AAMT and AMSI Are Engaged

Long-time readers will recall that AAMT and AMSI and others teamed up for the memorable statement, Why Maths Must Change. Given the genesis of that statement and the events following its release, one might imagine that AMSI would have learned to choose their friends more wisely. Apparently not.

AAMT and AMSI have teamed up again, together with some group called Pivot. Last week, this team released a report, titled,

Boosting Student Engagement in Maths

The report, which is free to download after providing some (fake, if one wishes) personal information, is based upon surveying a bunch of schools. There’s an executive summary, recommendations for teachers, recommendations for school leaders and a bunch of survey data. We’ll keep it short and focus on the recommendations for teachers.

Teacher recommendation 1: Focus on relationships in the maths classroom.

Well, yeah. But what does this mean? They explain:

The more that teachers emphasised building relationships, ensuring students felt cared for and nurtured, and they were encouraged when struggling, the better they found teaching and learning in the classroom.

That is, if you’re really nice to the kids then the kids will conclude that you’re teaching them well.

Teacher recommendation 2: Explore and expand the repertoire of teaching strategies in the maths classroom to include more open-ended tasks, choice-based activities, and varied grouping structures for student collaboration.

Yeah, yeah, the open-ended task thing. But one has to admit, the recommendation makes a great slogan for a t-shirt. The explanation, however, requires something slightly larger than a shirt. A tent, maybe:

Relative to strategies that practicing computation, teachers in this study were less likely to engage students in pedagogies that focused on open-ended problem solving, such as the use of rich-learning tasks, which have become a more prominent recommendation in maths research, and which are more aligned with moving students from surface to deep learning. Providing more options within activities enhances the scope of differentiation and likelihood of meeting all learners within their zones of proximal development, in addition to empowering students to lead their learning and exercise greater agency. Finally, using collaborative learning, particularly leveraging flexible homogeneous grouping, is a well-established teaching and learning strategy that shows up consistently in the classrooms of high expectations teachers. It was noteworthy that 2 of the 3 lowest rated Pivot survey items related to making learning engaging and interesting to students. To that end, expanding the toolkit with strategies that the research supports which also promote engagement is a potential area to prioritise for maths teachers.

Teacher recommendation 3: When engaging in professional reflection and planning, consider and connect your efficacy, expectations, relational orientation, and openness to learning.

We’ll spare the reader the explanation. It only gets worse.

Teacher recommendation 4: Use student surveys as a strong source of feedback on teaching practice, including but not limited to understanding how well students are feeling supported and how well their needs are being met in the classroom.

See Recommendation 1.

Teacher recommendation 5: Be a collegial contributor.

This project apparently has “two very interesting findings” that “deserve another mention”. The second of these is that it’s helpful if a teacher’s colleagues are collegial.  And then,

The first [“interesting finding”] is that teacher resources and support was the first of a set of metaphorical dominoes that promoted several valuable outcomes, including higher levels of teacher self-efficacy and collective efficacy, higher expectations, better relationships, and better engagement with a range of teaching practices, leading to higher levels of student ratings of teacher quality.

That’s it for the teacher recommendations. True masochists, and only true masochists, can read the entire report. If anybody locates any maths in the thing, please let us know.

9 Replies to “AAMT and AMSI Are Engaged”

  1. In a maths curriculum workshop the other day, we were given the executive summary to flick through and discuss. I was annoyed by it, but I was very tired so I didn’t form too many coherent thoughts.

    One of the coherent ones related to Key Finding #2 (p.2):*
    “While most demographic characteristics showed little effect on teachers’ beliefs and practices, and students’ perceptions of teaching, there were a few notable exceptions. For example, female teachers were statistically more likely to demonstrate stronger relationships with their students than their male counterparts.”

    I can’t remember the name of the fallacy but I think it’s a kind of p-hacking…
    Process: Investigate a bunch of different variables, see if any of them show correlation, conclude that the correlation between those variables is a real phenomenon.
    Problem: If you investigate enough different variables, some of them might appear correlated just by pure chance.

    Anyone know what this is called?

    In fairness, saying “statistically more likely” is not claiming a causal connection, but even if the statement is true as written, I think it’s potentially misleading.

    * Though it’s hardly the main point of the thing.

    1. Thanks, Anita. Others will know better, but I think you are correct, that such data-fishing is known as p-hacking. Whatever the name, for any serious experiment/survey one is supposed to pre-declare the outcomes of interest, and then the stats fall where they may.

      But I don’t think you even have to dig that far. What is a “strong relationship”? How is it measured? It’s not wild speculation that, for better or worse, female teachers are in general “nicer” than male teachers.

      This smells to me like Teacher Recommendation 1.

  2. Holy hell, the amount of buzzwords and jargon in recommendation #2. Genuinely feels like a parody. My favorite bit is “leveraging flexible homogeneous grouping”, which one is yours?

      1. Haha, I guess that’s true. I wonder where they got the idea that the use of “rich-learning tasks” has become a prominent recommendation in maths research. Also, I feel like the first clause doesn’t even make grammatical sense.

        >Relative to strategies that practicing computation, teachers…

        What does that mean?

        Unrelated, but I’m very surprised by the fact that doing ctrl+f “inclusive” gave zero results in the document.

        1. I think they are correct, that “rich-learning tasks” is a prominent recommendation. That doesn’t imply that it’s a good recommendation.

  3. Looks like you are right – at first glance, looks like a superficial marketing exercise by Pivot, especially since the first line of the report is:

    “Pivot was founded in 2014 to provide educators with evidence-based feedback they can use to improve their teaching, working with over 2,000 schools in the last 3 years alone.”

    The first line of the second para is ‘We did this by surveying 80 teachers and 2,500 of their students’, and”. I’m not an English teacher – but I do know my apostrophes – petty but perhaps indicative of the quality of the report.

    1. Thanks, JJ. I think pretty much every line of the report is indicative of the quality of the report. I don’t really care. What I care about is AMSI slumming it with these clowns.

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