On Friday 17th August, our whole staff headed into the city for the 9th of our PD days as part of the Contemporary Teaching and Learning in Mathematics project. This has been a two year commitment from our school to work towards improving student outcomes in Maths. The day was focussed on student learning in the area of Space and as usual, we came away with many practical ideas about how to lead learning in this area.
Doug Clarke from ACU talked about how to enable students to answer their own questions and ask the really important ones. He gave us a couple of really useful statements to respond to the often heard “I don’t get it” and “I don’t know.” We can encourage our students to reframe the question in a different way and encourage a curious mind by having them ask “Can you help me find out?”
One of the greatest things about this project has been the fact that the learning for me from the PD and mentoring sessions has crossed over from Maths to many other curriculum areas. We have done lots of work on creating great pre and post assessments and the understandings underlying this have been truly helpful in designing rich assessment tasks for Integrated units and RE. It is obvious to me that time spent developing such tasks is well spent as it gives our teaching direction and context, and enables it to be more focussed on specific outcomes and understandings.
Our Maths units are now far more hands on and this has seen greater engagement amongst my students and has been particularly good for some of my students who struggle with pen and paper tasks. This style of teaching is certainly more challenging in terms of record keeping but I have been able to gain deeper insights into how my students are thinking by observing them as they investigate a particular idea or tackle a challenging problem. One question I struggle with is that many of our pre and post assessments are still pen and paper tasks yet during the actual unit, this is rare. It seems to be a bit of a mismatch and I think is in part, due to the difficulty of consistent record keeping when there is no ‘hard copy’ evidence. I think this is worthy pursuing however to ensure we are giving our students authentic ways to show us what they know and understand.
As a team, we have had the opportunity to spend quality time with our own Maths leader and two Maths leaders from the CEO on a regular basis over the past 2 years and this has been invaluable. Having a decent period of time to devote to planning is a luxury and has resulted in some great, gutsy, lively conversations about Maths issues including assessment, activities and key understandings.
We have only 4 months left in this project and the challenge will be to keep up the momentum. I think this will be achievable though as the project has built skills, knowledge and understandings that have transformed the way we all lead learning in Maths.
And finally … a photo of some of our fabulous 3/4 team at the recent PD day having worked together efficiently to complete a task – before any other group!!