To investigate how a pedagogical focus on developing agency accelerates learning in maths, especially for priority learners.
Sub Question: What conditions are required for a community (of learning) to benefit priority learners in this same achievement challenge?
I am a keen teacher of maths and have recently benefitted from two years of intensive maths development. My own understanding and teaching has recently been strengthened and has changed considerably. I am a senior leader in the school, having participated in several years of leadership coaching. Our current school vision and goals focus on developing agency in learners -this is an area of interest and development for the full sector. Our school is also part of the Palmerston North East Community of Learning, with one of its achievement challenges focused on lifting achievement in maths (traversing years 5-10 in particular). I am well-grounded in pedagogy and am keen to build on this, exploring current developments that are of value to the sector and indeed my own practice, as well as that of the school and region I serve.
Much of my recent work has been in setting up, exploring and reflecting upon practice in an ‘innovative, flexible learning space’. We have used a collaborative inquiry approach to our development. I am keen to explore in detail how a focus on developing agency in maths learners can accelerate achievement. As an emerging programme I am also keen to evaluate the conditions that are required for our community of learning to have benefit in the same dimension.
Purpose of my sabbatical:
The purpose of this professional learning and development plan is to inquire into how the strengthening of student agency can accelerate achievement in numeracy, especially for priority learners.
Prior to the sabbatical I will be engaging in further maths professional learning, as part of a current schoolwide inquiry into lifting achievement in maths. At the time of writing, this concept (of explicitly focusing on the pedagogy of developing agency) is evolving as a next possible cycle of inquiry. This, further cycle, or layer, will lay the framework for this proposal.
Our school is part of the Palmerston North East Community of Learning, and is well poised with the appointment of a ‘Lead Principal’ and ‘across the school leaders’ currently being undertaken. The achievement challenge of lifting achievement in maths integrates beautifully with the timing of this sabbatical opportunity. PN East already has considerable expertise within many schools. It is my intention to access these high performing schools and individuals, and indeed that of others locally (e.g. Winchester School).
As part of my sabbatical, I will capture observations, opinions and conversations, with permission, in a range of multiple forms -surveys, face to face conversations, recordings, video and text, enabling me to evaluate data/information both during and after the period.
By engaging in this inquiry I want to ensure that my practice is evidence based, responsive to our context, focused on delivering the highest learning outcomes for all students and delivering better learning outcomes (accelerated progress) for priority learners.
Research and literature:
- Boaler, J. (2015). Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students' Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching. Jossey-Bass
- Hunter, R. (2008). Facilitating communities of mathematical inquiry. In M. Goos, R. Brown, & K. Makar (Eds.). Navigating currents and charting directions (Proceedings of the 31st annual conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia, Vol. 1, pp. 31–39). Brisbane: MERGA.
- Robinson, V. (2011). Student-Centered Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Pages: 192.
- Stein, M. & Schwan Smith, M. (2011). 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
- Washor, E. & Mojkowski, C. (2013). Leaving to Learn: How Out-of-School Learning Increases Student Engagement. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
This learning will allow me to pass on my findings and work with others to develop a sustainable culture driving agency (as a core pedagogical component) in maths in my own school, the Palmerston North East Community of Learning, and that of other interested schools.
There is strong alignment with the Ministry of Education’s Four year Plan. In particular, my proposed sabbatical inquiry has links with: better tailoring (responsive to priority learners); better targeting (resources required to enable); more effective collaboration (within our emerging community of learning); and more evidence based decision making.
To investigate how a pedagogical focus on developing agency accelerates learning in maths, especially for priority learners.
What conditions are required for a community (of learning) to benefit priority learners in this same achievement challenge?
....and in exploring the above questions, making explicit connections with and between:
- The educators, leaders and schools in our own community of learning;
- The additional resources that support learning in maths (e.g. deployment of teacher aides in support roles or programme implementation)
- Online Blogs, Wikis, eportfolios
- The leadership actions and change management actions that have impact
- The place of other pedagogies and how they integrate with that of student agency
- Assessment tools and approaches that support learning progress and further develop agency (e.g. PACT, Agency Matrix);
- Government/Ministry of Education strategies (e.g. Ka Hikitia. Tataiako)
3. Estimated time commitments of these activities during sabbatical
The sabbatical will involve spending time in schools, primarily those within our community of learning, where there has been recent acceleration of progress, especially that of priority learners, but also where there is a focus, through the community of learning. The sabbatical will allow time to look at schools where student agency hand in hand with the lifting of maths achievement is driving student learning and engagement (eg Whakarongo, Ashhurst).
I will observe classroom practice, survey students, and teachers and discuss pedagogy, assessment tools and frameworks that have impact on the mathematical achievement of students, as well as agency. Summaries and reflections will be posted on a blog for others to view and add discussion. I will write observations in a relevant (or create and lead a new) discussion group on the VLN or within Pond.
Two days a week will be spent on readings/visits relating to agency/maths and research, typing up reflections and making connections to past and current learning theory. Summaries and reflections will be posted on a personal blog for others to view and add discussion.
