NCETM - Working collaboratively to enhance mathematics teaching

Module for mathematics specialists in post 16 education and training

Key Facts

If what you are looking for is not covered here, you may find it in the list of Frequently asked questions.

Institute for Learning

Professional body for the Learning and skills sector

The Institute for Learning (IfL) is the professional body for teachers, trainers, tutors and student teachers in the learning and skills sector. It was set up with the intention of raising the qualifications, skills and status of teaching practitioners across the sector.

The IfL governed by a council, over half of which is elected from its membership. Ten key bodies in or associated with the learning and skills sector are also represented on the council:

2007 Regulations

By 31 March 2008 all teachers in the learning and skills sector will have to register with IfL. There are a few exceptions to this:

Government support

On behalf of the government, the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) is committed to supporting members of the sector to achieve relevant qualifications and to gain access to ongoing relevant professional development. DIUS will, therefore, meet the full cost of membership. Every member of IfL will be entitled to 30 hours of professional development each year, to meet their own defined needs.

Online applications are free, but a fee of £25 will be charged for processing a paper application.

Institute for Learning (IfL)Source: Institute for Learning (IfL)

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Licensed Practitioner

The process of professionalisation of the Learning and Skills sector that started with Success for All will culminate in 2010 with the requirement for all teachers in the sector to have an appropriate level of qualification. Licensed Practitioner status is a way of recognising that a teacher has that level of qualification, is in good standing with the profession and has kept up their continuing professional development (CPD).

To be a Licensed Practitioner is not a legal requirement. However, the DIUS is promoting Licensed Practitioner status in the Learning and Skills sector and hopes that over the next few years it will gradually become the preferred way of demonstrating professional standing.

Two categories of Licensed Practitioner have been defined, corresponding to Full and Associate teaching roles. They are:

The license held by a licensed practitioner will be renewed annually and renewal will depend, amongst other things, on maintaining an adequate record of professional development.

Institute for Learning (IfL)Source: Institute for Learning (IfL)

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Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Participating in continuing professional development (CPD) is considered by the Institute for Learning to be an essential element of the professionalism of teachers in general and in the Learning and skills sector in particular.

Lifelong Learning UK define CPD as follows:

CPD, in relation to a teacher, means continuing professional development, which is any activity undertaken for the purposes of updating knowledge of the subject taught and developing teaching skills

This is a very open definition and enables teachers to recognise a very wide range of activities as contributing to their professional development: it is far more than simply attending courses. The IfL focuses on three key aspect of CPD:

Institute for Learning (IfL)Source: Institute for Learning (IfL)

Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK)Source: Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK)

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Teaching and Learning Programme

The TLP is designed to transform teaching, training and learning in selected subjects for post-16 learners. Mathematics was part of the programme at an early stage and Learning Mathematics in Context was added to the programme at a later stage.

The programme brings together a number of elements to support the intended transformation of teaching, training and learning, including:

Quality Improvement Agency (QIA)Source: Quality Improvement Agency (QIA)

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Subject coaching networks

Subject coaching networks - or just 'subject networks' - are open to all teachers in the learning and skills sector that teach one of the subjects in the TLP, including mathematics.

They are free one-day activities held in each region and led by skilled practitioners and facilitators. In mathematics the subject coaching networks are run by NCETM They are opportunities to explore new teaching resources, practise new approaches and network with like-minded colleagues.

Quality Improvement Agency (QIA)Source: QIA Subject Coaching Networks

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Subject learning coaches

Coaching is a form of motivational discourse. It is a structured process of questioning and reflection that enables the person being coached to explore their particular issues and work towards a solution for themselves. The coach is not required to have expertise in the area of the person being coached: rather, their expertise lies in the coaching process itself. The coaching relationship depends on mutual trust and parity of esteem.

Subject learning coaches are teachers or trainers who have received training in coaching in general and with specific reference to their subject area. They have a special set of skills to bring to their organisations. Subject learning coaches can be used in a variety of ways: as coaches, as agents of change and as champions of innovative approaches to professional development. This can be within their subject area or more widely in their establishments.

Quality Improvement Agency (QIA)Source: QIA Subject Learning Coaches

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Excellence Gateway

This site, maintained by QIA is designed to act as a portal for teachers and managers in the learning and skills sector to a range of materials and improvement services. Teachers can register as members of the site and can then make use of a variety of online services.

There are links to mathematics resources on the site but teachers of mathematics are catered for separately though the NCETM portal. All resources available through the Excellence Gateway, such as "Improving Learning in Mathematics" can also be found from the NCETM portal.

Nevertheless, it is worth registering as a member of the Excellence Gateway as a way of keeping in touch with more general developments in the sector

QIA Excellence GatewaySource: QIA Excellence Gateway

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The Standards Unit's "Improving Learning in Mathematics"

Improving Learning in Mathematics is a multimedia resource developed originally by the former Standards Unit for teachers, trainers and managers. It builds on existing successful practice and explores approaches that encourage a more active way of learning through the use of group work, discussion and open questioning. Learners are encouraged to engage with mathematical activity, to become more independent and reflective about their mathematics, to learn to think mathematically rather than simply learning rules, and - most importantly - to enjoy using mathematics.

