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Staff development

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by viggo, Jan 23, 2011.

  1. I am planning a sessions where we, as a department, standardise our levels so when all staff level a pupil we are consistent. This will help me target the intervention needed. I tried this before and used a Standards File for each member of staff (everyone had the same one but they didn't know. They sat on their own and marked on which level they thought by highlighting the AFs evidence in the file.. All staff were within a sublevel.
    We have had a change in staffing and so now need to standardise again with some different staff and at different levels. Has anyone done anything similar?

    I am think I may cut up the algebra sections from the standards file pupils and ask them to level them then discuss after with the support material. I have chosen algebra as that seems to be the work most years are starting now. I can then moderate the algebra AFs in a few weeks.
    What do you think? Is this what others do or can you offer any suggestions to alternatives?

  2. I am planning a sessions where we, as a department, standardise our levels so when all staff level a pupil we are consistent. This will help me target the intervention needed. I tried this before and used a Standards File for each member of staff (everyone had the same one but they didn't know. They sat on their own and marked on which level they thought by highlighting the AFs evidence in the file.. All staff were within a sublevel.
    We have had a change in staffing and so now need to standardise again with some different staff and at different levels. Has anyone done anything similar?

    I am think I may cut up the algebra sections from the standards file pupils and ask them to level them then discuss after with the support material. I have chosen algebra as that seems to be the work most years are starting now. I can then moderate the algebra AFs in a few weeks.
    What do you think? Is this what others do or can you offer any suggestions to alternatives?

  3. This is the issue with APP and the similar schemes that allow for subjectivity.
    IMO all day to day teaching should be carried out by the teacher based on knowing their pupils, teaching holistically and having some appreciation where you can take the cohort. Knowing each part of each section is not conducive to teaching from experience. An overall basic appreciation of the complecity of a topic (especially in an ever changing game) IMO allows for more fluidity Chopping every strand down to sub levels IMO is not ideal and publishing any form of subjective AfL/APP is only setting departments up for such issues. I am 100% against any subjective assessment being done and sent home to parents or used for data analysis.
    Know your kids, appreciate the standards and SOW yet do all PUBLISHED assessments where no subjectivity can be involved. I am in the middle of trying to chop up SATS like questions in topic specific tests to give to kids. If this could be done accross the year group then the standardisation is more likely. Knowledge to me has to be concrete and recalled months down the line rather than being ticked off on a sheet 6 months ago
    The evolution of 'Value Added' and APP has just led to so many teachers adding a sublevel on each term to keep SLT off their back yet in reality do they ever get this in their final exams? no.
    Many teachers do it as they unsure, many because of the pressure, but when you get to the projected and target grades for GCSE and the HoD produces a SEF they can look very silly when the projected values are not met.
    Understanding ball park figures is good, but a structured SOW should allow all teachers to understand roughly what is what rather than having to know every part of a topic inside out. This only gets less accurate as so called 'C grade' questions appear on GCSE papers that were half way through the foundation papers of 8 years back (which only went to a D grade)
    What is a level 6a question now? is it one the standards/strategy says? one the books says? or one that will come up on a GCSE paper when the kids hit GCSEs?
    My suggestion, FWIW (which is probably nothing as I am merely and opinionated foot soldier) is that teachers should know roughly where everything fits in yet can have externally produced material to assess pupils.
    Knowing kids who can multiply decimals such as 0.4 x 0.5 or graph a straight line given the gradient and y intercept suggests they are capable of C+ at GCSE. Knowing that one is a level 5a this month and the other 6c 2 years ago IMO merely increases headaches.
    I have babbled, but in short, rough appreciation, holistical teaching with massive scope for taking maths where a teacher wants and finally scrap subjective assessment beyond the personal mark book.
  4. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    Is there much point in standardising levels in KS3? It seems to me to be quite a lot of effort to put into something of questionable value.
    Ask for a teacher assessment. Give the pupils a test. If there are serious discrepancies between the teacher assessment and the test then you can address that with individual members of staff.
    Good post Betamale.
  5. DM

    DM New commenter

    Fixed that for you.
  6. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

  7. bombaysapphire

    bombaysapphire Star commenter

    Good post Betamale.
    I always struggle to keep quiet in our APP training. They always start off by telling us that it isn't a box ticking exercise, and then go out to tell us which boxes we should be ticking [​IMG]
    Fortunately this appears to be the third year in a row when it fails to get off the ground in the department I am working in. I am waiting for the obsession with it to die down and making sure we have a rigorous system of non-subjective testing.
  8. "everyone had the same one but they didn't know"

