Impact of Mathematics PLD on priority learners: Heather Lewis
During 2013, the mathematics facilitation team worked across the North Island in 103 schools. The mathematics PLD provided tailored support that focused on accelerated achievement in mathematics for all students and in particular Māori and Pasifika students. Our data indicates that achievement was accelerated for 91% of Pasifika students and 84% of Māori students in years 1-8.
So what helped to accelerate mathematics achievement?
One school’s approach to accelerating mathematics achievement for Pasifika students
The principal of Stanhope Road School in Auckland instigated rigorous processes of teacher inquiry. Our Te Toi Tupu mathematics facilitator supported five teachers to focus their inquiry in mathematics on raising Pasifika student achievement. Initially teachers were required to identify areas of difficulty in mathematical achievement and how their own gaps in knowledge and skills might be contributing to these issues. Research (Askew, Brown, Rhodes, Johnson, & Wiliam,1997; Hill, Rowan, & Ball, 2005; Schifter, 2001)suggests that when teachers improve their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and subject content knowledge (SCK) the achievement of their students noticeably increases.
The PLD followed a coaching and mentoring approach and began with our facilitator challenging teacher beliefs and practices and then supported changing practices through continual modelling, dialogue and observation. Our facilitator’s constant feedback and feed forward on the teachers’ practices changed teachers’ inquiries from a focus on student practice/behaviour to considering their own practice and its impact on student learning in mathematics. Much of the coaching and mentoring occurred through digital technologies using emails, online collaborative sharing, teachers videoing their practice and skype conversations.
The facilitator needed to continually challenge the teachers’ beliefs, their mathematical knowledge and skills. This coaching support also included the expectation that teachers would return to their data to confirm any their decision making when preparing rich tasks.
Teachers initially had concerns that Pasifika students would be unable to cope with ‘wordy’ problems. Our facilitator was able to challenge this assumption by supporting them to explore effective practices for ELL students and encouraging learning through talk. Teachers were also supported to establish peer learning communities within their classrooms where students collaborated and communicated in non-stressful environments.
Before students could construct their own mathematical meaning, our facilitator had to persuade teachers to hand over control of the learning to their students. To shift control of learning to students the teachers needed to be very competent and confident in both pedagogical content knowledge and subject content knowledge. To get to this level of mathematical capability teachers required significant support and challenge from the facilitator. For example when teachers were exploring problems designed to build students understanding of volume they need to understand the maths knowledge and skills students would bring to the problems and then anticipate the various ways students constructed solutions. Throughout this development phase our facilitator worked collaboratively with all the teachers to develop their own mathematical knowledge and skills.
Here is an example of the outstanding outcomes of this work from one of the classes with large numbers of year 7 Pasifika students. By half way through the year these Pasifika students had shifted from stage 4, level 1 of GloSS (equivalent to year 2 achievement) to stage 6, level 3 (equivalent to year 6 achievement). This shift in student achievement showed a 4 or 5 year acceleration. By the end of the year these same students had accelerated their mathematical learning to achieving at year 7 expectations.