The resource includes a significant number of examples of lesson plans and activities at Levels 2 and 3 (GCSE/A Level). It also includes video footage of learners and teachers working on those activities and encourages and supports discussion and reflection on good practice.

It can be downloaded in electronic form from the QIA's Excellence Gateway. It is also possible to order a boxed set of the materials from NCETM through their web portal.

QIA Excellence GatewaySource: National Centre of Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM)

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Learning Mathematics in Context

The QIA has announced that Learning Mathematics in Context is one of the subjects in the 2007/08 round of the TLP.

A good deal of work has been done in the area of contextualised mathematics, or 'realistic mathematics', as it is better known, most notably by the Freudenthal Institute in the Netherlands. Building on the Freudenthal Institute's work, Manchester Metropolitan University's Centre for Mathematics Education was given a three-year grant by the Gatsby Foundation to expand its Developing Mathematics through Contexts programme. This is beginning to generate some interesting outcomes.

Considerable research is being done in this area because it is not at all clear how to teach mathematics in context most effectively. There are some excellent examples of how it can work well, such as with simultaneous equations (see, for example, Susan Darby's student article). There are also plenty of examples of how it can go badly wrong. The TLP will bring together the best examples of good practice and make them available in a similar way to Improving Learning in Mathematics.

QIA Excellence GatewaySource: Quality Improvement Agency (QIA)

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Thinking Through Mathematics

Malcolm Swan, the author of "Improving Learning in Mathematics: challenges and strategies", has been working with Maths4Life on a project called Thinking Through Mathematics: strategies for teaching and learning, to develop further activities up to Level 1.

The Standards Unit Mathematics Project team who produced ‘Improving Learning in Mathematics’ (approaches, resources and professional development sessions for teaching and learning from GCSE to A level) worked on the Maths4Life programme to produce ‘Thinking Through Mathematics’.
Other booklets on numeracy topics, research and policy reports relating to Maths4Life are available for download from the NCETM and hard copies can be ordered from the NRDC.

The Thinking Through Mathematics ring-binder contains approaches, resources and professional development sessions to support teaching and learning around Entry Level and Level 1.

The Thinking Through Mathematics ring-binder can be ordered via the NCETM web portal.

NCETM page: Thinking Through Mathematics - the resourceSource: NCETM page: Thinking Through Mathematics - the resource

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Two-Tier GCSE Mathematics

From September 2006 Mathematics GCSE was harmonised with other tiered GCSE subjects to offer just two tiers:

This means that anyone taking GCSE Mathematics can potentially achieve a grade C. No changes were made to the National Curriculum for Mathematics but schools have needed to make changes to their schemes of work and setting practices.

The key tension in schools for Mathematics GCSE is between inclusion and stretch. There is an understandable desire to include as many pupils as possible in an assessment scheme that enables them potentially to achieve the 'iconic' grade C. There is also the need to stretch the more able.

QIA pdf

Teachers resource.
Source: QCA leaflet about Two-Tier GCSE Mathematics


QCA leaflet about Two-Tier GCSE MathematicsSource: QCA Two-Tier GCSE Mathematics

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Functional Mathematics

Functional Mathematics is one of three functional skills that have been introduced as part of the new 14-19 Dipliomas to ensure that learners have an appropriate functional level of skill in each of English, mathematics and ICT. The functional skills will alse be offered as free-standing qualifications at Entry level, Level 1 and Level 2. As qualifications they have the same weight and funding as Key Skills and are expected to replace them in due course.

The QCA launched a three-year pilot of functional skills starting in September 2007.

QCA Functional SkillsSource: QCA Functional Skills

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Mathematics Matters

In 1982 the Cockcroft report, Mathematics Counts, was published. It called for a re-evaluation of what constitutes effective teaching and learning of mathematics. NCETM is again asking the question 'What constitutes effective teaching of mathematics?' NCETM has a brief to provide coordination and leadership on all aspects of professional development for teachers of mathematics, and has a clear responsibility for stimulating and undertaking the debate for this generation. Mathematics Matters is a series of events and opportunities nationwide to engage in this debate. The outcomes will inform and influence the work of NCETM and the wider community of mathematics educators. This, in turn sets the agenda for the continuing professional development of teachers that will be promoted and supported by the NCETM.

NCETM Mathematics MattersSource: NCETM Mathematics Matters

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The National Centre of Excellence for the Teaching of Mathematics has a brief to provide coordination and leadership on all aspects of professional development for teachers of mathematics. In order to do this, the centre is developing a number of ways of supporting teachers of mathematics. It has developed as a 'centreless' organisation, choosing to make its presence felt through a number of community-oriented approaches:

Content on the NCETM Portal is growing daily and the range of professional development opportunities this creates is huge. A little time spent exploring the Portal should reap significant rewards!

NCETM home pageSource: NCETM home page

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References and further reading about active teaching and learning approaches

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