In December 2008, Torfaen LEA was announced as a winner of RM's National Educational Research Competition. The competition invited Local Authorities to submit research proposals to develop innovative approaches to support teaching and learning in maths using ICT. Two schools - Pontnewyndd and Hollybush Primaries - will be leading the implementation of the research. Congratulating everyone involved in Torfaen's entry, Terry Sweeney, RM's CEO said:
"Congratulations to Torfaen LEA on winning RM and i-nfer's primary maths and assessment competition. It's great to sponsor Torfaen's research, which looks to investigate the use of ICT to develop the teaching, planning, and assessment of maths in primary schools."
Maths and Assessment in Torfaen - the Current Picture
With the recent abolition of SATs testing in Wales, long term assessment in Torfaen's primary schools is based mostly on teacher assessments. This draws on a rich and varied range of approaches to maths teaching across the Foundation Stage (ages 4 to 7) and Key Stage two. As well as specific maths lessons on topics such as number, problem solving, and shape, space and measure, maths is also brought into cross-curricular and theme-based learning opportunities. For example in Pontnewynydd primary School a project is being run with the support of a local fish farm to hatch salmon eggs. This involves pupils taking turns in measuring water temperature and quality and its impact on the early life-cycle of the fish. It's helping to put data logging, charting and graphing into an exciting, environmentally focused context for learners.
To underpin this and many other innovative approaches to maths, high quality diagnostic assessment for learning is essential. Torfaen is particularly keen on using such assessments to identify individuals and groups who would benefit from targeted interventions in specific areas of maths. Currently this is undertaken using a variety of observational approaches. At a more summative level, use is also made of Fisher Family Trust (FFT) data to inform planning and benchmarking. Although effective, this does bring with it an administrative burden in that assessment data and information is mainly paper-based and generated manually by teachers.
Future Vision for Assessment and Maths in Torfaen
Work is beginning to establish peer and self assessment in Torfaen. Training is beginning to support teachers in modelling key behaviours necessary for peer assessment, and approaches such as 'two-stars-and-a-wish' are being used in schools to support self-assessment and develop reflective learners. There is also an aspiration that summative, continuous data be available to support teacher assessments either for groups or indeed whole cohorts of children. The LEA also wishes to ensure that the generation of such summative data is enjoyable and motivating for pupils, and also provides diagnostic information for teachers. The research project is designed to help to support and inform this vision.
Torfaen's Research Project
The project makes a PC with the RM Maths learning system available in each school. The PCs will be available for targeted groups of pupils to use the RM Maths software. This is a system which provides tailored maths activities for pupils, and provides teachers with diagnostic reports on children's strengths and weaknesses in different areas of maths. Each school will also have access to site-wide licences of i-nfer Plan - a whole-school, on-screen assessment package. The system provides challenges to pupils, and based on the completion of these challenges provides formative and summative information on pupil attainment, and can be used to track pupil progress and to help to support and inform teacher assessments of the levels at which children are working.
Torfaen LEA plans to use the assessment data generated by i-nfer Plan to measure the impact RM Maths has had on pupils' attainment during the course of the project compared with expected levels of attainment. Qualitative feedback from pupils, teachers, and teaching teaching assistants will also be collected by the LEA, and feedback questionnaires on the products will also be administered.
Torfaen's standards team will use the data gathered through the project to assess the benefits and impact of the products on standards of attainment, pupil motivation, and teachers' administrative workload.
The project promises to yield some incredibly exciting approaches and findings, and we look forward to updating you on how it progresses over the coming year.