Mathematics - A balancing act?
2016 mathematics became whole school focus because results showed a gap between English and maths achievement. The first IR rounds supported this decision. Data indicated that there is a mismatch between the confidence of our students and their mathematical skill. Our kids love maths and think they are good at it, but NAPLAN results indicate a majority of our students in years 3 and 5 are not ‘Proficient’ in numeracy (they are not in the top 2 NAPLAN bands).
In 2017, TEN training K-2 was implemented to improve teacher understanding of the continuum of learning in mathematics and highlight the importance of establishing strong foundational skills in numeracy. Positive feedback from the teachers has seen a modified form TEN training being implemented with 3-6 teachers in 2018.
As a result of 2017 IR findings and recommendation the whole staff created a vision for mathematics at OGPS. We held a twilight session and asked our staff where to next? This process indicated that many of our teachers had the strong belief that students need the "basic skills" before they are able to/or given the opportunity to attempt working mathematical tasks. Therefore we changed the focus of our PL to collaboratively in stage teams design and implement tasks where students had to use mathematical reasoning. Teams shared their tasks and what they'd learnt from them at a whole school staff meeting. The purpose behind this was to show that our students ‘can do it’ if given the opportunity. As a result each stage now has a working mathematically focus.
In 2018 OGPS has been working with Anita Chin to strengthen staff understanding of the mathematics syllabus and the language of maths K-6. We want to understand how students progress from K to Year 6 -not just within a stage. This will lead to the development of a refined whole school scope and sequence.
Some questions that we are still considering are:
How do we get a balance between teaching the skills and providing opportunities for students to apply their skills in open ended problem solving situations?
How do we successfully incorporate working mathematically into the TEN framework?
Challenges of Explicit Instruction
Our problem of practice at Georges Hall PS focuses on both explicit instruction and students being engaged and self-directed. CESE in "What Works Best: Evidence-based practices to help improve NSW student performance" defines explicit instruction as:
Explicit instruction involves teaching students the content and skills to be learned using clear, unambiguous language. Teacher modelling and teacher guidance is followed by scheduled opportunities for practice. Student/ teacher interaction is high.
Explicit instruction is also systematic: there is a carefully planned sequence of teaching that is constructed in a logical sequence from simple to complex objectives, commencing from the point at which students are already competent.
This may sound simple - but it implies that teachers are able to plan a logical sequence of objectives. And that teachers know the starting point in the learning for each student. My question is: will the logical sequence be the same for each student? In a multi-faceted skill such as reading, students may very well appear to be at the same "level", but may have a very different profile of skills. How do we follow the "logical sequence" which still challenging and engaging all students?
What do you think? What is your big question about explicit instruction or student self-direction?