Educational leadership & learning

I have spent time reading this informative and thought provoking book by  MikeAskew (@mikeaskew26). Below are some of the key points that resonated with me.

Introduction

Contrary to popular opinion, most children rise to the challenge of ‘hard’ mathematics rather than shy away from it…dependent upon a particular style of classroom ethos, close attention to the mathematical challenges presented and support for children in their efforts.

The nature of teaching is, and always will be, an adaptive challenge, rather than a technical problem…adaptive challenges require solutions that have yet to be found. We need to work with a view of mathematics teaching as an adaptive challenge. That means trying out new ways to teach and in particular allowing pedagogies to emerge rather than imposing them.

Current practices establish norms about different abilities…Society at large also labels people.

To meet the challenges of mathematics teaching, ways of working in classrooms need to emerge through the joint activity of teachers and children. Learning does not only happen in the minds of individual children – classrooms are learning systems. By attending to how the classroom community grows and learns (teacher and children together) it is possible to create classrooms where children: engage with meaningful mathematics; learn that they can learn mathematics; develop socially and emotionally; realise the importance of inter-dependency.

Thinking about learning

“Learning…is more of a reaching out than a taking in. It is participation…The agent’s activity and identify are inseparable from his, her or its knowledge. Knowing is doing is being.”

It is the combination of the following 3 together that makes mathematical teaching powerful:

  • Learning as a collective activity
  • How learning involves becoming as well as acquiring
  • Integrating the maths that ‘emerges’ as children work on rich problems and investigations with pre-planned learning intentions

Being meaningful is not merely about relating contexts to their ‘real’ lives; it is a meaningful context they can ‘mathematise’. (E.g. Place Value in Market Stalls example)

Teachers often say that the children can understand the mathematics but cannot apply it, rather than question the assumption that there is a logical connection in going from the abstract to the application. Starting from realistic contexts and mathematizing these may help the reapplication of this mathematics to other contexts later.

How do we encourage a classroom community that is a co-operative collective rather than a collection of individuals?

Thinking about curriculum

There is little point in teaching something if 3 months later the children show no understanding of it.

Most skills in maths only make sense in relation to other ones, so picking the off in isolation isn’t the most sensible way to address them…Outside of school most learning comes about through engaging in whole activities rather than learning discrete actions or behaviours.

Reflective teaching needs to focus on the activity, the experience, of the learner, not on the actions of the teacher.

“Learning originates in the experiences of the learner, not those of the teacher.” (Bernie Neville)

If we want children to engage in maths then teaching has to be based around collective problem solving, more closely matching the communities of practice that learners are engaged in outside of school.

One of the biggest difficulties in teaching maths is the assumption that what the child brings is not significant.

Thinking about teaching

Teaching and Learning is somewhat mysterious and unpredictable and we need to accept and work with that rather than behave as though it were completely controllable.

Complicated systems: particular actions determine particular, predictable results

Complex systems: effects of particular actions are much harder, if not impossible, to predict. Gardens are typical examples as they involve multiple feedback loops that dynamically change the whole structure. The results of actions depend upon the actions, but they do not uniquely determine them.

Teaching and learning is a complex system: learning is dependent upon teaching but cannot be completely determined by it. Accepting this complexity is liberating. It means teachers accept things as they are and work from that reality, rather than wish things were different.

The role of a teacher is to optimise experiences of learning, and in doing so maximise the likelihood of learning.

Mathematical activity: mindful or fluent?

“Trying to solve a maths problem in a way dictated by the teacher is different from attempting to test one’s own hypothesis. The teacher who tells students to solve a problem in a prescribed manner is limiting their ability to investigate their surroundings and to test novel ideas.” (Langer)

We need to pay more attention to the process of coming to know rather than the end results.

Successful performance depends on engaging in co-constructing emergent mathematical activity.

Is our focus more on finding answers to calculations or more on becoming mindful of the underlying mathematics?

Do the children need to learn their tables? The point of being fluent in addition and multiplication bonds is not as an end in themselves, but how they free up working memory when tackling more interesting and engaging pieces of maths.

As learners become more fluent and confident so they become more engaged and involved in maths lessons.

It is the lack of experience that limits what children can do.

Asian children adopt addition strategies based on partitioning (e.g. 6 + 8 as 6 + 4 + 4) sooner than international peers.

Variation theory

VT provides a framework for thinking about how to maximise the likelihood of learning.

