After winning the Teaching Initiative Award at the British International School Awards 2018, we are delighted to be shortlisted again in the expanded version now known as the International School Awards. Once again, this is in the Teaching Initiative category in Maths. The award ceremony is taking place in late January in London when we will discover if we are winners again. Below is a summary of the shortlisted project.
Educational research has shown that organising students by ability (setting) in Maths in Senior Schools over a year favours those in so-called ‘top’ sets and disadvantages those in so-called ‘bottom sets’. The overall net outcome of setting for students’ learning has been shown to be negligible. Our teaching initiative offers an effective alternative to this model by adapting dynamically to student ability through an academic year. To achieve this we structured our Years 7-8 programme to group students before each Mathematics unit. This provided class structures that were regularly and formally subject to change, based on ability in future topics rather than performance in previous.
Students took a multiple-choice diagnostic assessment before each unit of study. This provided a measure of current knowledge allowing us to group students in preparation of what will be learnt. Rather than being labelled by one general measure at the start of the year, students were reorganised in classes dynamically because ability across diverse topics in Mathematics can and does vary.
Teachers changed teaching groups at each unit which balanced our students’ experience as well as ensuring teachers experienced teaching the range of ability across a year group. The positive aspects of setting were retained while the negative elements were mitigated: the long-term stigma of the ‘bottom set’ was removed; stretch was retained for more gifted students; students received a balanced exposure to teachers and teaching quality improved through the collaboration necessary in such a fluid system.