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"Change your year 10 sets to mixed ability after Christmas" directive

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by quarryman59, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. SLT have instructed the department to re-group Y10 into mixed ability classes in January, to teach skills rather than content, in order to improve the 3 and 4 levels progress in Maths. (Reasons; Mixed ability works so well in technology, drama, music etc so will improve Maths; will sort behaviour problems; progress and enjoyment will increase)
    Resources/SOW etc all in place for setted groups, staff all unhappy at the prospect of this and do not feel it is feasible.

    Any constructive comments to help fight our case would be appreciated. [not posting this under my own user name for obvious reasons]
  2. SLT have instructed the department to re-group Y10 into mixed ability classes in January, to teach skills rather than content, in order to improve the 3 and 4 levels progress in Maths. (Reasons; Mixed ability works so well in technology, drama, music etc so will improve Maths; will sort behaviour problems; progress and enjoyment will increase)
    Resources/SOW etc all in place for setted groups, staff all unhappy at the prospect of this and do not feel it is feasible.

    Any constructive comments to help fight our case would be appreciated. [not posting this under my own user name for obvious reasons]
  3. pencho

    pencho New commenter

    Why just Y10?
  4. lunarita

    lunarita Senior commenter

    I must be unimaginative or uninspired or just plain **** but I fail to see how GCSE maths can be taught to mixed ability groups. I take it none of your SLT are maths teachers then?

    Sorry I can't be more constructive. Other than trying to explain to them the gulf in level of difficulty of material you have to cover, I really don't know what to suggest.
    Best of luck. Hopefully someone can be of more help.
  5. Not as many on 3 and 4 levels progress as in English; behaviour not good in this year group.

  6. No - none are Maths. "It works in other subjects, so it will in Maths too" is the view. With no planning and preparation we see failure for all.
  7. DM

    DM New commenter

  8. Sorry, no advice because I think it sounds awful.
    Technology, Drama and Music can all be differentiated by outcome...it's not as straightforward in Maths and the resources/time spent differentiating effectively will, I would think, outweight any potential benefit.
    I'll await other responses eagerly.
  9. pencho

    pencho New commenter

    I personally would sit down and talk to SLT (not always easy to do) and try and identify the issues that they see are causing the lack of progress. Is there any room for negotiation? For example could the disruptive students be spread out across all the groups (or would this just cause issues in other groups).

  10. Read Jo Boaler and not against all mixed ability (when it is planned and structured), but part way through a GCSE course with no time to plan just doesn't seem possible.
  11. DM

    DM New commenter

    Did you (or your HoD if that is not your role) agree to this? If not, you/he/she would have the right to feel rather undermined.
  12. No agreement - it will be a directive from the head if not agreed tomorrow. Looking for evidence to counter their arguments in tomorrow's meeting
  13. lunarita

    lunarita Senior commenter

    I don't know which course you're following, but on our spec there is a vast quantity of material which is for higher level only. Would showing them that help?

    If you don't succeed in persuading them, you can at least get it minuted that you are concerned that this management decision will have an adverse effect on grades (and probably behaviour) and that this decision is being taken against the advice of the subject specialists.

    That often works for our SLT because they don't like being blamed for anything....
  14. Tandy

    Tandy New commenter

    So it's pretty well known that I fully support mixed ability maths at all ages. Right, that's out of the way.
    This doesn't really have anything to do with that though. Teaching mixed ability requires a culture shift in teaching and in the students too - it takes a long time to train students in to learning mathematics in this way, and is best achieved when there is continutiy of that approach throughout their schooling. Even I, mixed ability advocate that I am, would not change a year group mid-year.
    There needs to be time to change the culture within the staff first and they need to buy in to it. There also needs to be a huge amount of time and energy invested in professional development for the staff involved so that they have time to build new pedagogies if this is an approach they have not used before.
    What strikes me as particularly odd here is that the whole point of having a head of maths is that you delegate the leadership of learning to that person in that subject area. You appoint HODs because they bring the understanding of the department, the subject and the kids together to make decisions about what will be effective in the given situation.
    So, unless there are competency issues with the HOD, I would never over-rule their choices. Guide, debate, argue. Yes. But diktat is idiotic.
    In terms of research to back your worries, there is no point going for the mixed ability verses setted, because there is no winner there. But there is lots of evidence about breaks in continuity, lack of preparation and teacher professional learning, disruption to culture, projection of bad feeling from teachers who are not trusted as professionals, etc, etc, etc
    Hope your head comes to their senses!
  15. lunarita

    lunarita Senior commenter

    Does your exam board publish suggested schemes of work? If they publish very different SOWs for H & F that might also be a weapon in your favour.
    And I would probably ask if they are aware of any other schools which have successfully implemented mixed ability teaching in maths at GCSE and what effect this has had on results.