“Exposure to variation is critical for the possibility to learn, and that what is learned reflects the pattern of variation that was present in the learning situation.” (Runesson)

Directing the children to look for and think about possible connections.

Transforming the learner

“The primary aim of every teacher must be to promote the growth of students as competent, caring, loving and loveable people.” (Noddings)

Research shows that attending to relationships in maths lessons helps to raise standards.

Inequality of attainment in the primary years may be more a result of children’s different experiences than their ‘innate’ mathematical ability.

You find yourself in the flow with an optimum level of challenge that stretches your capabilities.

Build a classroom culture that emphasises listening to each other, working together and trying things out rather than waiting for the teacher to provide help.

Any worthwhile mathematical experience is going to lead at time to some difficult emotions: frustration, confusion and irritation. Confusion is a necessary part of learning mathematics and can never be removed from the process.

Building mathematical community

“A sense of belonging, of continuity, of being connected to others and to ideas and values that make our lives meaningful and significant – these needs are shared by all of us.” (Sergiovanni)

Mathematical communities needs to promote: trust, friendliness, inclusion as well as resilience, perseverance and curiosity, and be inviting, engaging and welcoming.

Work towards building and creating shared goals and values, rather than imposing rules and regulations that create an orderly class but not a community.

Learning needs periods of incubation – over more time.

‘Sharing’ needs the vital component of ideas and solutions being built upon by other learners.

Tasks, Tools, Talk

Maths not based on procedural fluency but involves understanding means learners are active constructors of knowledge, not passive recipients of it.

Setting up tasks with a certain amount of uncertainty is a way to make learners engage mindfully and bring their sense making to the activity.

Introducing models (10 frame, numberline, arrays…) takes time. Learners will only appreciate them through repeated exposure, and it takes them different time to take them on as tools for thinking…they need to be part of the pedagogical furniture of the classroom.

Talk is central to maths lessons…it mean mathematical vocab becomes part of classroom discourse.

Making sense of problems by explaining them to someone else, putting them in your own words and comparing your answer with others all help meaning to emerge.

So, in the news this week Nick Gibb has confirmed that from 2019, Year 6 pupils will undertake a Times Tables test alongside their other SATs tests.

Nick Gibb Times Tables test announcement

“Multiplication was a “very important” part of a child’s mathematics knowledge, Mr Gibb said…It is my view that there should be a multiplication check.”

To be fair I don’t disagree at all with Nick Gibb’s view that an accurate and quick recall of times tables facts (and the linked division, fraction, decimal and percentage facts) are very important. Not to pass a test (or check) but to allow pupils to focus on application of these facts when undertaking complex or lengthy calculations and problem solving. In my opinion having a secure and accurate recall and understanding of some basic mathematical knowledge is crucial in order for pupils to think and work as mathematicians.

After all if someone was learning a musical instrument they would need to know key information, such as how to play certain notes and how read music before we could expect them to play whole pieces of music fluently and expertly.

I’m not sure I even have a problem with there being a test in Year 6. By then all pupils should know these facts. But what about other facts…

Since the introduction of the Phonics screening check in Y1 and Y2, schools have invested a great deal more time on teaching phonics. Again personally I think this has had benefits, but it has also potentially minimised time and focus on other aspects of reading, and other strategies required to become a fluent and confident reader.

So what are the other aspects of Crucial Primary Maths Knowledge? And will some of these be sidelined to some extent in the drive to show high achievement in a national test linked to school accountability?

At our school we have a series of “Maths Learn Its” that go home each term (these can be viewed at Maths Learn Its or on the Numeracy Shed, thank you @grahamandre). Within school we have ‘Regular Drip’ time, which is when what we think are key reading, writing and maths knowledge is practised during registration times, and in those 5 minute slots that sometime appear before lunch or going home time.

These are then balanced with the pupils being engaged in more contextual practice and application in more open-ended problem solving lessons.

