I had no doubts the Sheringham SSIF project would succeed when I signed up in 2017. But only when Robert Brewster presented me with the final analysis did I realise just how astounding that success really was.
In the excitement of my current forays into the realm of Knowledge Management, Participatory Budgeting and Character Education, this is a timely reminder to everyone – not least myself – that Cooperative Learning is fundamentally one of the most powerful teaching tools available.
Looking at the Sheringham SSIF bid to close gender gaps in maths in KS2, the results speak for themselves: For Year 5/6, the gap between boys and girls in ‘attempted answers’ fell from -2.4% in Autumn 2017 to -0.1% in Spring 2019. For ‘correctly answered’, the numbers are -5.2% and minus -1.5, respectively.
Especially for attendees at the upcoming Slow-Burn Leadership conference (see this post on Sir Carter’s speech), it is important to understand where Cooperative Learning sits in context of that success, and where it doesn’t. I often reiterate the confusing claim that Cooperative Learning has no purpose on its own. It is not “group work” or “another tool to get children talking” – it is a single, surgical delivery system for virtually any combination of subject content and (hold on to your hat) other teaching strategies, that doesn’t choke the individual teacher.
100% staff buy-inCarla Steadman, HT, The Bawburgh School
One ring to rule them all
Accordingly, the focus of my bespoke Cooperative Learning train-the-trainers programme was not so much “Cooperative Learning” as it was fusing a wide range of input from various other CPD providers into one coherent approach – sufficiently flexible to accommodate roughly 30 widely disparate schools, with 50-plus Project Leads and 15 Specialist Leaders of Education and more than a thousand children.
MAT and Maths Hub leaders are invited to the upcoming conference “Slow Burn Leadership: A Quest For Coherence In East Anglian Education” where we will be answering questions about the Sheringham SSIF project and its legacy. Book here.
The content in Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns may vary endlessly: The SSIF specifically required seamless integration of Metacognition and Growth Mindset with a range of “maths specific” training input, covering National Curriculum guidelines, CPA, number sense, fluency, etc.
The “maths specific” element is important in light of the definition of knowledge in the new Ofsted framework, which could lead the unweary to misapprehend Cooperative Learning to be a pedagogy in opposition to knowledge. Again, to reiterate, it is a delivery system for knowledge. (Just a tad more cost-effective than most others, if you trust the EEF Toolkit).
My workshop at the VNET Summer Conference will elucidate on this. Book now.
As for Metacognition and Growth Mindset, they can be nebulous concepts. With Cooperative Learning, your appropriately selected growth/MC statements are modelled within the direct instruction that precedes the activity. This is where I worry Tom Sherrington’s statement “in terms of securing actual learning goals, generic messaging is largely a waste of time” is a bit too sweeping. I’d suggest it depends on how tightly these generic messages are linked to specific application, day in and day out. “I tried XYZ and that didn’t work, so now I will try ZYX, instead. Your turn, Michael” – “Thank you and well done you for not giving up, Imogen. As for me, I started with XZY and linked it to that lesson yesterday where… Your turn, Hamza.” Etc. Etc.
“…these stronger improvements for girls providing evidence of the success of the project in closing the gender gap between boys and girls in mathematics.”Analysis, Page 7.
A further challenge was that the Cooperative Learning training packages had to be tailored to their respective schools by project leads of different temperaments and educational persuasions, yet be consistent enough to be accurately assessed, shared and supported by Project Leads, SLEs, myself – and obviously the DfE, who had entrusted Sheringham with £450,000.
And, as a Brit would say, “It all went really rather well.” Now, imagine you are a MAT looking to close achievement gaps…
DfE dropped the ball. Would you like to play?
The untimely dismantling of the SSIF programme means successful and scalable programmes like ours, rearing to benefit children across the country, are left with no money to support roll-out – which was precisely the point of the £56 million invested in the initial three rounds of bids.
However, we look forward to working with organisations across the country, starting with White Rose Maths in September this year, to make sure this massive investment of public funds will benefit pupils beyond Norfolk. Other maths hubs (and alternative organisations, such as geographically distributed MATs) who would like to benefit from two years worth of free Research & Development in their quest for coherency should contact me directly.
More about the project here. “Mum wasn’t good at maths either, love…” Girls, Maths & Cooperative Learning in the Norfolk SSIF bid
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Note: The test data in the analysis is exactly that. There are no control groups, accounting for variables or other measures that one would expect from a dedicated research project.