Teachers like sharing ideas with each other. Teachers like watching each other teach. Teachers like discussing and trying new approaches in the classroom, especially if there’s a chance a new approach will help pupils ‘get’ something more quickly or more securely. This interaction happens on numerous levels, informal and formal, face-toface and online.
Within the Maths Hubs programme, specifically within the national project to develop Primary Mastery Specialists, work is well advanced to refine a structured version of this sort of collaborative professional learning, known as a Teacher Research Group (TRG).
Each of the 140 Mastery Specialists (four in each Maths Hub area) now at the end of their development year has set up a TRG, with membership in his/her own school and/or neighbouring schools and started to explore, share and refine some teaching for mastery approaches. One of the activities that groups have been engaging in (although, by no means the only one) has been to watch a lesson given by one of the group and then to have a discussion designed to draw out some key points from the lesson and to generate ideas for further development. The Mastery Specialists, who are chairing these meetings, are aware of how crucial the planning and designing of them is, and have been exploring how these can work most effectively.
These are some of the initial common characteristics of these lesson-based meetings, which the Mastery Specialists have been trying.
- The teacher prepares some contextualising remarks about the class, common systems and policies employed in the school, so that all discussions after the lesson can focus on the mathematics, the approaches used and the learning that ensues.
- Before the lesson, the teacher outlines her/his aims, including the key point, key difficulty points, and any features which s/he might welcome feedback about. A focus of attention might, for example, be use of representations or application of variation theory.
- Each member of the TRG, in turn, mentions briefly one aspect of the lesson which they identified as significant for them (trying to avoid making judgements by using ‘I liked’ phrases), and explains why it was significant).
- Participants are invited to think about the ‘journey’ through the lesson: how did it begin, what followed, where did it end? A focus on describing the logical, coherent conceptual journey is encouraged.
- More in-depth discussion on particular features which the teacher had planned for and/or that the participants noticed is prompted, possibly by the opening remarks from each participant, the teacher’s planning and/or opening remarks or a pre-prepared sheet which outlines key features.
- Meeting finished with each participant invited to talk about at least one thing that, as a result of this meeting, they will try out in their practice.