For me Crucial Primary Maths Knowledge would include:

  • Counting on and back (in different amounts: 1, 2, 5, 10, 100, 1/2…)
  • Finding 1 more or less (moving onto 10, 100, 1000, 0.1…)
  • Number bonds to 10 (and all single digit numbers) (moving onto to 20, 100, 1000, 1…)
  • Place Value knowledge and understanding, initially Tens and Ones (moving onto Hundreds, Thousands… and Tenths, Hundredths)
  • Time tables to 10 x 10 (and learning how these link to division facts, fractions, decimals and percentages)
  • Doubling and halving
  • Multiplying and dividing by 10, 100 and 1000

 

In his excellent book “Transforming Primary Mathematics” Mike Askew (@mikeaskew26) explains his view on ‘Elements of fluency’ he states that:

“In moving up through the years of primary mathematics children are hampered if they are not fluent in

Elements of fluency

  • adding or subtracting a single digit to any number
  • adding a multiple of 10 or 100 to any number
  • counting on or back in ones from any starting number
  • counting on or back in twos, tens or fives from any given number
  • recalling rapidly the multiplication facts up to 10 x 10
  • multiplying any number by two or ten”

He then goes on to share a second set of skills which he calls ‘Procedural fluency’. He states that these would include:

“Procedural fluency

  • knowing what to add to a number to make it a multiple of 10 or 100
  • halving any number
  • multiplying any number by five ( by multiplying by ten and then halving)
  • knowing the division facts associated with multiplication facts”

 

I do wonder what the views of other primary colleagues are. If you had to pick a Top 5 aspects / sets of maths knowledge / skills for your pupils to be absolutely secure, fluent and confident with by the end of Year 6 what would they be. I’d be very interested to hear.

 

This half term our Marvellous Minutes* at the start of our Staff Development Meetings are focused on bringing and sharing an example from the week of when we have tried to stretch / challenge / enrich (choose whichever word you wish) some of the learners in our classes. This is about celebrating our achievements, and exploring together different ways we can provide learning opportunities at greater depth, without moving onto different Learning Objectives. This is part of developing our collective understanding and actual use of ‘Mastery and Enrichment’ within our curriculum.

Year R. The class teacher explained how important listening and engaging in conversation with children is. Following a short maths activity, the teacher was listening to a boy who was still practising using his number bonds to 10 within an activity he had chosen. The teacher then asked some additional (pun intended) which developed into challenging the child to extend the range of numbers he could manipulate mentally. He went far further than the teacher had previously assumed he could. We discussed how important it was to listen in to children’s conversations to gain insight into their thinking and to challenge and extend thinking through well chosen questions.

Year 1. After a couple of lessons of deliberate practice on “o’clock” (making times on model clocks with partners, discussing / reading / drawing given times), some of the learners were challenged to apply their knowledge and understanding within a context. “A clock has the small hand at 12 and the big hand at 6. Bob thinks it is 6 o’clock. Is he correct?” The example shared also showed how the learner had explained her thinking in full sentences. This was followed with the challenge to choose 3 usual events in a day and to draw the hands to show an appropriate “o’clock” for those events.

Year 2. Following a series of lessons on the high quality story “Bog Babies”, the class were asked to write a description of a setting. The teacher (@penfoldno1) discussed how he had changed the Learning Aim from a description of the task, to one that concentrated on effective language choice to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. A group of previously identified higher attainers were briefly shown a WAGOLL that the teacher  had prepared, and then asked to write their description independently. The rest of the class then had a more detailed discussion about the WAGOLL and were encouraged to ‘magpie’ words and phrases in their own piece. We discussed how as the learners journey through the year, we need to take more scaffolded support away. By Easter we would hope for them to be independently creating their own Success Criteria for their written pieces.

Year 3. (@francescaprett2) explained that after a series of sessions of practising aspects of fractions and use of tenths as fractions and decimals (involving concrete equipment and a range of visual models) she has challenged her class with some questions in problems solving contexts. The question “prove it” was evident in many and the most worthwhile struggle came through the learners trying to explain their thinking and reasoning in a coherent and precise way.

Year 4. The class teacher shared a couple of examples of how by phrasing questions differently the challenge level had been raised for some learners even though the Learning Aim had remained the same. Towards the end of a series of fractions lessons, questions such as “1/3 of 72 = ” were mixed in with questions such as “1/5 of __ is 14. What is the missing number?” During the session today when the Learning Aim had been to convert using different units of measure, some learners were given greater support and had a longer input to explore converting ‘cm’ to ‘mm’ and vica-versa. A cut away group were moved onto their questions quicker, which involved them needing to add and subtract different measures. It included missing number questions and also introduced ‘m’ alongside ‘cm’ and ‘mm’ after a few questions. We discussed how by phrasing questions in different ways, it challenges the learners to think in different ways and raises the cognitive demand on them.