    To Tandy, out of interest, where could I read about mixed ability teaching at GCSE? Are there any good sites/reports you can suggest which might convince me it would work?
  16. Thanks Tandy -spot on! Can I quote you?[​IMG]
  17. DM

    DM New commenter

    If you and your team feel strongly enough, you could say you have a professional obligation to write to the Chair of Governors saying that it is the collective opinion of your entire Department that this move will cause a disastrous and unprecendented collapse in your school's five A* to C including mathematics and English measure and provoke mass resignations within your Department. This step should not be taken lightly as brinkmanship can backfire.
  18. Tandy's advice is sound and if followed could grant you a reprieve for the time being. In that time I would suggest that SMT should provide some evidence/research which concludes that their suggested approach is more effective. Equally you should be finding evidence to support your arguments.
  19. mmmmmaths

    mmmmmaths New commenter

    Ask them to send you to a school so that you can see how learning happens in a mixed ability KS4 classroom, what a mixed ability SOW looks like, how staff are retrained to become effective mixed ability teachers and how the new methodologies are introduced to the students.
    I would also be interested in the headteacher explaining how students will cover the required GCSE content if the emphasis is on skills and not content. Can they be specific about the skills they want you to develop.
    This is not your idea or your department's idea so can the headteacher make clear what they want the classroom experiences for students to be like next term? EG do they want primary school set up with ability tables working on different related topics eg. low ability doing flow charts for basic equations whilst middle table dealing with brackets/ fractional answers whilst top group solving quadratic equations bt completing the square. Or are they wanting a problem solving approach where one task can be suitbly scaffolded to enable all ability groups to make progress with their learning leading to differentiation by outcome. Or do they want students to have individual learning plans with lots of self discovery learning at students own pace. Or do they want a project based curriculum where the teacher is a facilitator of learning? Or have they not thought about the practicallities at all?
    What is their timetable for staff training?
    What will the budget be for retraining?
    Budget for differentiated resources?
    Allocation of learning support personnel?
    Time allocation this term for planning a whole new curriculum before January? Meetings with Heads of the drama etc so that they can help you plan Maths in the style of drama etc.
    Agree or have it imposed. Let them impose the change then they have to take at least some responsibility for making it work. Keep passing it back to them.....What do you want us to do about???????? How do you want us to organise??????

    Good luck.

  20. The biggest issue in research regarding mixed ability teaching in Maths is that most quote Boaler's research.
    Why is this an issue?
    Well, some of her more recent research in the US has been highly discredited by others. The data she uses to back up her claims are highly spurious. Most of the rest of the research is debatable regarding its validity when Boaler has been producing similar research for 15 years purely on the same subject.
    Evidence that is quoted on the DofE's own website says that pupils taught in set groups rather than mixed ability do better at the highest end and worse at the lowest end. The problem with such is that your school's figures are dependent not upon the lowest element of the cohort, but upon those at the highest end achieving well.
    Mixed ability teaching at Maths might well be possible, but only if the entire ethos of pupils is changed first. In order to allow the highest achievers to succeed, they need to be taught the higher level work. Take algebra for instance: in a mixed ability class you would require pupils to follow and work with algebraic fractions where the solving requires use of the quadratic formula, at the same time as many are struggling to simplify expressions that include negative coefficients. what does that do for the lowest ability pupils in the group? Nothing but re-inforce their inability at maths. You would require pupils to accept that others are at different stages in their mathematical development and be relaxed about achieving what others in the class are far beyond without stigma.
    The only way this could possibly enable you to work within the mixed ability structure is if all your pupils arrived at Level 3 or 4 so that nobody was being entered for Higher. Even then, your 4+ levels of progress would be unachievable for those entering at Level 4 as they need to get Bs.
    The majority of pupils cannot learn from text-book examples. They require additional input from teachers. This is generally in the form of "chalk and talk", but then individualised afterwards when teachers discuss work with pupils, look for mistakes and check fundamental understanding. Whilst this part would continue, it means that all "class teaching" effectively stops. This is not the case in the other subjects you mentioned, e.g. Technology, as the work is project based and all pupils start from a common position. Or do they expect you to teach those beyond a certain level that work again?
    What I might ask them is how you would manage to get an Outstanding with an Ofsted lesson observation? How are they going to ensure that all pupils are sufficiently challenged? How are you going to ensure they all are given the opportunities to discuss with other pupils or feed back to the group? Or are they planning on your room being made up of small groups of pupils with similar ability? And if so, how is that mixed ability in its truest sense and how would it stop the reinforcement of inability?

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