Educational leadership & learning


As I listened to a variety of speakers and had numerous discussions with other colleagues I came to some overall conclusions:

  • A common thread from leaders who presented (@AlisonMPeacock, @adven_slearning and @headhighwood) was the power and certainty that came from a passionate ‘why’ (the reason in the hearts and minds) that drove their leadership
  • The importance of school’s taking ownership of how they are teaching, learning, assessing, designing a curriculum… which is right for their learners, staff and context
  • Anything & everything we do in schools has value if we have the right intentions at heart and have thought it through. Even if something we try doesn’t work the way we want, the learners and teachers can still learn and gain something from the attempt or trial. We should not feel guilty if aspects of our work don’t work out as perfectly as we would like
  • Schools, teachers and leaders need to be courageous and focus on long term and sustainable progress: to develop thinking, understanding and passion of all within the school community
  • That professional development only comes when we act. That we need to assimilate and professional learning and prioritise what will make the greatest positive difference for our children


With many thanks as always to the marvellous Martyn Reah (@MartynReah) for organising another fantastic PedagooHampshire. Here are some of my pick n mix takeaways from the sessions I attended.


ALISON PEACOCK (@AlisonMPeacock)

Alison spoke about “Professional Learning without Limits” and how through the Chartered College teachers can choose to share expertise. The College aims to raise our status as a profession, and that part of being a professional is sharing our understanding and practice.

She said that as a profession, “We need teachers who are so passionate they make learners tingle with excitement“.

Alison believes we don’t spend enough time celebrating our successes. We know that teachers make a positive difference in lives, when we connect, listen & inspire.

She finished by encouraging us all to be courageous: embrace what it means to be a teacher. Be proud!


JON LE FEVRE (@adven_slearning )

I have had the privilege of talking with and learning from Jon on a number of occasions. He has been hugely supportive as a more experienced headteacher in listening and discussing mine and our school’s development.

Jon enthusiastically talked about how his school’s curriculum is centred on Learning Adventures.

He discussed Simon Sineck’s ‘Golden Circle’. At Jon’s school the:

WHY: Core vision statement of what the teachers want for their learners.

HOW: Learning Adventures

WHAT: Transformational

Jon shared how an inspector had encouraged him not to aim to be ‘Outstanding’ (as this is predetermined by someone else and is somewhat of a tick box exercise). Jon and his staff aim to be transformational: they are there to transform lives! 

We were invited to discuss how we might describe an adventure:

  • exciting
  • hard
  • challenging
  • not the norm
  • unknown
  • quest
  • exploration
  • freedom
  • independence
  • an exciting or very unusual experience

The Learning Adventures at their school are real learning experiences, which result in high quality thinking and outcomes. The Adventures involve: journeys, guides, problems, solutions, destinations. What was noticeable was that staff and learners were as passionate as Jon about the Adventures.





EMILY SLADE (@emily_slade)

Emily discuss a project she had undertaken looking at how to close the gap in KS4 Geography. She discussed 3 different trials she had undertaken. The conclusion she reached with her classes was that including:

  • teacher modeling
  • joint analysis of a model answer
  • co-planning using PEEL
  • a written assessment with a help station
  • direct feedback during and after the task

had created more sustainable progress and deeper understanding amongst her learners.



LEAH CRAWFORD (@think_talk_org)

Leah led an inspiring introduction to Blended Reading.

With the expertise and skill of an experienced teacher she guided us through discussing and debating a powerful and ambiguous illustration from “The Lost Happy Endings” (a book I am definitely ordering!). She used a set of carefully constructed questions to move us from basic retrieval to inference and evaluative thinking. As a group we began to hypothesise, and create possible narratives that the picture could fit into.

Leah kept asking us to justify our reasoning, and keep searching the evidence base from the text. Throughout the session she was genuine and authentically engaged in listening to our conversation and ideas. She didn’t use overt praise and never gave a hint as to whether any response was right or wrong.

It reminded me of the power of reading illustrations and picture books. Through this type of enquiry approach, we were exploring together and were not quite sure where it was going: which really reflects the point of a good story. Even when reading a book alone there is still an enquiry taking place, as Leah put it:

“Good readers make meaning through internal dialogue with the text.”