 As a reflective team, our staff are sometimes harder on themselves than they need to be. Generally the feeling amongst them is that they haven’t fully ‘got their heads around’ the ‘Mastery and Enrichment’ approach. On the evidence on today’s examples I would respectfully disagree, and think we have come a long way in our collective practice.

*The original post explaining Marvellous Minutes

I am running a free morning of CPD for local primary teachers on Friday 27 January 2017. It is taking place at Cornerstone CE Primary school (PO15 7JH) in Hampshire (Junction 9 off the M27).

I will be sharing our journey so far in developing our Teaching and Learning practice and policy, and linked Assessment procedures (since September 2014). Colleagues attending will hopefully be sharing their ideas, the practice in their classroom and schools, and hopefully we will all go away with more ideas and greater clarity.

I have attached a copy of the presentation below, but undoubtedly the professional dialogue will be the most valuable aspect of the morning.

If you live or work locally and would be interested in joining us, you would be very welcome.

Please contact the school on 01489 660750 or adminoffice@cornerstoneprimary.hants.sch.uk to book a place.

Teaching Learning Assessment 27.1.2017

 

Top 5 posts of 2016

Below is a list of the most popular posts on my blog during 2016.

#teacher5aday #wintercalendar

My December contribution with @vivgrant to @MatrynReah’s important Teacher Wellbeing initiaive.

Assessment Journeys 2016

The principles and processes behind our school’s developing Assessment practices, whihc aim to focus securely on the learners and making it useful and manageable for teachers.

Learning First

My thoughts about the conference I attended in September orgainsed by @AlisonMPeacock and @JuleLilly to focus on Assessment Beyond Levels.

TLT 16

A summary of the thoughts shared by a range of speakers at this year’s event in September at Southampton University.

Big Ideas in Primary Maths

A summary of our staff’s professional learning and development from a day with @mikeaskew26. Thought provoking, insightful and highly helpful.

Below are the Values that define me as a person in my role as a headteacher:

my-key-values

I shared more about how these have been developed over time and with colleagues in our school at Pedagoo Hamphire 16. The presentation can be viewed at:

Pedagoo Hampshire 16

 

 

“LIMINAL LEADERSHIP” by Stephen Tierney

Building bridges across the chaos…because we are standing on the edge.”

“External pressures and forces may restrict you but they do not define you. You are defined by your “why” and the integrity with which you pursue it.”

Stephen has 30 years of experience working in education: as a Teacher, Subject Leader, Deputy Headteacher, Headteacher and now Executive Headteacher of an all through multi-academy trust. He is Chair of the Headteachers’ RoundTable Group and is part of the SSAT’s (Schools Students and Teachers Network) Vision 2040 Group. He shares his thoughts and learning regularly via his blog (www.leadinglearner.me) and on Twitter as @LeadingLearner.

I have collated some quotes / ideas from his book to share with different groups within our own school, namely: Senior Leaders, Governors, Middle Leaders and Teachers. The content below is what I have shared with them.

All of the points below are directly from Stephen’s book. They may not fully make sense in the way I have summarise them, which is why I would highly recommend you read his book.

 

Leadership

  • If you’re going to focus on something in a school, teaching assessment and learning seem a pretty good bet.
  • Creating a truly great school takes patience. Ultimately, truly great schools don’t just suddenly exist. You grow great teachers first, who in turn, grow a truly great school. A truly great school grows like an oak tree over years.
  • Being prepared to live with the uncertainty of a far from perfect judgment is part of developing a new, more informed perspective. Judgments become framed more within the context of lines of enquiry coming out of data, observations, book scrutinies and discussions.
  • When you own the changes you make, it is surprising how quickly they are implemented. Teachers want to get better; they also want to have a say in what getting better is for them.
  • Part of the liminal world created for leaders by being more informed is managing the tension that uncertainty brings.
  • Testing is an imperfect way of judging the knowledge of a child, capability of a teacher or value added by a school…What does the evidence look like over time and from multiple sources?

 

  • Authentic leadership is rooted in a complex merging of awareness and knowledge of self, values and beliefs.
  • The ability to deal with complexity, see the bigger picture and manage the tensions between different competing demands is important for leaders…making connections between disparate parts and weaving them into a coherent picture.
  • It is a challenge to manage the tensions and expectations of early headship: how do you prove you are a capable leader whilst not falling into the trap of doing everything yourself.
  • One of the biggest challenges for leaders is how to connect people to the bigger picture so they can make sense of the job they do, how it relates to others’ work and the vision of the school.

