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Is our Maths and English delivery on target?

Is our maths and English delivery on target?

It goes without saying that throughout the delivery of apprenticeships, we need to make sure our apprentices are on target with their maths and English. But how do we create meaningful targets with our maths and English students that inform and energise their learning? Or, in practice, does target setting become a perfunctory process that takes time away from teaching?

We all know that targets need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound), while also being student-led and user-friendly, but it may be useful to clarify and remind ourselves of a few important points:

  1. Targets and target grades are not the same thing. Although students are always keen to know their target grades, this can serve as a limiting factor*.
  2. Students appreciate targets. According to sector research*, 82% of our students think they should be set targets.
  3. Effective targets are short-term and with a specific focus.
  4. Targets must be based on learning goals, not performance goals. In other words, they need to encourage students to move out of their comfort zone and focus on things they’ve found hard.
  5. We must set targets that reflect a growth mindset. Students need to embrace failure as a means to progress.

The most important element of setting effective targets is getting buy-in from students. The analogy I use with students is to get them to imagine they’re organising a party. They’ve bought food and decorations but haven’t yet bought drinks or invited people. Do they…

  1. Start preparing the food and blow up the balloons?
  2. Send out invites and buy the drinks?

In other words, they need to put energy into the areas that need the most work, not the least. This sounds obvious but is actually a significant shift in focus for many and reflects a mastery approach.

It’s therefore crucial to create a supportive learning environment and a rapport with your students that will encourage them to risk being wrong. Maths and English delivery in FE is often associated with the greatest challenges in classroom management, but it is crucial to invest time in building relationships with your learners and making them feel that you are invested in them and enthusiastic about their learning journey with you.

Of course, there is the additional challenge of squeezing the curriculum into the time available, particularly in maths, and it seems counter-intuitive to invest some of this valuable time in anything that is not direct content delivery. However, we have all experienced the upturn in outputs when students are engaged and beginning to take responsibility for their learning, so it is a time investment truly worth making.

Once students have set their targets, they must be supported to revisit them regularly and measure their progress. More time is needed here – provide verbal feedback in class / online that they can question if needed and apply going forward. Don’t be seduced by independent online tasks to address these targets – they can supplement what you deliver but never replace it.

This blog is written by SDN Senior Associate Sam Woodland. 

Sam is a successful manager of curriculum teams working collaboratively to deliver topical and engaging content rated Ofsted outstanding, and a highly experienced maths and English manager, now providing training and consultancy services and interim support to education providers.

Target setting is part of the focus in our upcoming workshop on learner engagement – Engaging a reluctant maths and English cohort – led by maths and English specialist, Sam Woodland. Sam calls it the New York, New York theory – if we can make it there, we’ll make it anywhere!

This workshop will focus on the initial weeks of delivery, applying good practice to all the key elements of course introduction and delivery to engage learners. There will be plenty of chance to share experiences (good and bad), and delegates will leave with a resource pack that can be adapted and rolled out with your next cohort.

    Click here for more information and to book your place.

    * ‘Effective target-setting for FE maths learners and teachers’, Tameside College, CfEM action research report 2021-22 (ETF)

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