    Why didn't they know?
  9. They didn't know because they levelled the work on their own and then we compared it with the level given in the standards file afterwards.
  10. Unfortunately we do have to look at the progress pupils are making with staff and address any areas that are highlighted when pupils do not make the expected progress.
    I work in a department that is very inexperienced and so when staff are predicting grades and making judgements about levels there isn't the experience to rely on.
    How often do your pupils sit a test then?
  11. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    Our pupils sit a past SATs paper twice a year. They also do 3 formally assessed investigations per year. Pupils move between sets on the basis of these 5 assessments.
    We are currently moving away from talking about levels in KS3. The whole system of levels is fundamentally flawed and a pupil being level 6 tells us next to nothing about whether they are any good at maths or not. It's also not an especially accurate predictor of what they will achieve at GCSE and so the value of levelling pupils is highly questionable in my opinion.
    What does it actually mean if a pupil progresses from level 4 to level 5?
    Isn't it far more important that they have some problem solving skills, resilience and a decent work ethic than a rather spurious level?
    I personally think that a level 4 student that has some resilience, some problem solving skills, a willingness to try and get things wrong and a decent work ethic has a far better chance of success in maths than a level 6 student that has none of qualities mentioned.
    KS3 should be about developing pupils mathematical thinking, skills, resilience, problem solving, work ethic and with a bit of luck giving them some enjoyment of the subject. If they have these things they have a far better platform for future success than making one nonsensical meaningless number go up so it becomes another nonsensical meaningless number.
  12. Whilst I normally agree with almost everything Betamale posts, APP is one area where I do differ. I think APP has caught on far more than anyone just reading these forums would believe, it's the same thing as anyone with a complaint in a shop telling ten other people. In my own LA, pretty much all the schools are actively using APP and to good effect in terms of intervention work, with very little 'box ticking' and no increase in workload.

    I would be interested to know what the original poster is doing for APP and why there is a need for moderation. That's definitely not a critisism, just professional interest.

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we use Kangaroo Maths/ Modi Learning /Our own resources. Most of the AFs we cover in a fairly formal way by using written work that is specifically targeted at the AF in question (hence, zero moderation). The AFs that are 'low hanging fruit' and easy to assess, we tend to use some group work activities or quick mini-whiteboard sessions.

    I've never quite understood why people think APP leads to less resilience or reduces problem solving skills in pupils. My own experience has been exactly the reverse.

    In terms of 'chopping up' past National Curriculum test papers, those papers never covered the whole curriculum. In areas where it wasn't possible to write nice simple questions, the areas simply never appeared. APP itself doesn't cover everything but it does cover more to it then the NC papers ever did.

    DM has previously posted that we will 'never know what APP could have been' but a good many schools are doing their level (pun intended!) best to integrate APP with their schemes of work and making it work.
  13. I forgot to add earlier that I don't agree with the statement that APP has to be subjective, it certainly isn't like that in our department. We decided early on not to go down the coursework Mk2 avenue. We will still be doing NC tests in the summer term and it will be interesting to see how things compare.
  14. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    APP does not in itself reduce resilience or problem solving skills in pupils. However giving pupils constant attainment goals generally does (see Carol Dweck's research).
    I have found that constantly assessing pupils and going on about their levels makes them risk averse. It also makes them dependent on the teacher, unwilling to try anything they are not confident about and this unwillingness to make an attempt at anything they consider "hard" does impact on their problem solving skills (as they refuse to practice them without a teacher holding their hand through anything tricky). They are constantly fearful of getting things wrong and they seem to think that getting things wrong will somehow make their level go down. They are hammered with their levels and progress by so many teachers all the time that they actually believe that what level they are is important in some way.
    What noticably improved their resilience and problem solving skills in my lessons was:
    <ol>[*]The level of the work never being mentioned outside of formal assessments. They are constantly told that learning and knowledge are important. Levels are not.[*]Marking and praise is focused on effort rather than speed or accuracy[*]Pupils must give specific information about what they have attempted and in what way they are stuck if they want help.[*]25% are lessons where no help is given by me at all. They help each other or work it out for themselves.</ol>Many of our pupils want their learning to be in nice easy steps so they do not need to engage their brains much at any stage. Any task requiring any form of independent brain activity is hugely unpopular at first (until they get used to the idea).
  15. Bigkid's approach to problem solving skills is exactly the same as the one we deploy, save for the fact that we use resources targeting the APP Assessment Foci and for some of the tasks we do let the pupils know the level.

    I agree entirely that assessing pupils too often is counter-productive, a bit like continually pulling up a tree to see how the roots are doing. At the same time, for good or ill, very many departments are under extreme pressure to provide pupil tracking information. Maths doesn't exist within a vacuum in schools and certainly all of the pupils I teach have clear targets in other subjects and they get assessed regularly. I'm not saying that I agree that is a good thing but that's the reality.

    To respond to Betamale, we have found the exact opposite in that for us, APP is anything but subjective and less experienced staff have valued the framework to work within. Less experienced staff are less likely to have a 'feel' for where a class are and having a structured way for them to assess this has really helped. Yes, it's true, we could have written lots of tests but then we are back to the objections raised by Bigkid.

