As a mathematics subject leader, I often wonder about the most effective ways to offer support to individual colleagues which will have long term impact. My current favoured approach is to use collaborative projects, based on the Japanese Lesson Model, where teachers are able to plan, teach and evaluate as a team, whilst focusing on their own developmental needs.
The first session in the project is a planning one, focusing on issues which have been previously identified. Ideally this should be a generic skill which can be applied to any subject in the mathematics curriculum. Stretching the more able, effective questioning, incorporating problem-solving and assessing pupils’ understanding are all common issues and appropriate for this type of approach. Together, the team plans a unit of work on a chosen mathematics topic and, as the subject leader, I suggest different teaching methods, useful resources and strategies to support individual requirements. Within the group, there may be an NQT who needs to build confidence in their teaching, an experienced teacher who is a bit stuck in their ways or someone who is really struggling. Everyone involved has their input, using their wide range of expertise in this shared experience.
The next stage is to concentrate on one key lesson, which is jointly delivered. It is crucial that colleagues do not see this as a lesson observation or judgement of their teaching, but as an opportunity to experiment with new strategies without concern if things don’t quite go to plan. As each teacher takes their turn to teach, the others evaluate the effect on pupils’ learning and progress.
Subsequently, an intensive evaluation session takes place, analysing the effectiveness of each focus area and how models of planning, delivery and assessment can be transferred to other areas of mathematics.
To ensure the process is as effective as possible, it is important that sufficient time is given for these sessions to take place. It is no good trying to snatch a few minutes after school for planning, or to evaluate a session over a quick sandwich. This, therefore, requires commitment from the head teacher to release staff within lesson time or to provide time during training days. If possible, the cycle is repeated around a month later, both to consolidate and deepen the understanding of teachers and to up-level skills further. However, in all the projects that I have facilitated, the benefits always outweigh the costs involved. Bespoke training is being tailored to address individual needs, yet several members of staff can be targeted at once… thus providing great opportunities for sustainable improvement.
Come and find out more about the Japanese Lesson Model session at our Primary mathematics conference in York on 30 June.