MATT HICKEY (@headhighwood)

Matt gave us a whistle stop tour of the range of strategies they have used as a school to agree their vision and develop: teaching, learning, assessment, reporting…

Reflection, perseverance, independence, creativity, curiosity, teamwork are his school’s agreed Learning Skills. They each have a character attached to them, with names and stories that the learners have written. These Learning Skills are central to their School Development Plan, curriculum development…

They focus on planning learning not lessons, as learning doesn’t take place in neat 1 hour time slots. They use Learning Loop Cycles as an enquiry based approach. They identify Key Questions, which are the overarching drive for each class for each term.

At the conclusion of a loop they invite parents in to SPLAT events: stay, participate/play, learn, achieve together.

Teachers take great ownership of developing their teaching and learning. They self-assess and identify aspects of practice they would like support with, and then invite colleagues in.

Targets for learners are set in the mid year report. The children led learning reviews with parents at the end of the year.


VIVIENNE PORRITT (@ViviennePorritt)

Vivienne closed the day with the challenge for us to choose one thing to develop: to focus on it, improve it and show impact by making a positive difference. Focus – Improvement – Impact.

She made it clear that today is about professional learning / thinking. But Professional Development only comes when you act.

We have to ask ourselves, what’s the one thing that will make the biggest difference?

It’s important to prioritise because we learn too much and we don’t do enough with what we learn.


It’s only when professional learning becomes professional development, that it makes an impact: then has an impact on learners.

School’s usually focus on what they do / what they offer. We have to focus on the impact we want to have: what is the difference I want to have?


Actions for our school

  • How do we integrate our English and maths more into our Learning Quests?
  • Create Learning Powers social stories with staff and pupils
  • Pupil partnership of assessment and reports. Y5 lead learning reviews at the end of this year?




As well as starting my first headship 3 years ago, I have also really relished the challenge of being Maths Leader in our small but growing primary school.

We have developed our understanding and practice around how to promote mastery understanding for all pupils and how to stretch and challenge some pupils to think more deeply and apply and enrich their mathematical knowledge, skills and understanding.

I am looking forward to sharing our journey and developments (so far) at #PedagooHampshire17 this September (2017). I am hoping it is useful for those who come to the session, as I am sure it will be for my continually developing understanding.

You can see a preview of my presentation here:

SOLO Maths Learning Journeys

In July 2017 we reached the end of our 4th year as a school (@cornerstonecofe).

Myself and our Senior Leader (Clare) feel fairly confident that most aspects of our work are at a ‘Good’ standard of a regular basis and pupil outcomes have improved over the past two years.

We spent some time discussing how we wanted to continue our development: by aiming for the Outstanding criteria from Ofsted, or by trying to create our own definitions and practice of being better than Good. We choose the latter.

With staff last term we began to unpick what we might think defines Inspirational teaching and learning. What it might look like? how it might feel? What we might see and hear from the pupils? The impact it might have on them? We also discussed teachers we remember both as children and from a career that we thought were inspiring and what made them so.

For me, a lot of the ideas can come down to:

  • How we do what we do
  • The impact on the learners

This week Clare asked us to consider the following two questions in pairs:

  1. My teacher is inspirational when / because…
  2. Inspirational teaching and learning at Cornerstone is…

Our aim is to define Inspirational teaching and learning and then consider, share and develop examples of this in our practice across the school. Below are some of our thoughts this week. The plan is to try to pick the 3-5 that most resonate with us from each list. Which 3-5 would you choose?