I aim to revise and further develop a rubric or similar tool to align learning tools and practices that foster agency, achievement and indeed home learning partnerships that support our akonga and their learning. I will begin to present these to staff/community of learning over the final weeks, and continue the ongoing development of agency with my staff and the community of schools we have an ongoing relationship with throughout the year. If attending uLearn (where one of the strands has been collaboration) or similar I would share at a workshop, where I have previously presented other learning.
Prior to Sabbatical: Identify and communicate with the schools that would provide relevant information to inform my inquiry. Engage in the early stages of our community of learning achievement challenge -become thoroughly conversant with this and align sabbatical with these goals. Make it known to the ‘Lead Principal’. Develop the survey tools and observation overview templates. Look to extend my online professional networks VLN/ POND to align the discussion forums with this inquiry. Ensure I have the most current and relevant readings to inform my inquiry. Continue on with in-school developments in ‘lifting achievement in maths’. Collaborate in the writing of a ‘Raising Achievement Plan’ for priority learners in our school.
Week 1-2: Class observations: Speaking with teachers and students to investigate the context of maths learning -how they view maths learning and how they go about it. Discuss with lead teachers and school leaders the approaches they are using and why. What does exist? What impact is it having? Survey for teachers.
Possible schools: Whakarongo, Winchester, Parkland, Ashhurst (Palmerston North)
Readings: Boaler, J. (2015). Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students' Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching. Jossey-Bass
Week 3-4: Class observations: Speaking with teachers and students to investigate which tools and practices, used primarily in math, have the most impact on student agency. Investigate whether the use of some tools become the focus of the teaching, and whether the original learning (maths) concept is lost or diluted? Is there cognitive demand? Is learning well-paced?
Revisit original (Possible schools): Whakarongo, Winchester, Parkland, Ashhurst (Palmerston North)
Possible Readings: Developing Communities of Mathematical Inquiry (Dr Bobbie Hunter)
Week 5-6: Class observations: Speaking with teachers and students to investigate the nature of learning tasks that they complete in a self-directed manner (away from direct teacher instruction). What value do they have? How much cognitive demand is there? What is the student voice on this? How do assessment tools add value to this goal?
Revisit original (Possible schools): as above
Possible Readings: Effective Pedagogy in Maths -Best Evidence Synthesis
Week 7-8: Develop/revise a rubric or similar tool to align learning tools and practices observed and noted during this inquiry. Which tools foster agency, achievement and home learning to best support our akonga (esp priority learners) and their learning?
Week 9: Synthesise findings from readings. Begin collating and archiving information in a form that can be presentable in a staff workshop, online resource or presentation. How does an agentic approach help priority learners in raising achievement in maths?
Week 10: Complete synthesis of findings from readings. Present workshop to PN East Community of Learning (Lead Principal, Across School Leaders and Within School Leaders) and refine, post online resource, contact schools to thank them for making their schools available and offer to present findings to them as a workshop.
After the Sabbatical: I will continue to work with staff in my own school and the community of schools to develop skills and incorporate agency into maths teaching practice. Submit findings for online publication. Look at ways to create, develop and maintain skills, and a culture where an agentic approach will help students further achieve success in maths.
3. Expected benefits of the sabbatical
i. Self: Personally I will have a fantastic opportunity to become more skilled and aware of how an agentic approach and best teaching in maths are being implemented in schools. Learn how teachers and other leaders are approaching the challenges and finding new opportunities. I will have the opportunity to clarify and deepen my understanding and thinking around pedagogy and how an effective agentic approach can enhance my own and others’ teaching.
ii. Students: The students and teachers will be able to design and lead maths learning that has at its core, sound pedagogical use of assessment, teaching approaches and learning design principles, that support accelerated progress in maths. This will set a solid foundation for further, future learning.
Iii. Issues Important to the School: I will provide additional ongoing professional development to Russell Street School staff, inspiring and increasing capability in using developing agency to enhance and integrate student understanding, knowledge and application in maths.
The school will have new coordinated direction with aims and targets for the next 3-5 years, as part of its new charter and strategic plan (2017-2020).
The school will have current information with which to extend/enrich work currently being embarked on in self-agency.
iv. Wider Learning Community: I value working alongside and as part of a wider community of learning. The PN East Community of Learning will have an opportunity to view the findings and engage with me over any findings. Schools will be able to consider the findings and further develop their own vision and culture. Schools will be able to use a range of tools that support their own ‘Raising Achievement Plan’.
4. Reporting Intention
I believe that the ramifications of this inquiry are widespread, so my reporting will reflect this. First and foremost, I will look to present a workshop to PN East Community of Learning (Lead Principal, Across School Leaders and Within School Leaders) to outline the findings of my inquiry. I will also continue to work with staff and BOT in my own school and the community of schools to develop skills and incorporate agency into maths teaching practice. As a school, we have many visiting groups to which I can share the understandings developed here. I will also provide a written report that other principals and teachers can access online.