It has been a long first half term of the academic year for my school and I am sure I am not the only one who was ready for a break after a typically busy start to the year. Whilst I am currently enjoying recharging my batteries it is also a nice opportunity to reflect on the changes we have made in the last couple of months – something we don’t often get the chance to do when in the thick of it. At the start of the academic year we started to use learning journeys with all of our Key Stage 3 classes in line with our transition to mixed attainment classes. In addition I have been using them with Key Stage 4 classes as these are something I have been trying for the last year or so since I came across them at the first mixed attainment maths conference organised by Helen Hindle and feedback from my students has been largely positive, with most seeing value in seeing how they have made progress over time (check out http://www.growthmindsetmaths.com for more information and resources).

We chose to introduce learning journeys for a number of reasons, but the main one is because we want students to have a clear picture of their starting point and what where they could potentially progress to. Helen Hindle likes to structure learning journeys with outcomes written in different columns depending on difficulty. The inclusion of an arrow to show the direction of the journey also represents continual progress which isn’t limited to the outcomes. In the example below the students aren’t necessarily limited to the outcomes shown, but they could progress onto more difficult skills not represented in the learning journey e.g. circle theorems.

The first lesson of each unit is spent looking at the learning journey and answering ‘Super 9’ questions relating to the outcomes in order to find their starting point. For Key Stage 4 classes I use GCSE questions. During this lesson my students will ask for help and I reply that I am not teaching them…yet, as I would end up teaching umpteen different skills throughout the lesson and the students would have a false idea of their starting points. At the end of the lesson I share the answers and students use what they have done to highlight any of the outcomes they are totally confident they can already achieve. At this point I stress that it is important to be honest and even if no outcomes are highlighted at this stage, that is fine, in fact those students could make the most progress.

Learning journeys give me some useful information about the students and it is important as the teacher that I read through them to inform my planning. Over the course of the subsequent lessons the students regularly reflect on their new learning and highlight outcomes as they go along. Whilst students are getting used to the process they may need some guidance but generally, as they become more effective in reflecting on their learning they develop consistency.

At the end of the unit students have the opportunity to revisit the ‘Super 9’ questions posed at the start, in the form of an assessment. At the time of writing we have completed one unit and the students have completed the assessment. We tailored a mark scheme to promote thorough working out so that we recognise the efforts of students at each stage of the question. We did not give time restrictions for completion as we want students to take their time to get questions right, without the pressure of a deadline. Students then mark their own answers and we record their score as a percentage. On reflection, I have decided that in future I will not ask students to find their score as it does not add value to the assessment. Instead, I will ask students to write a detailed reflection of their work in the form of a ‘Dear Sir’, relating to the outcomes of their learning journey (see previous blog post on this – I will be adding to this soon). The most integral part of this process will be their areas for improvement – I will train my students to reflect on their work and identify their next steps. I can then assign them a homework task using the wonderful Hegarty Maths. I feel it is important that they reflect on the outcomes they have and haven’t highlighted in their learning journey. I want this to be a working document which they can edit; I anticipate that students will make mistakes when highlighting outcomes and make errors in judgement.

Please find below some examples of learning journeys I have used this year, for both Key Stage 3 and 4 classes, including the related questions. There is also loads more information available at www.growthmindsetmaths.com

Key Stage 3 Learning Journey – Factors and Multiples

Key Stage 3 Learning Journey – Fractions

Key Stage 4 Learning Journey – Percentages

Key Stage 4 Learning Journey – Pythagoras’ Theorem and Trigonometry

GCSE Questions Pythagoras’ Theorem and Trigonometry

Key Stage 4 Learning Journey – Angles