The Education Endowment Foundation’s Guidance Reports are gathering momentum; today saw their fourth one published on Improving Maths in Key Stages 2 & 3 with six more due for publication in 2018.
The Guidance Papers seek to pull together the best evidence available in a series of coherent strategies which schools and teachers can implement.
At the heart of the Research School programme is assisting schools to bridge the gap between evidence and class room practice.
Please excuse the blatant plug in the middle of this post but if you can get to St. Mary’s Catholic Academy in Blackpool Peter Henderson, from the Education Endowment Foundation, will be “launching” the paper on the 6th December 2017 from 4:40 – 6:00 pm and there will be a three day training programme on the Maths Guidance Paper on Mondays 26th February 2018, 30th April 2018 and 25th June 2018. You may want to keep Saturday 24th March 2018 free; can’t say yet but announcement to follow!
The detail in the Maths Guidance Report is well worth reading; the contents, with a bit of thought, are transferable to most if not all subjects and I’d be very surprised if the Key Stage 3 & 4 Science Report, due next year, doesn’t have very similar recommendations.
Here are some of my takeaways from today’s guidance for all subjects:
The majority of your professional development should focus on ensuring you have a profound understanding of your subject, key concepts and common pupil misconceptions, and how to teach these big ideas. This means scripting, in detail and order, the key milestones in the learning journey or progression that pupils must attain and effective ways to teach them individually and collectively.
Focus assessments and their analysis, whether written, practical or oral, on finding out what pupils don’t know or can’t do but should because they have been taught it. Where this hasn’t been done in a systematic and coherent way before or because pupils have missed large chunks of schooling put in place high quality, structured interventions to enable gaps in knowledge to be filled, allowing pupils to catch up. Use the Education Endowment Foundation website to find out which interventions work and to what extent; these are your best bets and a great starting point. It is about setting the bar of expectation high and then getting the pupils over it; accepting nothing less is part of the road to mastery.
Help pupils develop “pictures in their minds” that allow them to understand the key ideas in your subject and how they link together. The Maths Guidance mentions manipulatives and representations; what are the equivalents in your subject? My advice would be don’t over complicate representations; what looks great following a Google search can be excessive and distracting when explaining complex ideas, the simpler the better.
Metacognition matters; spending time talking to pupils about the strategies they are using to address problems or investigate your subject will be repaid many times over. Make sure you explicitly teach a range of strategies to enable them to build an extensive repertoire. In essence, this is about ensuring pupils develop their own operating system for thinking about your subject; how to work mathematically or scientifically, how to think like a historian or linguist, how to experiment like a technologist or artist. You should model this in your teaching.
Beyond the report and arguably one of the most challenging, including for parents, is moving away from setting. It’s hard if you think setting is about matching work to pupils’ prior attainment level; it’s easier if you think setting unnecessarily limits what you teach most pupils; it is a daft way to try to raise attainment. Changing from setting arguably needs all the above in place prior otherwise you will be trying to build a new system on weak foundations.