MG and I visited Langdon Park on “Looking Outwards” day. Every teacher at school has scattered to the winds to learn from other ways of doing things across the country. What a great idea!
As we waited in reception we struggled through a STEP question, getting a bit confused with the hierarchy of variables.
Key learning: think five years into the future, not one half-term into the future. In order to do this you need a stable core of staff – there are three maths teachers who have been working at Langdon Park for the past four years, and love working with each other
- Only formative in Y7-9.
- At A level, end-of-unit assessments. 1/3 are difficult problem-solving questions, that have been seen a few days before the test. 2/3 unseen. Less than 90% means you have to re-take in your own time. Homework is self-assessed, and teachers monitor quality of homework through the test scores. All exercises happen at home, leaving time in lessons for activities.
- Kate questioned why I might want to assess collaborative problem-solving. Why kill it through formal assessment, surely it is enough to do more subtly in every lesson? My answer: my assessing formally you are able to track over time, and you remind everyone that it is something that you value. Who is right? Unsure.
- School leadership tend to think the more time students spend with their teachers, the better. The teachers disagree – overload leads to exhaustion from teachers and students. “We want to see our students for the minimum amount of time”. It is about independence, and wellbeing. “If they work or don’t work, that is their problem. I am here to help them, not monitor them”.
- Instead… residentials. Early in the year, take the students for a weekend away at a youth hostel by the sea. Do fun maths, focus on resilience, give the students lots of independence (I don’t care what time you go to bed, as long as you are up by 730 for breakfast). The focus is not to blitz through exam technique, but to build a strong culture in the class and to promote passion.
On the curriculum:
- Yr7 on number, Yr8 on algebra, Yr9 on geometry. Go deep on each topic and then don’t revisit it. If students properly understand “division” in Yr7, then that will set them up for life. GCSE exams are easy if you understand a few core examples (for example multiplicative reasoning), and can apply them. Yr11 is about preparing for exams, but Yrs7-10 are mixed ability exploration and understanding.
- The curriculum is then translated into a “Learning Journal”, structured exercise book for students, which contains within it space for notes, pre-printed assessments, pre-printed structures for problem-solving. Rough work done elsewhere. Beautifully effective.
- Leave the school! Go to a café, or to someone’s house, and bash out an afternoon’s work.
- Create printed resources – a snazzy ringbound booklet of the term’s planning is much better than things floating around on Google Drive?
- Key revision notes are made by students, throughout the year. Not copied from the teacher’s board, or from a textbook. By creating themselves, students take ownership and embed the learning more. Very similar idea to my Maths Diary. Learning note-taking before GCSE gives great autonomy to students when they reach A levels.
Thank you to Kate and Paul for hosting us – we came away brimming with great ideas!