CCT 1 Elements of Effective teaching

During my initial school observation at a comprehensive school in Warwickshire, I observed 9 different maths teachers teaching classes from all age groups (Years 7 to 11) and abilities (bottom-set Year 8 and 10 to top-set Year 10).  Of the many different techniques and styles used by the teachers to bring about learning, the following things were of particular note: anticipating problems, good use of exercises, ensuring prompt lesson start, seating plans, and the interactive use of ICT.

Anticipating problems

One teacher in particular demonstrated good awareness of potential problems and was ready to prevent them before they occurred.  The year 10 pupils were learning how to solve complex calculations yet some of them had failed to bring their calculators.  The teacher decided to lend spare calculators from the school office and despite clearly asking for precise numbers of people who did not have calculators, on her return it transpired that one pupil had not put his hand up when required.  Fortunately, she had anticipated this, and brought a spare; thus ensuring that the pupil’s learning was not jeopardised by being unable to take a full part in the lesson.

Had she not been prepared for the situation, then either the entire lesson would have been further delayed as another calculator was fetched, or the pupil would not have received the same experience in calculator use as the rest of the class.

As the bell went at the end of the lesson, she instructed the class to remain seated before they had a chance to do otherwise.  This anticipation allowed for all the pupils to hear their homework instructions, which might otherwise have been missed.

Good use of exercises

At some point in many of the lessons the pupils were given some exercises to do, either from a textbook, a worksheet or displayed on the projector.  During this time, I noticed two teachers in particular make an effort to walk around the class to check on the pupils’ work.  In doing this, they were able to address any misconceptions with individual pupils, and, when appropriate, re-explain specific parts of the lesson with the entire class.

By using this form of assessment, the teachers successfully allowed the pupils to gain practice at using their calculators and solving trigonometric problems, while also targeting their teaching where it was most required to help the pupils learn.

Ensuring prompt lesson start

The school schedules lengthy breaks between lessons to allow teachers to start their lessons on time with a full complement of pupils.  The system relies upon individual teachers enforcing the prompt arrival to allow the maximum time for learning to take place.  In one of the lessons, three pupils arrived late, and were held back after everyone else had left; and in all the other classes where lateness was an issue, the teacher took a firm line with the latecomers to remind them that it was unacceptable.

Lateness disrupts the lesson structure, and prevents full use being made of the lesson beginning; and a zero tolerance approach to this disruption limited the potential negative impact on pupils’ learning.

Seating plans

All the classes I observed were sat according to the respective teachers’ seating plans.  In some classes where their teaching is shared between two teachers, the same seating plan was used in all lessons.  This had many advantages.  The use of such plans to separate disruptive pupils is obviously one aspect worth considering, but the one which particularly struck me was that it allowed the teacher to use pupils’ first names, even though they had not yet been able to get to know their pupils by name.  This in turn allowed the teacher to direct their questioning to pupils who were not actively offering to answer, ensuring that no pupil was uninvolved in the lesson.  If the teacher had not thus ensured the involvement of all pupils, then some might have switched off and learned nothing, without this being realised by the teacher.

Interactive use of ICT

In one of the lessons I observed, some pupils were asked to use a wireless mouse to label the sides (opposite, adjacent, hypotenuse) of variously shaped triangles that were displayed on the projector.  A significant number and good mix of pupils were able to participate, allowing the teacher to check that the class was ready to move on to the next step, without taking too much time and keeping the attention of the pupils.  All the pupils asked were successful, which gave them confidence in their learning and allowed the teacher to target the rest of the lesson appropriately.