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In contrast, the attainment gains at the school using individualised learning were associated with increasing enthusiasm and independence. The mixed picture of outcomes and their complex interconnections suggest that evaluations of implementa- tion resting on attainment-based outcomes are problematic in terms of longer-term aims of increasing the proportions of students choosing to study mathematics and developing the skills of independent learning.

Introduction The field of policy evaluation, set within the broader area of school improvement and effectiveness studies, has brought into focus a range of characteristics and indicators that can be used to evaluate the comparative effectiveness of policy implementation in different schools Sammons et al. Email: hamsa. Venkat and M. In this article, we present data from a longitudinal, comparative study tracing the implementation of an English national policy, the mathematics strand of the Key Stage 3 KS3 Strategy in two secondary schools—Evenscroft and Bradstone all names from the study, of schools and people, are pseudonyms.

The research design within this study used a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, set within an interpretative framework. As such, it aimed to bridge some of the oppositions identified above between the school improvement and school effectiveness camps.

We begin the article with a brief description of the aims of the study, and detail the research design, our data sources and the theoretical frameworks that aided our analyses. Aspects of the two school contexts are then detailed, including the contrasts in their pre-existing organisation of mathematics teaching and learning which formed the basis of the comparative design. These contrasts were associated with the different resources in use and differing local priorities for change. The differing resources and priorities figured within two contrasting illustrations of policy implementation, also briefly outlined.

Aims of the study Our study traced the process of policy implementation in the two schools. The policy emphasised methods of teaching and prescribed classroom practices; therefore our primary focus was on the ways in which the policy would impact upon mathematics classroom practices in these two schools. Within this, we tracked across KS3 Years 7, 8 and 9, students aged 11—14 the experiences of the mathematics teachers in the two departments, and also the experiences of the cohorts of students who entered KS3 in when the policy was formally introduced in these schools.

Research design A longitudinal, comparative case-study design was used within this study, with the cases selected, as stated above, on the basis of contrasts in their pre-existing practices in relation to mathematics teaching and learning. These sources are summarised in Table 1. Theoretical frameworks Our focus on institutionally-based classroom practice led to our use of a sociocultural theory, given the extensive range of studies within this frame that have theorised practices in particular cultural settings e. Boaler, a.

Brown Table 1.

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Activity theory takes on board the Vygotskian notion that all intentional action is goal-directed and artefact-mediated, with artefacts forming a key element of particular sociocultural legacies. Within this frame, the mediating artefacts organisational forms, norms and resources and goals, at policy and departmental levels, were given explicit consideration, thus addressing one of the criticisms commonly levelled at school effectiveness research.

We move on now to detail key aspects of the mathematics strand policy. The mathematics strand The mathematics strand was one of the five initial strands of the KS3 Strategy, a national policy launched in English secondary schools in The English and mathematics strands were introduced in , science followed in spring , and the information and communication technology ICT and foundation subjects strands began in September Further strands have since been added.

Department for Education and Employment, , p. The two focal schools and our research design were selected with these shifts in mind. The two schools The two schools chosen, Evenscroft and Bradstone, were located within one local education authority, and over the course of the four-year study, teachers in their mathematics departments worked with the same consultants and attended the same training and development meetings. Both schools initially encountered the mathematics strand through their participation in one of the 15 KS3 Numeracy pilot projects that were run across England, begun in alongside the launch of the NNS, and aiming to look at ways of building on the NNS in KS3.

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The agenda of the focal pilot project was aligned with the practices and organisational models advocated within the mathematics strand, and we have therefore referred to policy implementation in relation to this latter policy. A summary of key areas of difference in pupil background indicators within the focal cohorts in each school is given in Table 2. Two key areas of difference between the cohorts are detailed here. Firstly, Evenscroft had a much more even gender balance than Bradstone, where nearly two- thirds of the cohort was made up of boys.

Secondly, Bradstone had a rather lower proportion of students from ethnic minority groups, and within this proportion, black students formed the largest subgroup, whereas in Evenscroft, South Asian students formed the predominant group. There were also differences between the schools in respect of their ethos, reflected in judgements made by the Office for Standards in Education Ofsted , the inspectorial body, in their reports.

Mathematics classroom practices formed the central area of contrast between the two schools. Mathematics lessons usually followed a teacher-led format involving an initial teacher exposition followed by students working individually from similar textbook exercises. Students within any class worked on a range of topics at a range of levels at any one time.


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On completing these tasks, the teacher would ensure that this work was satisfactory before allowing the student to proceed onto short tests relating to that set of tasks, which would then be marked by the teacher. Brown emphatically not the dominant form of practice, therefore, at KS3, although the department did use whole-class teaching and setting in Years 10 and The focal cohort worked with the SMILE scheme in Years 7 and 8 as described above, but moved to a setted arrangement at the start of Year 9, because the department felt that this would aid their preparation for the KS3 national tests.

These summaries briefly set the scene in the two departments within which policy implementation occurred, initially through the trialling of the resources and practices advocated within the policy documents and training sessions in the first year of the Numeracy pilot in , and in the formal incorporation of policy which began in the following year.

There were overlaps in terms of her largely directive style and audit-based approaches to managing change Power, and the more technical and rational orientations to managing change identified within the NNS policy texts Brown et al. In essence, there were some common goals for change and similarities in terms of models of practice between the policy and practice at Evenscroft.

Seventeen of the 21 lessons we observed during the first year of formal implementation with the focal cohort in Year 7 had three clearly demarcated parts—a starter activity, often involving mental arithmetic recall-based games, the main part of the lesson which continued to be from their unchanged scheme of work from the same textbook scheme although this was often broken up into shorter sections of individual working and whole-class marking , and a final section which sometimes consisted of a repeat run of the initial game, and in other instances involved going through problems or setting and explaining homework.

The central part of the lesson remained teacher-led with the teacher modelling problems on the board, often using student questioning to help explain the procedure, with students then working through a relatively short number of examples of the same type.

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It attempts to tell us what to teach, how to teach, when to teach it. Some of those things will have benefits, but some of them are just far too restrictive. Mixed- ability grouping was retained. This change meant that whilst students within particular classes continued to work at a range of levels, they were now all working through the same sets of topics. Brown movement around the room. This structure brought whole-class teaching within reach, but Diana did not direct teachers to adopt whole-class teaching, and in our observations across the department, individualised working continued to be used within the main part of the lesson in Years 7 and 8.

Teachers initially found the shift to modularisation difficult as they individually worked out new routines for monitoring and recording progress, but within two terms all of them spoke positively about the impact on their classrooms, reporting less unnecessary movement and more work being completed by students. A booklet of starter activities was compiled and given to teachers, and most lessons which we observed 20 out of 24 in Year 7 did begin with a whole-class starter activity. These topics came from a variety of curricular areas, rather than the strongly arithmetical focus noted in Evenscroft.

Final plenary activities were only seen rarely in 4 out of 24 lessons observed in Year 7.


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