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Impact of Mathematics PLD on priority learners

accelerated achievement data maths

Heather LewisImpact 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?

  • Facilitators engaging in specific and deliberate acts of culturally responsive facilitation that supported teachers to increase Māori and Pasifika student achievement 
  • Carefully considering student grouping – particularly in  year 7 and 8 – all boys, all girls, or mixed groups of boys and girls as appropriate
  • Using contextual, collaborative problem solving activities (relevant to the students’ prior knowledge and background) to encourage mathematics discourse or ‘friendly arguing’. Students were encouraged to agree or disagree with other students’ solutions, and had to justify their reasoning.  This proved challenging as the students were not used to disagreeing during learning activities, hence the term ‘friendly arguing’
  • Using a speaking frame for English-language learners (ELLs). The speaking frame provided sentence starters such as, I think… I disagree because…   I know… So the answer must be…..
  • Facilitators working collaboratively with leaders and teachers to co-construct differentiated PLD  
  • Leaders and teachers having a clear understanding of the mathematics needs of priority learners and using this to inform mathematics teaching and learning, curriculum plans and target setting
  • Leaders and teachers collecting and using student voice, along with that of parents/whānau/aiga to set the direction of the mathematics curriculum within the school
  • Teachers developing a sense of urgency and raised expectations to make changes to improve accelerated achievement for priority learners
  • Improving school assessment practices increased the robustness of school assessment data, resulting in a greater understanding and better use of SMS to track and analyse data 
  • Schools implementing systems and processes that embed teaching as inquiry to improve mathematics teaching
  • Schools carrying out regular and robust self-review of processes and practices 
  • Increasing self-efficacy of both teachers and students in regard to mathematics learning which involves learners making informed judgments about next steps for their learning 
  • Facilitators focusing on culturally responsive pedagogy in mathematics with a focus on key documents, including: Tātaiako, Ka Hikitia, Pasifika Education Plan 2013-2017.
  • Facilitators encouraging the use of Effective Pedagogy in Mathematics: Best Evidence Synthesis in Mathematics/Pāngarau
  • Facilitators placing increased emphasis on mathematical discourse, using problem solving and rich mathematical tasks as outlined in - BES Exemplar 1: Developing communities of mathematical inquiry and Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis.
  • Teachers increasing their pedagogical content knowledge and subject content knowledge 

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.

Teaching maths at Stanhope

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.

Year 7 discussing during mathsBefore 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.

Maths progress year 7and 8

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.

Year 7 accelerated data

For more information about Mathematics PLD, visit the Mathematics project page or contact Gaynor Terrill and Pip Arnold.