More on Good Teachers

equationThis time from the younger students.

Last academic Year I asked my then Year 9 (age 13-14) students about good Mathematics Teachers, their thoughtful and often sophisticated replies can be read here.

….

This year I thought I would begin by asking some of Year 7 (age 11-12) who joined the school in September. In their own words, here’s what they have to say….

A good teacher:

  • Knows what they are talking about
  • Must have a good understanding of everything!!!
  • Explains things clearly
  • They take time to explain
  • Will explain again if necessary
  • Explains things in a variety of ways
  • Changes their style of teaching for people who need help
  • Has to be wise and clever
  • Loves questions
  • Guides you through the steps
  • Makes sure every child understands
  • Always recaps
  • Recaps and revises previous topics
  • Makes it memorable
  • Encourages students to like the subject they teach – they share their enthusiasm
  • Asks us questions to see if we are listening and understanding the topic
  • Gives us even harder work to build our confidence and get better. Challenges us
  • Explains homework and classwork in full detail
  • Is a knowledgeable and helpful guide
  • Always encourages students to persevere and try their best
  • Gives advice
  • Gives you tips
  • Marks work fairly and correctly
  • Recommends helpful skills
  • Gives useful criticism in class
  • Gives useful comments in books
  • Gives targets and writes down areas of improvement
  • Listens to everyone
  • Lets all the students engage
  • Lets you work the way you feel it works
  • Lets you express yourself
  • Gives people a chance
  • Doesn’t talk for the whole lesson
  • Helps everybody who needs help
  • Finds helpful ways to assist each student
  • Helps with struggles
  • Someone who makes you feel that learning / studying is fun

Our disposition, how we come across is so important:

  • Is happy to teach
  • Smiles and cares about us
  • Believes in us
  • Speaks softly
  • Makes the group feel comfortable
  • Is cheerful
  • Is caring
  • Gets excited
  • Is always joyful
  • Is funny
  • Has a passionate and kind voice
  • Is calm
  • Is supportive and enthusiastic
  • Is fair and respectful
  • Is approachable
  • Is patient
  • Is nice but firm
  • Is strict when needed yet kind hearted
  • Is approachable but when you step over the line they are strict
  • Reminds students to listen to each other
  • Reminds students to respect each other
  • Has a laugh with the students
  • Must be organised

That comment about guiding through the steps reminds me of one of my Sixth Form many years ago who said:

“What are the baby steps Mrs Young?”

There is some repetition here, but so many students came up with similar themes it seemed worth repeating their statements. They remind me of the earlier Year 9 comments in that once again, it seems to me that their thoughts fit well with the key components of this extremely worthwhile read: What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research. Robert Coe, Cesare Aloisi, Steve Higgins and Lee Elliot Major October 2014.

Like Year 9, their comments seem to fall into these categories:

  1. (Pedagogical) content knowledge (Strong evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“The most effective teachers have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach, and when teachers’ knowledge falls below a certain level it is a significant impediment to students’ learning. As well as a strong understanding of the material being taught, teachers must also understand the ways students think about the content, be able to evaluate the thinking behind students’ own methods, and identify students’ common misconceptions.”

  1. Quality of instruction (Strong evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“Includes elements such as effective questioning and use of assessment by teachers. Specific practices, like reviewing previous learning, providing model responses for students, giving adequate time for practice to embed skills securely 3 and progressively introducing new learning (scaffolding) are also elements of high quality instruction.”

  1. Classroom climate (Moderate evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“Covers quality of interactions between teachers and students, and teacher expectations: the need to create a classroom that is constantly demanding more, but still recognising students’ self-worth. It also involves attributing student success to effort rather than ability and valuing resilience to failure (grit).”

  1. Classroom management (Moderate evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“A teacher’s abilities to make efficient use of lesson time, to coordinate classroom resources and space, and to manage students’ behaviour with clear rules that are consistently enforced, are all relevant to maximising the learning that can take place. These environmental factors are necessary for good learning rather than its direct components.”

I’ll head for the other end of the school and ask the Sixth Form next!

 

 

Good Maths Teachers…

equationYou will see from my post on Dec 1st I asked someone else for his thoughts on Mathematics education – Simon Singh, whose book ‘The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets’ was published in paperback recently answered some questions I put to him.

I thought I’d also ask Year 9 about good Maths teachers…

I asked my wonderful Year 9 class about their ideal Maths teacher – this was not about personal comments about any individual teacher – but the qualities of their ideal Maths teacher. Their comments are in blue:

A Maths teacher should be optimistic, enthusiastic (but not overboard), have a good knowledge of the subject and be helpful, engaging, practical and organised.

So many of their comments seemed to me to fit with the key components of this extremely worthwhile read: What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research.
Robert Coe, Cesare Aloisi, Steve Higgins and Lee Elliot Major
October 2014

The report lists six common components suggested by research that teachers should consider when assessing teaching quality. The authors state that “This should be seen as offering a ‘starter kit’ for thinking about effective pedagogy. Good quality teaching will likely involve a combination of these attributes manifested at different times; the very best teachers are those that demonstrate all of these features.”

I thought I would list the students comments’ under what I feel are the most appropriate components from the review. Their comments I felt fell into the first four components.

  1. (Pedagogical) content knowledge (Strong evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“The most effective teachers have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach, and when teachers’ knowledge falls below a certain level it is a significant impediment to students’ learning. As well as a strong understanding of the material being taught, teachers must also understand the ways students think about the content, be able to evaluate the thinking behind students’ own methods, and identify students’ common misconceptions.”

Good at explanations and lecturing.
Someone who can explain in different ways.
Someone who won’t just tell you how to do something, but will explain how and why it works.
Helpful Maths websites for students.
Lets us be independent.
Provokes your mind to think beyond the syllabus.

