Improving maths results via teacher feedback to be focus of new major study

A major research project is to look at how teachers can use feedback to improve pupils’ understanding of maths.

The three-year study aims to build on an approach that has already been shown to raise student achievement in individual classes to see if its success can be replicated on a larger scale.

Around 120 schools will be recruited to take part in the research, where teachers will deliver a series of tailored lessons to Year 7 and 8 pupils in algebra and fractions.

The lessons have been specifically devised to help teachers pinpoint gaps in student knowledge and provide strategies to address them, according to Jeremy Hodgen, professor of mathematics education at the University of Nottingham.

“These lessons enable teachers to figure out some of the reasons why kids get things wrong and give them exercises that can help them overcome some of those differences,” Professor Hodgen said.

“It is not just about where the gaps are: it is what we do about those gaps.”

The lessons have been developed as part of the Increasing Competence and Confidence in Algebra and Multiplicative Structures (ICCAMS) project, and Professor Hodgen said the study aimed to show whether its success was down to the intervention itself or the individuals involved in delivering it.

It could also provide an insight into how teachers can make feedback effective, he added.

“The promise of formative assessment has not yet been realised, and one of the reasons for that is we have described it generically,” he said.

“We know about no hands up, about traffic lighting and about lolly sticks, but not about the questions that we ask and what we do with the answers we get.”

The trial is one of five new projects supported by the Education Endowment Foundation, involving 400 schools and costing £4.1 million.

A study led by the SSAT will look at using professional development to embed a whole-school approach to formative assessment, while other projects will examine the practical use of research evidence in the classroom, the benefits of parental engagement and working to improve understanding of numbers for key stage 2 children.

Kevan Collins, EEF chief executive, said the trials aimed to add to the body of evidence on how to improve educational achievement, particularly for the most disadvantaged pupils.

“We know that effective teaching and parental engagement have a positive impact on educational achievement, particularly for the most disadvantaged children. In our drive to raise standards, it’s so important that we find out the best methods to do this” he said.

Related stories: 

Train teachers in research or UK will fall behind, report warns - 16 May 2014

Where's the expertise? Funding body questions lack of skilled education researchers - 16 September 2013

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