Developing Practice through a Project

“The most significant changes in teacher attitudes and beliefs come after they begin using a new practice successfully and see changes in student learning”

T. Guskey (1986)

For many years, continuing today, didactic, top-down, do-as-I-show-you instruction has been the norm in the United Kingdom. The results have not been positive except for our brightest students and those who memorise rules well. This is clearly demonstrated in the 2013 GCSE Mathematics results where 41.6% of students in our schools didn’t make the necessary levels of progress needed to reach a C grade at GCSE mathematics.

Teachers know that this approach does not work and Lovett & Clarke (1992) suggest that teachers readily identify two of the most commonly-asked questions in their classroom as “What are we doing this for?” and “When are we ever going to use this?”

They add that one word summarises many students’ views of maths teaching and easily the most common response is “boring”.

There has to be a better way of teaching.

Across the world there is a growing awareness that students build mathematical understanding by reflecting and communicating, and, if they are to do this, “they must see that there is something intriguing on which to reflect and something worthwhile to communicate “(Hiebert et al., 1996). The choice of tasks almost always ultimately underpins “great instruction”. It has to be something worth thinking about rather than as a prescription to follow.

In this project, we propose to not only collect evidence of “great instruction” from across the world through our establish international group but also to use our findings to design and trial a series of lessons aimed at making learning more effective for all pupils. Our assertion here is that making available a fully documented bank of resources which reflect “great instruction”, supported by video footage, will be the first stage on a journey of change. We recognise that teachers do not improve being simply cloning others but rather through collaborative professional development all based upon Japanese lesson study principles.

Our intention is that we will initially work with whole schools or whole departments in larger schools to ensure that they fully understand the thinking behind these activities and lessons. In addition we expect everyone involved to “suspend judgement” on the new materials until they have trialled them in their own schools in the way that was recommended. This is the first stage of the process.

We believe that the key stages in improving practice in the UK are:

  1. identify what we mean by great teaching, informed by international consultants
  2. develop resources designed for enable teachers to deliver great instruction
  3. use lesson study principles as a means of sharing this practice in and between schools, with staff in CIMT acting as the “knowledgeable other”.
  4. evaluate this approach, using teachers in schools on our part time masters degree route (this is school based and partially funded by the TDA)
  5. disseminate our approaches more widely after this initial pilot phase

Note that the resources that will be developed aim to encourage teachers to critically reflect and systematically investigate their own practice on a lesson by lesson basis; they will initially use our resources but ultimately we will aim to help them develop their own resources within their own schools, based on the realities of a successful classroom experience rather than preconceived notions.

For the IMP guidelines on this assessment mode click here