Time out of school, for any teacher, means time away from regular classes. And if those classes have important exams on the horizon, the decision to leave them in favour of a CPD activity must be weighed carefully. But if that short time out can be the start of, or an integral part of, an extended period where a teacher works with colleagues from other schools, bringing thoughts and experiments back into the teacher’s own classroom and department, and if the professional conversation continues with those other teachers over a term or a year, with a second face to face meeting somewhere along the line as well, so that gradually new thoughts take root in a way that pupils benefit, then surely that initial day out represents time well spent?
This is the model of professional development at the heart of Maths Hubs Work Groups. Here are two examples of how secondary teachers have found this form of CPD bears fruit for themselves, their colleagues and their pupils.
Deb Friis, Subject Leader, St Paul’s Catholic College
“My participation in Maths Hubs projects has helped me collaborate with other maths teachers both locally and from further afield, and helped me to start to introduce new ways of working collaboratively in my own department at school.
This year, on the secondary Mastery Specialists project, we meet a few times a year with colleagues from across the country and it has been fascinating to discuss and compare how different areas of maths are taught. We can then draw on best practice and we have the time to think really deeply about our pedagogy and go back and introduce it into our teaching. Social media and online communities have been invaluable in allowing us to continue these discussions. Through this project, I am also coordinating Teacher Research Groups (TRGs), both within my own department and with four other local schools. We jointly plan, share and teach the same lesson and meet afterwards to refine it. At my school, colleagues say this is not only saving us time, but also promoting a deeper understanding and a more consistent approach amongst our students. The net effect of all this is that my own professional development has been revolutionised through regular contact and discussions with my Maths colleagues. I could not imagine going back to just working in isolation in my own school, I feel I have gained so much from having a wider circle of expertise to draw on.”
Helen Billinge, Subject Leader, Tonbridge Grammar School
“Last year, I participated in the National Collaborative Project on Mathematical Reasoning at KS3. This involved meeting four times over the year to explore and research teaching and planning strategies to improve the reasoning skills of students in mathematics. The project involved not just the official participants but the whole department in collaboratively planning and observing lessons using the Lesson Study model. This allowed us to focus on whether the strategies that we discussed in the meetings were really having an impact on students’ reasoning. As a subject leader, I found this extended approach to my own professional development highly effective. Having four days to reflect on and discuss strategies, ideas and pedagogical approaches meant that I finished the course with a much stronger understanding of what is distinctive about mathematical reasoning, how progress in reasoning can be assessed and how it might be improved. Even more crucially, I also left the project with a much clearer idea of how to work collaboratively with my department to improve the reasoning skills of all of the students we teach, not just those in my own classroom. My experience last year was so positive and I feel that this model of professional development is so powerful that I am currently leading a second cohort on the same project, working with a new and enthusiastic set of teachers from different schools to draw on an even wider field of expertise and to communicate what we learnt from the first cohort in even more mathematics departments in the local area.”