Diagnostic Teaching, Mastery, Numeracy

Mastery Approach to Teaching and Learning

Kiera McDonnell – Lead Practitioner for Maths

What is Mastery?

More traditional teaching methods assign a set amount of time for coverage of certain topics. However, over the past decade, theory has made a notable move away from teaching to a time constraint, to varying the time to ensure that pupils are confident and proficient in the outcomes and objectives before moving on to new content. To summarise, there is a far greater emphasis upon depth of understanding rather than a thin breadth of understanding.

The Mastery approach, first proposed by Benjamin Bloom in 1968, considers the critical links that pupils must make in their learning and that without certain concepts and processes true understanding is not possible. It would be unrealistic to think that a student could understand division without a deep understanding of multiplication. If the bedrock of understanding is not secure, any additional content or learning will not be either.

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Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

Mastery is less effective if high prior attaining students are accelerated through the curriculum, thus widening the attainment gap. Stretch and challenge are, instead, achieved through deep questioning, both by the teacher and by the student, and a demand for greater precision. In the same way, support is provided through strategies such as varied and multiple representations. Promoting a growth mindset mentality, the Mastery approach is built upon the belief that all students can reach a desired outcome with the right support.

How effective is it?

Due to the targeted and individualised nature of this teaching and learning approach, research clearly shows that Mastery has a very positive effect on student learning. Studies also show that, not only has there been a positive impact on attainment but that student enjoyment, confidence and sense of achievement is also augmented; this student confidence and enjoyment is also transferred to other school learning. The impact of Mastery as a Teaching and Learning strategy has also been found to be particularly effective when pupils work collaboratively, either in pairs or small groups. Learning from peers and supporting classmates in their learning not only improves cognitive understanding but, again, can also increase overall enjoyment. Finally, research evidence also shows that the process yields improvements in students’ confidence in learning situations, school attendance rates, involvement in class sessions and attitudes toward learning.

What are the implications for day-to-day practice?

Moving towards a more Mastery based approach in your classroom clearly requires planning. The need for continual, meaningful in-class feedback in order to effectively respond to the particular needs of your pupils is key. The provision of additional and alternative representation and models, alongside deep questions and problem-solving tasks that challenge students’ understanding, all require rigorous and careful planning. However, through implementing these strategies and introducing the idea of Mastery to your students you have the potential to instil in them the belief that they are capable of learning, and learning well, which, in turn will support them in their journey to reaching their full potential at school and beyond.

 

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Diagnostic Teaching, Numeracy, Time saving teaching, Work/Life balance

Question Level Analysis

Hafsa Farhana – Lead Practitioner for Maths

Teaching a year 11 class can be daunting, especially when you know very little about them. This was one of the challenges I faced when I started teaching two year 11 classes at Sarah Bonnell. I wanted to get an overview of their strengths and weaknesses and use that to plan my teaching for the rest of the year. I needed to make sure that all of my lessons were effective in order to maximise learning in a short amount of time. To do this I used question level analysis (QLA) tables from the beginning of the academic year. This helped me devise a Scheme of Learning catered to my class.

QLAs are all readily available from exam boards websites with conditional formatting so you can see the Red, Amber and Green (RAG) scores for each student. I would also calculate the average as a class and RAG each topics. This is now a method employed by the Maths department for our year 11s to ensure we use the build up to the summer exam effectively and can have a systematic approach to revision.

A comment I often heard from students is that they didn’t know where to begin with their revision so I always share the analysis with the class and individual students. The feedback from students is that they found QLAs useful as they were able to hone in on their weakness so that their revision was purposeful.

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The QLAs enable me to give whole class feedback, for example, anything that is Red as a class average, I will need to reteach as a priority. This could be as a whole lesson or part, a starter, homework or a flipped learning activity. The Amber topics can be addressed through starters in lesson or using experts in the class to support the learning of those who weren’t as successful as them in those particular topics. Anything above 75% are the strengths of my class and therefore not a priority to revisit.

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When I first started doing this the downfall was that it was very time consuming to enter the data myself. Asking students to fill in the google sheet posed a problem as some students did not want their classmates to see their results. However, I recently discovered how easy it was to do using Google Forms.

I created a Google Form so that I could collect individual scores of my students and shared the form onto the Google Classroom. Within minutes my I collected all their results; I couldn’t believe how quick and easy it was!

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This populates a Google Sheet which I then export and copy into the QLA file.

QLAs are not restricted to just exams, but they are very effective when used with diagnostic questions. Another way I use QLAs is by create a sub-SOL, where I can address the topics identified as starters for the term, thereby ensuring students are making progress without deviating from the department SOL so all topics are taught. The next thing I am keen to try is to use the QLAs to support my class in creating a revision timetable.