    The APP Assessment Foci were (by and large) not some great additional body of work that needed to be covered. Nor are the number of AFs particularly onerous, ball park 20 per year for most pupils.

    To give an example of how things work for us. Level 6, data handling, AF2, is concerned with charts and graphs. We teach the topics much as we would have done previously but in one lesson we now do a matching exercise where the pupils have to pair up bar charts and corresponding pie charts. The activity takes about 15 minutes and brings out a number of valuable points/skills. When we have finished all the topics we set a homework sheet of NC style questions and record the marks. A few weeks later we will do a quick refresher using some whiteboard slides to make sure the pupils retain the knowledge. The final assessment will be a short test, no longer than 15 minutes, putting together NC style questions from a number of the AFs.

    I think that what we are doing isn't very different from what Betamale was proposing with chopping up SAT papers. We do count about four or five problem solving tasks per year as part of our assessment and use slides only for a further couple of AFs.
  16. Hi Sara
    Yes, if you are setting up investigations and tasks for the kids to do and they have a markscheme and allow for that the yes thats a great tool to the pupils ability to do that task (which I think is great for developing maths/PLTS etc)
    The issue comes then when the pupils sit a GCSE that doesnt test anything like that and is just 1-2hrs of watered down algorithms that are not subjectively marked. We are testing different skills in such activities and those not used in any formal examination
    Good department, good activities = good internal data to use
    beyond those boundaries I have seen it do 'less well' in 3 different schools and the consequences can be catastrophic for the HoD on a SEF and when reporting to parents. The snowball culture, desire to avoid accountability or sheer lack of understanding often ends in poor data production that aids few stakeholders.
    True APP as it was designed (ie set a task and judge) is cool as part of our understanding of kids. On the otherhand tick sheets filled out by teachers based on what the kid 'has shown' over the year and then sent out to parents IMO is not
  17. I think we are pretty much in agreement on all the points. I agree entirely that the GCSE is very different from what has been put in place but then again, the NC tests were always very different from the GCSE exams: the two Key Stages are definitely disjointed in terms of assessment and have been for many years.

    I thought originally that the '2010 GCSE' changes would alter that but all that seems to have happened (certainly from AQA) is that they have slapped QWC on a few questions and missed out leading pupils through questions in a few cases.

    We find that pupils doing the matching type exercises does improve their understanding of topics and does make them better at the 'watered down algorithm' type question (you should trademark that, I can see it catching on!).

    I agree entirely about poor data not helping anyone, that's why I spent so long making sure that what we have in place is useful, concrete and accountable.

    So, the core of our assessment is still formal written work (on the APP AFs) and it has given us very useful information for intervention work with pupils, especially where less experienced staff have been involved. As an example, we have been able to direct work on the one to one initiative to target specific problem areas for the pupils concerned. Had we simply waited for one big end of term exam then that wouldn't have been possible.

    This isn't intended in any way as a criticism of the HoDs you mention (from personal experience, it was quite daunting at the outset), but I do wonder what structure they had in place for APP?
  18. Thanks Sara
    The idea of APP from experience?
    Avoiding testing kids and allow a teacher to make up a grade based on 'What they have seen through the year' Which led to to issues outlined [​IMG]
    The new GCSE is not as functional as we hoped BUT the latest edexcel unit papers looked a little better (although exclude MENA students further [​IMG]) but thats for another rant
  19. Thanks Betamale. 'Avoid testing kids and allow teachers to make up a grade', I thought that might be the case!

    Our structure, as I outlined, is very, very different! I was very fortunate in having the help of an excellent LA consultant. Initially, I thought we were going to have to do lots of coursework tasks and pick out the APP from that.

    My second thoughts were allowing people to just use homeworks/classwork but I'm sure that we would have had some of the problems you describe.

    In the end, our final structure of using mainly formal written assessment but with some problem solving and AfL has worked really well and moved us on as a department.

    Having resources that are specific to each AF has made life much easier. Even though we use the formal written work as our main source of assessment, we have problem solving tasks for each AF that staff use at their discretion. For some staff/groups, doing a 5-10 minute problem solving task has become a natural part of lessons.

    I do feel for schools/HoDs who have not had the support I did. Our structure/APP in general won't be for everyone but I hope it might help some if they are struggling.
  20. I forgot to mention, we are still going to do NC optional tests at the end of the year, certainly this year, so that we can see how our APP work compares. Regarding reporting to parents/tracking, this year we have been forced to conform to the school norm of giving levels each term (not helpful to anyone). I think I've just about convinced SLT to allow us to give our APP information next year, far more useful in terms of any parents who want to help their children (we have examples of our written assessments on our VLE).

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