NCP1b Secondary Shanghai Exchange

This project began in 2015-16 and involved Years 7 and 8 and Shanghai teacher exchange.

The priorities are to develop specialist subject knowledge of teachers of mathematics; developing pedagogical knowledge of teachers of mathematics especially the understanding of mastery pedagogy and Shanghai pedagogy.

The project leaders are Claire Hill from Twynham School and Carl Morris from Purbeck School.

Shanghai Teacher Exchange Visit Report by Clare Hill and Carl Morris

In September 2015, we took part in the NCETM National Collaborative Project 1b: England – China Education Research nd Innovation Project. The visit was organised by the Department for Education, NCTL and NCETM  through the Maths Hubs network. We were joined by 68 teachers from across England along with 4 NCETM coordinators, visiting 38 different schools across Shanghai.

The aims of the project are that:
• we develop a deep understanding of how maths is taught for mastery in the equivalent of KS3 classes in Shanghai;
• we develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to attune and align with those of their  Shanghai counterparts;
• we implement successfully the Shanghai structural and pedagogical approaches in some/all Y7/8 classes in our schools.

In the two schools we visited – Jincai Experimental Secondary School and Yuan Xi Primary School – we observed lessons, took part in Teacher Research Group feedback sessions and observed some intervention sessions. In addition to the school visits, we attended lectures at Shanghai Normal University on an analysis of the PISA 2012 results, the characteristics and principles behind Shanghai teaching and a comparison between education in Shanghai and the UK.

In November 2015, two Chinese teachers, one from each school, will arrive in the UK and teach in both our schools over three weeks as part of the return leg of the project. They will teach Y7 and Y8 classes. This will provide us further opportunities into how we can embed elements of Shanghai teaching into our schools in order to raise performance further.

The Big Picture: Shanghai is a city of over 24 million people and operates as a direct-controlled municipality of the People’s Republic of China. It has undergone huge changes during the past 30 years in terms of economic growth and investment. Shanghai is the richest province in China, and so it is not necessarily comparable with other countries.

Shanghai joined the PISA testing system to compare its performance with other high performing jurisdictions and countries around the world. In the 2012 PISA assessments, Shanghai came top in maths, reading and science. By comparison, the UK was ranked 26th for maths, 23rd for reading and 20th for science. This is why we have chosen to research the teaching practice in Shanghai.

Due to the population size of Shanghai, schools are on average larger than those in England – Jincai Experimental Secondary School has almost 2,100 students and Yuan Xi Primary School has 2,400 students across two campuses.

Teachers work collaboratively together to plan lessons and observe each other to develop their practice, both within their school and with other teachers from schools in their districts. As a result, Jincai Experimental Secondary School has been ranked 1 in the Pudong district for the past few years in maths and Yuan Xi Primary School has been ranked in the top 10 in the Pudong district.

The school day for children in Shanghai is longer compared to the school day in the UK. Secondary schools typically start at 7.30 am and end at 4.30 pm. There are eight lessons of 35/40mins each, with 10mins rest between them, as well as reading sessions and morning exercise.

Large schools can mean large class sizes. In Jincai Experimental Secondary School, each class contained around 32 students. In Yuan Xi Primary School each class contained around 48 students.

Routines are very clear in and around each school for both students and teachers. Students stay in the same room for most of their lessons and the teachers move around to each classroom. This is manageable for each teacher as their timetable only contains two maths classes. These are both in the same grade so they can plan one lesson but deliver it twice, tweaking it depending on the needs of their students.

In the ten minute break, students are able to talk, move around or run about outside. When the bell/music plays to signal the start of lessons, students immediately become silent and focused on the lesson. Lessons begin with a formal welcome. In lessons when a teacher asks a student a question then they will stand up to answer the question.

Teachers in Shanghai, in all schools and in all districts, all follow the same programme of study. This is supplemented by one textbook. This programme of study has been heavily researched to the finest details. Teachers are required to teach lessons in a specific order, to teach concepts in a specific order, to teach principles in a specific order and to demonstrate examples in a specific order. Each individual stepping stone is very important in Shanghai. This is micro teaching on a whole different level to what is mostly seen in the UK.

Homework is set daily. The objective of each maths homework is to practise and consolidate the knowledge and skills learnt in the lesson. This is collected in the next lesson and marked by the teacher with ticks and crosses. Review lessons are built into the programme of study to review errors and misconceptions in homework’s and tests. However, many students choose to see the teacher at break, lunch or after school for support with improving their work.

Over the five days in Shanghai, we observed twelve lessons in total.
Below is a list of lessons that we observed:

Jincai Experimental Secondary:
School Day 1
Grade 7 (Year 9) Index Laws: Multiplication Law
Grade 7 (Year 9) Collecting Like Terms
School Day 2
Grade 7 (Year 9) Nth Term of a Sequence
Grade 7 (Year 9) Translations
Grade 9 (Year 11) Midpoint Theorem
School Day 3
Grade 7 (Year 9) Simplifying Expressions
Grade 7 (Year 9) Simplifying Expressions
Grade 6 (Year 8) Long Multiplication
Grade 6 (Year 8) Lowest Common Multiple

Yuan Xi Primary School:
School Day 1
Grade 5 (Year 7) Multiplying a Decimal by a Decimal
School Day 2
Grade 4 (Year 6) Review of Large Numbers
Grade 5 (Year 7) Properties of Parallelograms

Sharing our experiences with other teachers taking part in the project, the common characteristics of each lesson were consistent in all of the schools in Shanghai.

Lessons were very intense. They can be described as both teacher led and student centred. The teacher guides motivated students carefully through well planned teaching steps. Every step of teaching time is organised by the teacher and this is highly achievable in 40 minute lessons.

The teaching style was clearly direct instruction. Students practise questions and solve problems that have been very deliberately planned. At regular intervals in the lesson, the teacher and student interact through reviewing worked solutions and regular discussion occurs on efficiency of alternative strategies. This graphic highlights one typical lesson in Shanghai and the frequency of such activities and was a model that we witnessed in all of our observations.