My teacher is inspirational when / because…

  1. Enthusiastic, animated, energetic and curious
  2. Nurture high aspirations
  3. We are reflective and responsive
  4. Recognise effort and improvement
  5. We use the language of learning not doing
  6. Giving real choice
  7. Growth Mindset
  8. Encourage and share genuine moments of awe
  9. Environment of positive assurance
  10. Share something we have learnt and be open when we don’t know
  11. Courageously try, even when it’s difficult
  12. Feed forward
  13. Show genuine interest
  14. Give children many chances to speak
  15. We are happy and smiling
  16. We model learning (WAGOLLS) and make mistakes
  17. Invest time in them, will go ‘off piste’ to value their contributions
  18. Build resilience
  19. We reflect their interests in the learning
  20. Have high expectations
  21. Using positive and reinforcing language
  22. No sense of failure
  23. Use visual cues to explain
  24. Use IT to make it real and exciting

Inspirational teaching and learning at Cornerstone is…

  1. Challenging
  2. Children find out/ discover for themselves
  3. Empowering
  4. Irresistible
  5. Following children’s interests
  6. Builds self-esteem
  7. Self-motivating
  8. Seen when children are in the flow
  9. Practical
  10. Courageous and risk taking
  11. Stimulating
  12. Well-chosen concrete resources
  13. Unrestricted
  14. Ambitious
  15. Fun
  16. Promoting emotional intelligence
  17. Varied
  18. Accessible
  19. New experiences
  20. Achievement
  21. Engaging for all
  22. Building confidence
  23. Comprehensive subject knowledge
  24. Collaborative
  25. Valuing

We would be very interested in hearing other teachers thoughts and opinions.

Many thanks.

Powerful presentations

How do people create and deliver powerful and inspiring presentations?


I have planned and taught tens of thousands of lessons during my career as a teacher.

I have planned and delivered hundreds of assemblies to pupils from age 4 to 11.

I have led meetings and presentations to staff, to governors, and to parents.

Most of these ‘audiences’ have been supportive and receptive, with the children usually being the most forgiving. I have made many mistakes and over time I proved my preparation and delivery.


In the last few years I have presented at a few TeachMeets and conferences.

I have found these far more challenging, more nerve wracking and every time feel like a bit of a fraud (who may well be teaching colleagues to suck eggs!)

I have had to think harder, more critically and not rely on natural style alone.

Nor can I rely on audience knowing me and having built up relationships over longer periods of time.

This summer I decided to take some time to research, learn and rethink my style of presenting. A key part of this was reading and reflecting on Talk like TED” by Carmine Gallo. Key points for me were

“Ideas, effectively packaged and delivered, can change the world”

Emotional – Novel – Memorable.

  1. Create a ‘Twitter-friendly’ headline
  2. Support the headline with 3 key messages
  3. Reinforce the 3 messages with stories, stats and examples



  • “Unleash the master within”
  • “You stand a much greater chance of persuading and inspiring your listeners if you express an enthusiastic, passionate, and meaningful connection to your topic”
  • “A passion is something that is intensely meaningful and core to your identify”
  • “The first step to inspiring others is to make sure you’re inspired yourself”



  • “Stories stimulate and engage the human brain…narrative is the most powerful way to break down resistance”
  • “Stories plant ideas and emotions into a listener’s brain”
  • “Stories are central to who we are. The most popular presentations start with a descriptive and rich personal story”
  • “The noise level of modern life has become a cacophony, the ability to tell a purposeful story that can truly be heard is increasingly in demand”



  • Passion – Practice – Presence
  • “Don’t deliver a presentation, have a conversation instead”
  • Pace – Volume – Pitch – Pauses
  • Problems: fidgeting, standing rigidly, hands in pockets
  • “How you say something leaves as deep an impression on the listener as what you say”



  • Twitter friendly headline: What is the one thing I want my audience to know?
  • “Novelty recognition is a hard-wired survival tool all humans share. Our brains are trained to look for something brilliant and new” Dr Pradeep
  • “Relate your topic to the audience by teaching them something new they can use in their daily lives”
  • “Increase novelty in a classroom and you increase the dopamine levels of learners…Dopamine can be addictive – our goal as teachers is to get our pupils addicted to learning”



  • “The jaw dropping moment is when the presenter delivers a shocking, impressive or surprising moment that is so moving and memorable, it grans the listener’s attention and is remembered long after the presentation is over”
  • An emotionally charged event.
  • “The brain remembers the emotional components of an experience better than any other aspect” John Medina.
  • Props – Demos – Stats – Images – Videos – Headlines – Quotes – Personal stories



