By Chris Briggs - Product Manager Post 16 English, Maths and Digital Skills
While I was still teaching there were lots of opportunities to work collaboratively with my colleagues. Working for International House at the start of my career, we had a regularly scheduled weekly session to look at our professional development and teaching and learning. This was an ideal opportunity to look at teaching techniques and share best practice. There was also a culture of collaboration and sharing resources and lesson ideas, especially with more senior staff supporting others.
Working in both Further Education and Work-Based Learning there was (and still is) the opportunity to work closely with vocational colleagues as well as other English and maths tutors. This was a valuable opportunity to learn how to put teaching and learning into context for learners on apprenticeships and study programmes
An Example of my Collaborative Working
The premise of this blog actually came from a piece of collaborative work within Pearson. For many years I have been looking at ways to present Functional Skills that would make them more effective for learners on vocational programmes. The main issue lay with my lack of knowledge of the content of certain vocational programmes. Those I had worked closely with in my teaching days (Sport, Catering, Public Services) were relatively straightforward, but there are many areas where I do not have that depth of knowledge. I was happy, therefore, when I received an invitation from a new colleague, Kelly Adams, to work together with her Senior Standards Verifier, Katie Ordonez to explore some ideas to help incorporate maths into the BTEC Level 1 Introductory curriculum.
Having listened to the pitch, I agreed to support. They liked my idea of creating new versions of Pearson’s Lesson Starter Quizzes based around the vocational areas and so we went to work. Katie supplied the vocational knowledge: areas of the subject content that are maths focused and teaching ideas that schools and colleges use to support the delivery. In this way, I learnt that making soap is a coming activity in Applied Science, that hair dye is sold in tubes and not packs and what the best feed for a horse is, for example. This information was key, otherwise it would be just me deciding what learners did without any insider knowledge.
Once I had this information, I then started to map it to common areas on the Level 1 Functional Skills maths curriculum and specifically to areas that learners struggled with. I created a template of maths curriculum areas and then wrote some Functional Skills style questions that gave the learners an opportunity to practice their maths skills in their vocational area of expertise. Finally, other Product Managers in Pearson gave the resources a once over to ensure that I have not made any errors (hence me now knowing hair dye is sold in tubes – meaning I had to completely rewrite a question – thanks to Dionne Broughton).
So far, the following are available on our website:
Applied Science Template
Caring for Children
Caring for Children Template
Digital Media (coming soon)
Digital Media Template (coming soon)
Engineering (coming soon)
Engineering Template (coming soon)
eSports (coming soon)
eSports Template (coming soon)
Hair and Beauty
Hair and Beauty Template
Hospitality and Tourism (coming soon)
Hospitality and Tourism Template (coming soon)
IT (coming soon)
IT Template (coming soon)
Land Based Template
Performing Arts (coming soon)
Performing Art Template (coming soon)
Public Services (coming soon)
Public Services Template (coming soon)
Transport and Vehicle (coming soon)
Transport and Vehicle (coming soon)
Using These Resources
These resources can be used in a multitude of ways:
- By vocational tutors wanting to do some maths in their sessions
- By Functional Skills maths specialists wanting to incorporate vocational areas
- As a lesson starter to get the learners. Ideally this activity should take about ten minutes. They can be self-marked or grouped marked by the learners.
- As a formative assessment over time. The templates help here. Over time, these quizzes provide the tutor with easy to access feedback on areas of strength and weakness. For this to be truly effective, each quiz should follow the same format with questions of a similar topic always being in the same place.
- As pre assessment revision
- As a homework task
This activity also shows how successful collaboration breeds more collaboration. While sharing some of these resources on social media, I had a question from a colleague, Julia Smith (@tessmaths on twitter) asking if I had considered creating some questions that had blank spaces to allow learners to add their own contexts. After she shared an example, I was able to create a whole different type of worksheet that allows learners to create their own context and allows a group of learners to compare notes and see what contexts work for them.
Using my prior experience as an ESOL tutor, I was able to create a similar start quiz for ESOL learners studying Functional Skills maths. This one addresses the potential language issues ESOL learners might have while studying Functional Skills maths.
Finally, I created one on football as it is an area that interests me.
The football maths quiz received this piece of feedback:
'Wow! I’m pretty chuffed with this. I love that the questions show the growth and impact of not only women enjoying football but the growth of the game for women. Thank you.' - Claire Gavaghan
Working With Subject Specialist Peers
So far, I have looked at working collaboratively with vocational colleagues, but working collaboratively can also been working with other English or maths specialists too. When teaching, for example, I hated teaching nets with my maths classes. I have a certain lack of spatial understanding that makes these very difficult for me. However, I had an amazing colleague, Penny Free, who was great at teaching nets. To support me, she taught that session to one of my classes so I could observe her and develop my own skills. Apart from my learners getting a brilliant lesson and me learning how to develop these skills, this also helped me understand the potential value of peer observation. Peer observations can be used for development and can allow a tutor to see different approaches to learning in action and provide feedback for the person they are observing.
A Peer Observation Approach
What follows is a simple guide to getting the most out of a peer observation process.
- Always work with a tutor, or group of tutors, who have agreed to being peer observed.
- Agree in advance what you want to observe your peers teaching.
- Ask the person you are observing what areas of their teaching they would like feedback on (this way you can feed back to them too).
- Always be constructive.
- Always reciprocate the observation process.
ResultsPlus is Pearson’s portal for providing feedback on Level 1 and 2 Functional Skills English and maths assessments. You can use this to get feedback on individual learners and on monthly cohorts. Using this data, you can analyse trends from your learners and see if there are any areas where they regularly have difficulty. Once you have this data, you can reach out to your peers and see if they can support your professional development in these areas.
Let’s take a look at two sets of data from ResultsPlus for Level 1 Reading. Both are based over a month’s cohorts. For the first set of results we can see a need to develop comparing information in texts, dictionary use and the use of apostrophes.
Working collaboratively, tutors can share their practices for teaching these elements of the curriculum to the benefit of all their learners.
Multiply Provider Support Programme
One final area to touch on regarding collaboration is the work of the Greater Manchester Learning Provider Network. Pearson is happy to announce we will be supporting their Multiply Provider Support Programme this year. I am looking forward to working to support maths development across the region. Following on from the resources above, we are looking to produce more to support the themes of the programme.
- Numeracy Confident
- Healthy / Independent Living
- Reducing cost of living
- Finance and Debt
- Numeracy for Employability
Thank you for taking the time to engage with this month’s blog. If you have ideas for collaborative working, please do get in touch to share them.
Chris Briggs - Product Manager Post 16 English, Maths and Digital Skills