  1. Quality of instruction (Strong evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“Includes elements such as effective questioning and use of assessment by teachers. Specific practices, like reviewing previous learning, providing model responses for students, giving adequate time for practice to embed skills securely 3 and progressively introducing new learning (scaffolding) are also elements of high quality instruction.”

Hard working.
A teacher who provides the student with the opportunity to see what they need to revise. Regular tests and quizzes do this.
Puts a lot of time into lesson planning.
Doesn’t mind repeating things.
Speaks at a suitable pace.
Gives us notes which are helpful like worked examples.
Make sure we can write good notes.
Go through examples together.
The right amount of homework.
Someone who is willing to answer any question.
Pushes you to work on harder questions to extend your abilities.
Helpful individually AND generally.
Does practical work.
Gives detailed and constructive feedback.
Someone willing to help outside class

  1. Classroom climate (Moderate evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“Covers quality of interactions between teachers and students, and teacher expectations: the need to create a classroom that is constantly demanding more, but still recognising students’ self-worth. It also involves attributing student success to effort rather than ability and valuing resilience to failure (grit).”

Should be passionate and enthusiastic.
Patient.

Understanding.
Approachable.
Firm but kind.
Someone you can feel comfortable with.
Recognises achievements.
Genuinely caring about the students.
Someone who knows who you are.
Someone who you know won’t judge you. 
Expect the best out of your students, but don’t be angry if they don’t always achieve it.
Check with students individually if they are stuck.
They should be able to cater to all abilities.
Lets you talk about the work in class.
Praises students.

  1. Classroom management (Moderate evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“A teacher’s abilities to make efficient use of lesson time, to coordinate classroom resources and space, and to manage students’ behaviour with clear rules that are consistently enforced, are all relevant to maximising the learning that can take place. These environmental factors are necessary for good learning rather than its direct components.”

Someone who can still keep control in the classroom.
Is organised and creative.
Use different media, it’s really important – the ordinary board, the whiteboard, worksheets, jigsaws, cut and stick (matching up exercises), drawing, walk around the classroom problems (treasure hunts), computers.

A few more comments to finish…

Have readable handwriting.
Someone who knows how to use the Smart board.

Here’s a comment to make you smile!
Maths teachers are different from other teachers, because Maths can be very different to other subjects. 

…and an appropriate final comment:

What makes a good Maths teacher is someone who is passionate about Maths and explains everything REALLY well. I think being passionate is really important as we students can tell if a teacher is enjoying a subject and sometimes the explanations of topics are better when a teacher loves a subject.

I think it is also important that the teacher can challenge the most able students whilst making sure that the least able are keeping up.

Thank you so much to my amazing Year 9 students!

See also ‘More on good teachers’ where Year 7 (UK age 11-12) have plenty to say!

ClassCharts

Class Charts - example student report

Class Charts – example student report

For behaviour management and seating plans an outstanding and easy to use system is Class Charts.

I have written previously on the system Year 7 and I are using for recording learning behaviours, my aim is to document their learning behaviours; it is absolutely not a traditional ‘reward’ system which I think can be a minefield! I want something accessible to all and is clear to us all that it is about each student being the best they can be. In deciding on the points we should have we had some excellent discussions on being a good learner. We have very few negative behaviours, just a few such as forgotten books / calculators and so on that we agreed will really not help learning.

Having used our system this year I would say it is essential that all understand when and how each behaviour point will be awarded. I have simplified our system slightly which I believe will help ensure consistency; in our enthusiasm I think we created a few too many points – some of which are hard to measure!

Thinking ahead to summer examinations I have created a Revision point but to earn that they have to answer some questions on their chosen topic to provide some evidence! In fact I want them to be generally proactive in letting me know what they are doing to help their own learning.

We have been using ClassDojo as you will see in my earlier poststhis works really well but I have found that a real strength of ClassCharts is that each student can log in to their own account and see their complete record (currently ClassDojo allows students to view just the current week and whilst it is possible for me to print a complete report for them I have decided I want them to have their own complete online record).

My own primary reason for using Class Charts is to record learning behaviours – I may well experiment with the seating plan aspect later.

To get started create a free account (note that upgrades refers to SIMS integration, all the functionality you need for recording behaviours and creating seating plans is completely free). You can then create classes and customise the learning behaviours to suit your needs.

In case it’s useful I made a note of some instructions here and there is plenty of help available on the website.

The following document provides a summary from Class Charts: class charts summary

Colourful Mathematics

DijkstraMy Year 12 students have just completed a Decision Mathematics mock examination. Preparing solutions to questions causing the most problems made me realise how often I use colour and highlighting in my explanations where I think this helps clarity. The following slideshow demonstrates the solution to a question on Dijkstra’s algorithm for finding shortest paths in network. I have changed colour once a new vertex has been chosen.

In case the Powerpoint is useful I have uploaded it here also: Dijkstra’s Algorithm – Colleen Young

See also Colour in Mathematics a presentation with examples showing how colour can help to make explanations clearer. I have many examples I have used for students of all ages, particularly in Algebra.

Diagnostic Questions – by Year 7

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I have used the excellent diagnostic questions site on several occasions and last week set Year 7 the task of writing some diagnostic questions on two topics we have been studying recently – Sequences and Co-ordinates. The questions in the above slideshow were all written by Year 7 students and are typical of their questions.

Not only did they have to write the questions but indicate the correct answer and explain the reasoning behind the multiple choice answers they had given. This proved an excellent homework in that students showed that they really understood the topics and the possible misconceptions that can arise. Some students commented that they had included particular answers because they were typical of the mistakes they or their friends made. I believe that thinking about possible wrong answers has given them a deeper understanding.

I would certainly do this again and have added the idea to the homework ideas page.