  • “Over the past century a sense of humour has become a highly prized personality characteristic” Rod Martin
  • “Humour lowers defences, making your audience more receptive to your message”
  • “Humour reduces hostility, deflects criticism, relieves tension, improves morale, and helps communicate difficult messages” Fabio Sala



  • “If you’re really concentrating, critically listening is a physically exhausting experience. Listening as an audience member is more draining than we give it credit for”
  • “The longer the presentation, the more the listener has to organise, comprehend and remember. The burden increases along with a listener’s anxiety”
  • “The rule of 3 simply means that people can remember 3 pieces of information really well, add more items and retention falls off considerably”
  1. Create a Twitter-friendly headline
  2. Support the headline with 3 key messages
  3. Reinforce the 3 messages with stories, stats and examples



  • “Paint a mental picture with multisensory experiences: deliver presentations with components that touch more than 1 sense”
  • Dr Mayer (Professor of Psychology): “Pupils who were exposed to multisensory environments – text, pictures, animations and video – always had a much more accurate recall”
  • “In presentation slides, use pictures instead of text wherever possible”
  • Never use more than 40 words per slide, and always aim for less: 5-15. Key words. 3 short phrases with pictures or a background. 1 theme per slide.
  • “Use visuals to enhance words”
  • “Help the audience to FEEL your presentation. Step outside the slides every once in a while. Build in demos, show products, ask the audience for participation”



  • “Don’t be afraid to express yourself – your authentic self”
  • “An inspiring speaker should move his or her listeners to think differently about their lives, careers or businesses. A great speaker makes you want to be a better person”


With presentations at Pedagoo Hampshire and Teaching and Learning Takeover coming up in the next 2 months I think it is time to return to my drafts, rethink and refine my presentations.

A very important, although not the most exciting part of my job. We are extremely fortunate to have an excellent, pro-active and innovative Senior Admin Officer and a hard-working, meticulous caretaker who takes care and pride in his work.

Over the last 12-18 months we have been developing our Health & Safety practices and systems. Following wise advice from our external H&S Advisor (Ray West) we took a version of his Health & Safety Management Calendar and have developed it to suit our own specific site. We appreciated his starting version, and I now think I wish someone had been able to give me such a useful document earlier.

So here you are:

H&S Management Calendar Blank Master

It is a basic Excel spreadsheet split into the following tabs:

  • Policies
  • Inspections
  • Training
  • Equipment
  • Maintenance
  • Provision of Information
  • Risk Assessments
  • Induction
  • Legionella
  • Medication tracking
  • Open Leader
  • Maintenance Master

Please feel free to use, adapt or ignore as you wish. If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch.

This is a pure ‘cut and paste’ of what I think are the main points from the DfE consultation. I have produced this to share with our staff and governors. If it is of use to you please feel free to share it.


Primary Assessment Government consultation                                  

Teachers and school leaders have a fundamental role to play so that every child can fulfil their potential. Acquiring a good grasp of the basics of English and mathematics, as part of a rich and varied curriculum, is critical for a child’s future success.

A lot of change in primary schools in recent years, as we have worked together to raise standards, and I recognise that teachers and headteachers are still adapting to these changes.

No new national tests or assessments before the 2018-2019 academic year.

It is vital that we establish a settled, trusted primary assessment system.

Want a system that measures the progress that children make throughout their time at primary school fairly and accurately, a system that recognises teachers’ professionalism in assessing their pupils, and a system which does not impose a disproportionate burden.


Current system: KS1 & KS2

Statutory assessment plays an important role in ensuring that every child is supported to leave primary school prepared to succeed.

The Government should rightly set a clear expected standard that is ambitious.

It is important that we have an accountability system which is fair, inclusive, and properly reflects the work done by teachers to ensure that all children fulfil their potential, including those with additional needs.

We are clear that no single piece of data will determine any decision on intervention, in 2016 or beyond. Ofsted, regional schools commissioners, local authorities, governors and parents should look at a range of data, alongside the school’s broader context and performance history, rather than focusing on one piece of information alone.

Statutory assessment sits alongside a number of other important factors, including the need to teach a broad and balanced curriculum, and the wider pupil experience of attending primary school.

