Reflections from previous work groups: GCSE Thinking

Here are some reflections from a previous work group.

Focus: Mathematical Thinking for GCSE

When: 2017-18

Led by: Simon Osmond & Bridget Culver, Uffculme School

Activity:

Outcomes:

  • the role of reasoning and problem solving in the new curriculum and the teaching and learning needed to support pupils develop these skills across all teaching.
  • how these skills are tested in the new GCSE and what particular T&L approaches can support current KS4 pupils address these challenges.
  • broadened their repertoire of activities/approaches and resources that develop pupils’ mathematical reasoning and problem-solving skills across all teaching, including supporting pupils address challenges of new GCSE questions.
  • Pupils may begin to demonstrate:
  • improved confidence when they engage in mathematical reasoning and problem solving.
  • the use of these skills to solve problems but also deepen their understanding of mathematics content itself.

Summary of quantitative feedback

Section 1 – Overall

Please summarise the % of participants in your WG awarding each grade

Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree Not

applicable

1a Overall, the planned outcomes of the Work Group were fully achieved. 11% 89%      

 

Section 2 – Professional Learning Please summarise the % of participants in your WG awarding each grade Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree Not

applicable

2b Overall, the Work Group has improved my professional knowledge. 33% 67%      
Generally, teachers improved their knowledge of the differences in AO1, AO2 & AO3 style questions along with increased confidence to implement activities that allowed their departments and students to explore these. The workgroup provided structure and accountability that ensured new strategies and resources were used back in the classroom. Many commented on the value of discussions and reflections at the workshops which allowed a deeper understanding of their practice.

Some specific compliments of the workshops and gap tasks were that they were reasonable and clear in what was expected in terms of time and energy. Teachers were also grateful for banks of resources and example that they could take back and physically use. The consensus was that all teachers wanted to explore this further next year to enable good practice to be embedded within departments – the main challenge to this would be time as well as guidance in how to implement different reasoning strategies appropriately.

 

Section 3 – Practice Development

Please summarise the % of participants in your WG awarding each grade

Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree Not

applicable

3b Overall, the Work Group has developed my practice. 11% 89%      
There were many parallels between the professional learning of teachers and the impact on their classroom practice. I believe this is due to the format and structure of the workgroups – which provide gap tasks and reflective activities – which enables this positive impact on actual practice. One of the biggest changes is in the openness of teachers to engage and try new strategies and how likely this is to become apparent in lessons. Collaboration was the key to success and impact on practice. The provision of resources from NCETM and exploring problem solving in great depth (in contrast to exploring particular topics of mathematics) were specific parts of the workgroup that were essential.

 

The gap tasks became a reason to actually put the theory into practice and this became a big driving force of motivation for teachers to start with. The feedback and atmosphere within the workgroup was extremely positive and the discussion time was seen as invaluable. However, some reflected that it felt disjointed trying one focus for a time then shifting to a new one for the next task after only a half term or so. This would be addressed with an earlier start to the workshops to allow the workshops to spread more and thus greater time to embed practise for each gap task. A further consideration is in a 2nd year for this cohort to focus on a particular reasoning strategy – relevant to their setting – in more detail.

 

Section 4 – School or department policies and approaches Please summarise the % of participants in your WG awarding each grade Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree Not

applicable

4b Overall, the Work Group has had an effect within my school or mathematics department beyond my own practice.   89% 11%    
Across all schools, discussion and engagement within departments has drastically increased as a result of the workgroup. Beyond this there is inconsistent impact on wider departments. Essentially time was needed for some participants to explore and impact their practice first before it could become a department focus where some participants were able to use their respective roles as lead practitioners to include the work of the workgroup in their school CPD focus points. Most schools are now in a position where they are looking to embed the reasoning focuses into their schemes of work but, again, time and support is a huge challenge for this. In summary, the workgroup has impacted all departments this year ranging from discussion & light engagement of other staff through to official CPD focuses and schemes of work implemented. For all schools, an extra year would see more department impact.

There is a great sense of optimism in the workgroup being fuelled by collaborative planning between schools and within departments. Developing resources and having other teachers engage with those is very powerful and this is encouraged greatly through the gap tasks.

 

It is also worth noting that staffing issues at many schools (including long term illness and sudden resignations) was a major challenge. All schools and lead participants tried their best and have full intentions embedding reasoning strategies from the work group department practice but the varying levels of impact come from the varying staffing issues this year.

 

Section 5 – Pupil Outcomes

Please summarise the % of participants in your WG awarding each grade

Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree Not

applicable

5b Overall, the Work Group has had an effect on my pupil outcomes   89%     11%
Schools experienced a mostly positive engagement and impact of pupils because of the use of the reasoning focuses. Generally, teachers noticed that students have become much more willing and likely to attempt AO2 or AO3 style questions where before they would immediately give up. Some students were seen to really fly with the different activities but some were resistant. Schools are looking to change routine and practice for year 7 to improve this as those cohorts continue through to KS4.

 

Students were seen to enjoy a variety of deeper tasks and activities that teachers were exploring but these are often isolated lessons and not fully embedded yet. It is too early to measure the impact on attainment as the real test is the test of time beyond one year or term focusing on a particular strategy. However, one school did see a big uptake of using diagrams and bar models in their mock exams which improved attainment there.

 

 

Final evaluation judgement and recommendation for future Work Groups

Professional learning outcomes: The Work Group largely achieved its intended outcomes in relation to Professional Learning. This is particular apparent in the new depth of understanding of AO2 & AO3 style questioning in the new GCSE.

Teaching and/or Leadership Outcomes: The Work Group largely achieved its intended outcomes in relation to Practice Development. All teachers engaged with all tasks and have explored a variety of new strategies in their teaching. This has overflowed at various levels to their colleagues. Reflection time in the workgroup has been particularly effective.

Whole School and/or Department Policies Outcomes: The Work Group was addressing the right area, and partially achieved intended outcomes but would need to be adapted if it was to be run again. All departments are engaged and have been impacted at different levels. More time to allow practices and policies to be implemented, particularly in schemes of work, will improve this.

Pupil achievement, attitudes, participation or experience Outcomes: The Work Group was addressing the right area, and partially achieved intended outcomes but need to be adapted if it was to be run again. Attitudes and participation is definitely achieved but there has not been enough time to measure accurately the impact on attainment.

Give recommendations about the next steps. Recommendations are likely to be one of the following kind:

1) The Work Group should be repeated (possibly scaled up) in the Maths Hub and/or in other Maths Hubs (provision for this cohort to continue a year 2 would be great).