It was a great pleasure to work with these project teams. Our group theme was ‘increasing engagement in maths’. When the Covid pandemic struck all the teams had to drop carefully made plans and quickly adapt their projects to the new situation. They worked collaboratively and creatively to address the unexpected problems and constant changes. They all found ways of increasing engagement and each one is quite different:
The team led by Ben at Chesterfield College had originally intended to investigate the use of manipulatives in maths classes. Instead they investigated Dr Frost Maths, an online tool to assess students’ maths skills, set assessments and homework tasks. The gap analysis was particularly helpful. Students who had disengaged from maths study re-engaged when shown how to identify their maths ‘gaps’ and address them; students revised who had never done so before. Teachers found it a useful tool to inform planning. The whole department engaged with the project; teachers experimented, made adaptations and lively discussions ensued.
City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College identified and addressed motivation, confidence and attainment in GCSE maths re-sit learners. The project, led by Catherine, originally intended to go into the community to meet the parents/carers of their students and thus form links by bypassing the barrier that college buildings can present to some families. Instead they created opportunities for students and their parents to tell and reflect on their maths learner journeys. Their stories tell how past experiences have, in the main, deeply and negatively affected their attitudes and attainment. The stories and reflections reveal ways in which the project team can help learners to succeed with their maths GCSE re-sit.
The LTE Novus team led by Nicola from HMP Styal and Gillian from HMP Low Newton had a very challenging time: teachers working from home and learners locked in their cells with no access to technology. They carefully designed workbooks to enable women prisoners to work independently on their underlying maths skills. The workbooks were designed to encourage a conversation about maths learning between learner and tutor. All learners can become more independent, but it is easier for the higher-level ones. Good workbooks make a difference, but in-person contact is essential.
Solihull College and University Centre’s team led by Sarah and Holly, enabled students to engage successfully with online learning between their maths lessons. They found that “small changes make a big difference”. They changed “homework” to “preparation”, consulted with their students and adapted tasks. The short tasks focused on what was needed for the next lesson. Reminded by a text, students sometimes did them on the bus! Class norms changed; students expected one another to prepare; they enjoyed the lessons more and worked harder. Results improved. Attitudes to out of class study changed; within three months many students were doing additional on-line learning and attending extra maths support.
A common theme throughout the reports is how much the teams gained from collaborating with learners and colleagues. They valued opportunities to hear about and discuss each other’s projects at OTLA events.
Watch the group presentations at the final dissemination event by clicking play (to the right).