 

  • Invest time in coaching. Coaching is about building trust; it’s a longer term commitment to helping a person be the best self they can be.
  • People are more likely to follow when we do with rather than do to.
  • Highly emotionally intelligent, literate and resilient…taking their team with them through challenging times.
  • Explaining and emphasising the vision and goals.
  • Reservoir of hope and optimism, maintaining high morale, positive relationships and a sense of togetherness.
  • Engine room of school improvement. Their induction, ongoing education and authentic opportunities to lead will play a large part in whether a school is successful.
  • Appointing staff is one of the most critical roles you have as a headteacher.
  • Authority – Capacity – Accountability – Responsible – Consult – Inform.

 

  • A job is something you do for money. But a career is something you do because you’re inspired to do it. Chase your passion not your pension.
  • Too much time on the edge leads to exhaustion.
  • Rebalance education, with a greater emphasis on drawing out the person…the whole person is the whole point.
  • Communities function on reciprocity and forgiveness. Schools only work because staff, often and generously, go the extra mile…Relationships are built on the numerous small emotional deposits made over many years.

 

Middle leaders

  • It’s getting everyone working in the same direction which makes the biggest difference.
  • Act as a pivotal point, ensuring vision and goals are implemented day by day.
  • Powerhouse of innovation and organisation and act as standard bearers…think creatively, open to radical ideas and enjoy solving problems.
  • Right attitudes plus high aptitude are multipliers; their impact is the product rather than the sum of their parts.
  • Time spent on high quality professional development is never wasted.
  • One of the biggest challenges for leaders is how to connect people to the bigger picture so they can make sense of the job they do, how it relates to others’ work and the vision of the school.
  • ·Social capital is about connecting people. Great people working together and increasing their skills and knowledge is fantastic but it is how we put all this capital together for the benefit of the pupils that puts the final piece in the jigsaw.
  • To develop a culture you need the early adopters and champions, but cultures only embed when there is mass participation.

 

Teachers

  • Education is an act of love; it is an act of giving to each and every child.
  • Never lose your passion for what happens in the classroom; learning, pedagogy, assessment and curriculum will continue to fascinate you.
  • Coaching is about building trust; it’s a longer term commitment to helping a person be the best self they can be.
  • Great professional development improves teaching in order to impact positively on pupil outcomes.
  • We need to know what each teacher is good at and what they need and wish to improve.
  • We can all fall into the danger of deciding “this is good teaching because I am a good teacher and this is what I do”

 

  • See lessons as part of a phase of learning: sequencing and structuring the learning.
  • Clarity of focus on Learning Objective.
  • More focus on ensuring gains in learning and less focus on activities and completing tasks.
  • Adapting lessons based on prior assessment.
  • Collaborative planning and discussing teaching assessment and learning.
  • Don’t plan lessons, plan learning.
  • Find out what the pupils know and don’t know and teach accordingly.
  • Life after levels is primarily a curriculum issue not a data one.
  • Less assessment for leaders, more assessment for learners.

 

  • Professional capital assumes good teaching: – requires high levels of education and long training – involves wise judgment informed by evidence and experience – maximises, mediates and moderates online learning
  • Social capital is about connecting people. Great people working together and increasing their skills and knowledge is fantastic but it is how we put all this capital together for the benefit of the pupils that puts the final piece in the jigsaw.

 

  • “Classroom teaching is perhaps the most complex, most challenging and most demanding, subtle and nuanced activity our species has ever invented” (Shulman).

 

 

Governement

  • As politicians become more and more frustrated by the lack of impact of their efforts, external accountability is ramped up.
  • There is a place for accountability but it needs to be far less pernicious and much more focused on supporting schools struggling to help pupils progress.
  • The data leviathan has to be tamed.
  • Over the past two decades, externally driven accountability has been one of the biggest drivers of leaders’ and teachers’ behaviours…often brings the fright, fight or flight response to the fore.
  • A few one hour tests in Year 6 cannot hope to tell you everything about a child’s education during seven years of primary education. Cue the narrowing of the curriculum. In terms of accountability, primary school assessment is now in such a mess that it could be almost a decade before a coherent system could be established.

 

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