Statutory assessment at primary school is about measuring school performance, holding schools to account for the work they do with their pupils and identifying where pupils require more support, so that this can be provided. Primary assessment should not be about putting pressure on children.


Principles & Purposes

Our assessment system should provide rigorous, reliable and trusted data that can be used, as part of a broader range of information, to measure accurately and hold schools to account for the progress they make with their pupils.

It provides information about how pupils are performing in relation to other pupils nationally, helps teachers to understand national expectations and enables parents, teachers and schools to benchmark their school’s progress against other schools locally and nationally.

Enables the government to hold schools to account for the work they do with their pupils, to monitor national standards and to measure the impact of education policy over time.

A starting point for Ofsted’s discussions with schools.

Evidence shows that an assessment system which balances school autonomy with strong external accountability makes a positive difference to pupil achievement.



Preparing children to succeed at school

A strong approach in the early years ensures that all children have a solid foundation from which to progress.

At the national level, EYFSP data enables the government to evaluate the impact of our investment in the early years on children’s outcomes at age 5.

The EYFSP will remain in place for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Ensure that assessment in reception is reliable and trusted, and that it both demonstrates how children have developed during their early years, and provides a measure of school readiness.

Broadening a child’s vocabulary is crucial for their development. Other factors such as self-regulation can have an important influence on successful early education, including pre-reading skills and early mathematics, and could be given more weight in an improved EYFSP.

We are also aware of challenges around reliability of data obtained from the EYFSP. (year-on-year improvements)

Look at how to further reduce the workload burden on teachers… (and) consider how moderation of EYFSP results could be streamlined and improved.

Evidence does not need to be formally recorded or documented…paperwork should be kept to a minimum.


The best starting point for measuring progress

Any progress measure needs a reliable baseline, a starting point from which progress will be calculated. Ideally, that baseline should be established as early as possible.

Assessment needs to be a reliable indicator of pupils’ attainment and strongly correlate with their attainment in statutory KS2 assessments in English reading, writing and mathematics. Any baseline assessment must be appropriate and suitable for pupils, and avoid creating unnecessary burdens or perverse incentives for schools.

How to ensure the most appropriate baseline?

The point at which the baseline assessment should be taken?


Option 1: Move the starting point to Year R

There is a strong case for measuring progress from Reception to the end of year 6. We recognise that any new baseline would need careful consideration.

It is possible to create an assessment of reception age children which is suitable for that age group, sufficiently granular and well correlated with later outcomes.

Any new assessment would be designed to cover the material which we would already expect children to be familiar with at that stage…so would not result in changes to teaching practice.

Both a continuing EYFSP and a new baseline assessment in reception would therefore cover literacy and numeracy elements. We would make sure that a new baseline in reception complemented and aligned with the EYFSP.

Data from a baseline assessment could be published at national level for transparency, but we would not do so at school level. Nor would school-level data be shared with regional schools commissioners, local authorities or Ofsted.

This could be after pupils have been given enough time to settle into primary school and become accustomed to their new routines, for example at the beginning of the second half term.


Option 2: An improved KS1 baseline

Some schools and assessment experts argue that incentives have now been created for schools to deflate results at key stage 1 to demonstrate greater progress by key stage 2. To help address these concerns, it would be necessary to significantly increase moderation of teacher assessment at key stage 1.

A greater number (more than 3) of teacher assessment categories would provide a more robust and effective measure.

An alternative approach would be to collect the data from the statutory tests which pupils already sit at the end of year 2. This would provide a robust baseline without adding to teachers’ workload.

However, schools have told us previously that collecting this test data could unnecessarily raise the stakes of the tests for pupils. It is not our intention to increase the stakes of assessment, so we do not see collecting key stage 1 test data as the right long-term solution.


Interim years

Any new baseline assessment would not be in place before the 2019-2020 academic year…Up until this point, we propose continuing to use key stage 1 teacher assessment data as the baseline for the cohorts of pupils who will be completing primary school before that time.

There is the option of looking at ways of making the key stage 1 data more reliable and reducing workload in the 2018 to 2019, 2019 to 2020 and 2020 to 2021 academic years, for example by collecting key stage 1 test data to use solely as the baseline for progress measures.

