two categories: the good things about your department and what you would like to improve.
Spend a little time making sure that everyone understands each one of the comments; discuss and clarify any meanings where necessary. Give everyone the opportunity to add other thoughts on Post-it notes and add them to those which are already displayed.
Take a good look at these statements. Some of them may be about the standards of pupils’ achievement. Others may be commenting on the quality of teaching and learning within the department and some may be particularly useful to highlight a specific area for improvement (either for you individually or for the whole department).
As a whole department, rearrange the Post-it notes according to these different areas indicated above.
One possible way of managing this would be to arrange them under the following headings:
• Standards of pupils’ achievement
• Quality of teaching
• Quality of learning
• Specific areas for improvement
However, you may come up with other headings which you feel are more suitable. The important thing is to arrive at a classification of your statements which reflect the full range of what you do rather than just singling out one element, for example, pupil achievement in tests.
Reflect on the balance of comments across the chosen headings. Are there any headings with few or no comments? Why might this be so? Are there things you wish to add?
(The purpose of this activity is to come up with a spread of judgments about all your practice and to highlight specific areas for improvement)
It may be a good idea to record the results of these “Post-it” activities in some way (e.g. by photographing the display).
To end the session, spend some time on your own recording some actions that you feel you and your department would like to take:
• next day;
• next week;
• next year.
Collect these together as a department.
Implementing and continuing to learn
The comments that you and your colleagues make in the last category (next year) may form the basis for a future department meeting where you construct a departmental action plan together. For future sessions you may also like to develop your departmental self-evaluation further by using the NCETM’s self-evaluation tools for mathematics content knowledge and mathematics-specific pedagogy.
You may also like to use time in a future meeting to share the results of your “next day” and “next week” actions with other colleagues. Some departments have found it useful to have some mechanism for regularly sharing an individual issue or idea someone has experimented with. This could be by having a standing item on every departmental meeting agenda, an area on the departmental notice board or a folder on the school network.