Chapter 3 Thematic highlight:
3.4 Mathematics Education
3.4.3 Teaching Performance .1 Major Strengths
Smooth operation within the mathematics panel with a growing concern for the professional development of teachers. In most of the schools, teaching manuals and guidelines are in place, covering assessment policy, homework policy and grading of assignments, providing a useful reference for teachers in managing the panel and teaching tasks. Smooth operation within the panel is maintained. The panel’s performance is generally monitored through inspecting students’ assignments, scrutinizing the teaching plans and examination papers, and through lesson observations by the panel chair, a practice more readily found in secondary than in primary schools. In secondary schools, Deputy Panel Chair and Form-coordinators are commonly appointed in a similar manner as teachers are designated for coordination on a level basis in the primary school setting to assist the panel chair. In respect of professional development and collaboration, most schools adopt peer lesson observation while a number of primary schools take a step forward by actively organizing intra and inter schools sharing sessions, which contribute to the capacity enhancement of the teachers. Some classroom pedagogical initiatives are being administered in individual schools along with collaborative lesson planning and peer lesson observation as measures that promote reflection on the effectiveness of the teaching plans and improvement of pedagogical designs. Some primary schools engage themselves in school-based curriculum development and in collaboration with associated organizations in taking forward curriculum initiatives and action researches like Developing Thinking Skills Through Mathematics Curriculum, and Learning Outcome Framework etc., with a view to promoting
L&T effectiveness. While in secondary schools, most of them are able to apportion appropriate curriculum time in the light of the curriculum development trend of Mathematics.
Individual secondary schools are trying out with a Five-minute Presentation Plan which aims at cultivating students’ learning interest and nurturing their learning ability through encouraging the students to present what they have learnt from reading extra-curricular mathematical books, and to share their reading experiences.
Class teaching with clear objectives and delivery, and hearty application to lesson preparation. In primary schools, teachers perform relatively better in the dimension of Data Handling. With good professional knowledge, secondary school teachers show better performance in the dimension of Measure, Shape & Space. As a whole, teachers prepare the lesson seriously with clear foci; deliver the lesson smoothly in a clear and well-structured manner while maintaining a harmonious relationship with the students. Class discipline is effectively maintained with a pleasurable learning atmosphere. In line with the spirit of curriculum reform, quite a number of primary school teachers employ collaborative learning to foster interactive peer learning and collaboration among the students which in turn activate their studies with more self-initiative and interest. Also, some secondary school teachers are designing learning activities adopting an enquiry approach, coupled with structured questioning and the effective use of IT, to spark off students’ thinking and facilitate their knowledge construction. They make use of appropriate teaching strategies like adjusting and breaking down the subject matters, providing graded questions and suitable class activities and assignments to cater for learner diversity.
Conscientious marking of student assignments; examination papers of good quality. On the whole, the quantity and frequency of student assignments of most schools are appropriate and are conscientiously marked, with students’ mistakes clearly pinpointed, and their corrections duly followed up. Some teachers manage to provide specific and encouraging feedback for their students, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses for improvement.
The frequency of tests and examinations is appropriate and schools scrutinize the test and examination papers as a kind of quality assurance mechanism. The examination papers are in general of good quality, with adequate coverage, clear charts and diagrams, justified mark allocation together with detailed making scheme for teachers’ reference. Of the schools inspected, a minority of them adopt open questions to assess the generic skills of the students.
188.8.131.52 Areas for Improvement
Shortfalls in Self-evaluation for Self-improvement. In most cases, subject panel’s annual programme plan does not tie in closely with the school’s major concerns, nor elaborate with suitable evaluation methods against specific success criteria for timely and in-depth evaluation of its effectiveness. Further, data pertaining to self-evaluation are not adequately made use of for reflection on L&T effectiveness, hampering timely follow-up and improvement measures in respect of curriculum and pedagogical planning. Teachers’ understanding of self-evaluation and hence their mastery of the associated techniques need to be strengthened.
Skills and Catering for Learner Diversity. Primary schools are mostly tempted to adopt the programme plan provided by textbook suppliers, which focuses more on students’
computational skills instead of generic ones like enquiry or problem solving skills. Issues of curriculum adaptation in the light of students’ interest and ability are relatively seldom addressed. As for secondary schools, curriculum adaptation is mostly not properly undertaken in the light of learner diversity. Individual secondary schools undertake curriculum adaptation without adequate reference to and thorough understanding of the curriculum guidelines. As a result, curriculum continuity across the levels and its completeness at different learning stages are not properly attended to.
Shortfalls in Planning and Supporting the Development of the Key Tasks of Curriculum Reform. Schools in general have yet established specific strategy to incorporate IT elements in the mathematics curriculum for promoting students’ interactive learning through IT.
Teachers often employ presentation software literally for displaying teaching materials. The ultimate aim of promoting interactive learning is hardly achieved. Regarding Project Learning, most schools tend to rely on data collection and data displaying as the main theme of Project Learning. The idea of using Project Learning for knowledge building, for developing students’ self-learning, and other generic skills, like enquiry and problem-solving skills, is not fully capitalized on. As for Reading to Learn, most secondary schools have launched reading schemes at junior secondary level along with hosting sharing sessions on good mathematical books and book exhibitions, and assigning reading time slot during mathematics lesson, yet there are scarcely any follow-up arrangements designed to help extend and substantiate their reading interest in mathematics. Most primary schools have yet formulated reading policy to encourage students reading mathematical books or magazines. In fact, most of the books provided by primary schools tend to associate with mathematics competition and are not conducive to widening students’ reading interest. In respect of Moral and Civic Education, schools have yet come up with any specific and substantive planning for fostering Moral and Civic Education through the mathematics curriculum and teaching programme.
Shortfalls in teaching effectiveness. Class teaching is often conducted with a teacher-centred approach, relying heavily on direct exposition by the teacher. Interactive learning opportunities are in general insufficient. Teachers’ questioning serves merely the purpose of ascertaining students’ progress. They have yet applied graded questioning as feedback to follow up students’ response and to guide them in their enquiry process, to enlighten their thinking and to develop their problem-solving skills. In catering for learner diversity, teachers have yet designed graded activities, like peer interactive learning activity for instance, according to the ability of the students; they need to adjust their teaching pace and break down the subject matters in the said context. Also, primary school teachers’
performance in teaching the dimensions of Numbers, and Shape & Space is relatively weaker while their secondary school counterparts perform less satisfactorily in the dimension of Data Handling.
Assessment Methods Lack variety; Assessment Information not Fully Utilized. Schools tend to be over-reliant on pen-and-paper mode of assessment, leaving behind other assessment
methods like class observation, enquiry activity, and project work not fully deployed to monitor students’ learning progress. Also, the kind of assignment given is more of a computational nature mainly for reinforcing students’ subject knowledge, but for assessing students’ mastery of the mathematical concept and thinking capacity. Further, most schools have yet made full use of the assessment information through critical analysis to unveil students’ strengths and weaknesses for follow-up measures in anticipation of enhanced L&T effectiveness.