However as this might unnecessarily raise the stakes of these tests we propose that we continue to use key stage 1 teacher assessment data as the baseline for measuring progress in the interim years.


The role of KS1 statutory assessments

Moving to an assessment system where, for school accountability, the progress measure is based on assessments of pupils in reception and the end of year 6, means that we would no longer need to use key stage 1 assessments as a baseline. As a result, we could remove the obligation for schools to assess pupils against statutory teacher assessment frameworks at the end of key stage 1.

We propose, therefore, making end-of-key stage 1 assessments – both teacher assessment frameworks and national curriculum tests – in English reading, English writing, mathematics and science non-statutory for all-through primary schools11 once a new baseline in reception has become fully established.

There is still value in being able to benchmark pupil performance against national standards at this point.

We would continue to expect schools to provide parents with more detailed information about their child’s performance at the end of KS1, as the midway point in primary school.


Monitoring national standards at KS1

If KS1 assessment becomes non-statutory to provide an ongoing picture of national standards we would intend to sample key stage 1 assessment data from a small proportion of schools. This data would be anonymised and would not be used for school accountability purposes.


School types and assessment

The introduction of a new assessment in reception as a baseline for measuring progress would have an impact on infant, junior and middle schools…we will need to reconsider the best accountability arrangements for these types of school.

These schools would be judged on a different basis from all-through primary schools and so would need to be compared against each other, rather than all other schools with KS2 provision.

The alternative would be to hold infant and junior schools to account using a single reception to key stage 2 progress measure, encouraging greater collaboration between infant and junior schools.

We want our statutory assessment system to strike a balance between enabling national standards to be maintained whilst limiting the burdens on teachers and children.


Collection of teacher assessment data at the end of KS2

Ongoing classroom teacher assessment is a vital part of teaching, and critical to discussions with parents. However should we continue to require statutory, summative, teacher assessment in key stage 2 English reading and mathematics, when we use only test data for headline attainment and progress measures in these subjects?

We would continue to collect teacher assessment data in science and English writing.


KS1 English grammar, punctuation and spelling test

We propose that the key stage 1 English grammar, punctuation and spelling test should remain non-statutory for schools to administer beyond the 2016-2017 academic year.


Multiplication tables check

We plan to introduce a national multiplication tables check from the 2018-2019 academic year.

Likely to be taken online.

This check would not be designed as a school accountability measure.

Results will only be published at a national and local authority level. The data will not be used to trigger inspection or intervention.

End of Y4? During Y5? During Y6?


Improving end of KS statutory teacher assessment

We would also like to consider whether there are additional opportunities to reduce burdens for schools and pupils by improving the administration of statutory assessments in primary schools.

Discussed the possibility of no longer collecting statutory teacher assessment data where it is not used in headline progress and attainment measures.

The interim teacher assessment frameworks were designed to assess whether pupils have a firm grounding in the national curriculum by requiring teachers to demonstrate that pupils can meet every ‘pupil can’ statement. This approach aims to achieve greater consistency in the judgements made by teachers and to avoid pupils moving on in their education with significant and limiting gaps.

We believe that this approach (Interim Frameworks) was broadly appropriate for English reading, mathematics and science at key stages 1 and 2. We will maintain this approach for these subjects in future years. However, we plan to review the ‘pupil can’ statements within these frameworks.



The 2011 Bew Review of key stage 2 assessment emphasised, English writing warrants a different approach to assessment, rather than the application of a test.

The interim frameworks do not provide sufficient flexibility for teachers to reach judgements which are representative of pupils’ overall ability in this subject.

Assessment should take account of both the creative and technical aspects of good writing.

Whilst the requirement to provide robust supporting evidence would continue, we would like to consider whether there are ways in which we can afford greater flexibility for teachers in making their judgements within the framework for writing.

Retain a teacher assessment framework to support assessment of writing, but instead of adhering rigidly to the ‘secure fit’ model we should move to a ‘best fit’ approach which places greater weight on the judgement of teachers.

Work with the profession to review the ‘pupil can’ statements.


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.


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.

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