- Published: 15/02/2023
As a maths department, you probably meet regularly, talk often about your planning, and chat over coffee about how lessons have gone. But are you really collaborating? Here we give a few suggestions of what collaboration might involve, and point you towards some features and podcasts which explore how schools have made collaboration work for them in different settings. We also highlight some resources which will enhance your department’s collaborative planning, whatever form it takes.
Firstly, let’s dispel some myths about collaborative planning. It certainly doesn’t mean the topics of a scheme of work being divided up, each teacher given some lessons to plan, everyone dispersing to various corners of the department, then hundreds of lessons being uploaded to a folder on the shared drive a few hours later. Instead, effective collaboration involves teachers thinking deeply about how students will approach, learn and retain the maths that they are being taught.
Often, really thinking about what you will teach involves having a go at it yourself. Whether it’s in a department meeting, co-planning time, or just over a cup of tea at the end of the day, try some of the questions you are going to give to your classes.
Instead of glancing over a topic that you have taught dozens of times, make sure you approach the maths as though you were a student, comparing and discussing your answers, and the thinking that you did to get to them. Sometimes, it’s useful to do the actual tasks you’re going to give your students (that you will therefore approach as an ‘expert’), but it’s also important to put yourself in the position of the learner occasionally, and do maths that perhaps is beyond your comfort zone!
Going through the process that your students will experience can help you agree some common approaches that you might take as a department, especially when it comes to addressing misconceptions. You don't all need to agree to teach the same things in the same way, but you might agree a particular representation that best models a certain concept, or a task that all students will experience. Sharing your understanding of how students deal with the maths they encounter helps you all create a more powerful sequence of lessons through a topic.
Collaboration can involve teachers of a particular year group coming together, or it might simply mean two colleagues with a shared non-contact period discussing an area of maths that they are teaching. It could also involve more experienced teachers working with those new to the profession, as well as including non-specialists, teaching assistants and learning mentors. These varied perspectives often give a unique view into how questions and problems might be tackled, and are just as useful as the expertise of a head of department or teacher with many years’ experience!
And don’t forget that collaboration is not just about what happens before you teach. It’s also about reflecting on and refining lessons after you’ve taught them. The non-statutory guidance for Teaching Mathematics at Key Stage 3 reminds us that ‘The final piece of the collaborative planning jigsaw is regular post-lesson discussion of how successful the lesson was in terms of students’ learning’. Try to make time for a conversation about what went well and how learning took place, so you can feed that new knowledge into future planning.
So, what does the NCETM offer that can support with your collaborative planning? We’ve picked out our top ten suggestions below. Why not try downloading some of the resources for use in a departmental meeting, or contacting your local Maths Hub to begin collaborating with other local schools? If you’re short of time, read a ten-minute feature to get ideas you can explore later with your colleagues and school leaders.
Resources – DOWNLOAD
- Departmental Workshops
These one-hour sessions are designed specifically for collaborative CPD in secondary maths departments. Each session contains a PDF of key points and suggested activities, and PowerPoint slides with handouts.
Our popular Checkpoints diagnostic activities have been downloaded over 15,000 times. With 15 decks now available and more to come, these are ideal materials for teachers to co-plan KS3 lessons that assess students’ prior learning from KS2.
- KS3 key ideas exemplified
If you’ve used the Mastery PD Materials and are looking for further professional development discussions, these 52 PowerPoints exemplify some of the key ideas from the materials. They include slides marked for use in the classroom with students, and slides focusing on the pedagogy, designed for discussions as a department or group.
Professional development – PARTICIPATE
- Years 5-8 Continuity Work Groups
Maths Hubs CPD projects have collaboration at the heart of them, and this project is no exception. It brings together teachers in both primary and secondary schools to focus on the transition between phases. Get in touch with your local Maths Hub to find out about taking part in 2023/24.
- Secondary Teaching for Mastery Development Work Groups
If you’re keen to become a Mastery Advocate and lead the collaboration in your department in order to introduce teaching for mastery, join a Development Work Group. You’ll work with colleagues from local schools, then take your collaborative approaches back to share in your own department.
Features – READ
- An effective model for collaborative planning in maths
Discover how teachers in one department used shared non-contact time to plan lessons that they all use. The approach has led to improved lesson quality, reduced planning time, and increased staff retention.
- Planning collaboratively and learning together as a department
In another school, teachers have a weekly one hour-meeting in which the whole department, including learning mentors, come together to create units of work. New and experienced members of the team find the approach extremely beneficial.
Podcast episodes – LISTEN
- What mastery has done for our school
In this episode, a secondary deputy head and maths teacher talks about seeing collaborative planning during a visit to Shanghai, and how it was adopted back in her London high school.
- The ECT and the mentor
Collaboration in a department can really help an Early Career Teacher to develop both their subject knowledge and pedagogy. Hear from an ECT and her mentor as they discuss how collaboration has made her first year of teaching ‘fantastic’!
Videos – WATCH
- Planning to teach secondary maths
These twelve videos, plus accompanying notes, are designed to offer advice and guidance to anyone teaching KS3 maths. They cover a range of topics, and would be especially helpful for a department that invites non-specialists, TAs or new teachers to take part in co-planning.