Vermont Secondary College prides itself on three perfect scores achieved in the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) mathematics in 2018 for Further Mathematics, Mathematical Methods and Specialist Mathematics. When hearing about the school's approach to excellence in numeracy, what stands out more is the school's pride in building a positive climate for learning.
The development of the current Year 10 Extension Mathematics program came about through the interest and excitement of Year 9 students undertaking a mathematics extension elective.
Through analysis of data, student feedback and teacher judgment, it was clear that a broader range of Year 10 mathematics options was required to suit the numeracy needs of all students at Vermont Secondary College. It was also evident to teachers that the move from Year 10 to Year 11 was often challenging due to the sudden increase in work load and difficulty of concepts; a smoother transition was needed.
Developing a differentiated program
Reflecting on the range of abilities in mathematics and numeracy, as well as the broader interests of their students, the mathematics team developed a Year 10 mathematics program to cater for every student. There is the opportunity for movement from one subject to another during the year, depending on the student's level of confidence and ability. It is student driven. The current structure reflects the needs of this year's group and offers Year 10 General Mathematics, Year 10 Mathematics Methods and Year 10 Extension Mathematics. This structure offers students the support and guidance to suit their school and future career aspirations.
What good learning looks like in the extension class
The extension class at Vermont Secondary College operates in a large, flexible learning space that caters for three classes at once. The team of four teachers, including the Head of Numeracy Mary Zervos, works together to devise a program that caters for around 70 high achieving mathematics students. Harry Amos, Numeracy Support Leader – Junior School, said the classroom is a positive and dynamic space 'where students are very busy working, asking questions, working hard and wanting to learn'.
What good teaching looks like in the extension class
In a typical lesson, teachers will apply a broad range of High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) to ensure that all students are engaged and supported. The structure of the lessons provides for the application of different strategies, such as:
- learning goals are projected at the start of the lesson (HITS 1)
- explicit teaching (HITS 3) by a lead teacher delivers the lesson's focus, and worked examples HITS 4) support the students' understanding
- collaborative learning (HITS 5) in small groups allows differentiated tasks and teaching (HITS 10)
- multiple exposures (HITS 6) to mathematics tasks support the students' ability to question (HITS 7) and provide feedback (HITS 8) to the teacher and other students.
The flexibility of the program ensures that the conditions for learning are optimal and students are empowered to manage their own educational development (HITS 9).
The program's success is reflected through the excellent VCE scores in mathematics, and a broader range of data. The second group who experienced the extension program in Year 10 is now in Year 12 and, for the first time since 2005, there are two specialist mathematics classes at Year 12. More students are completing VCE mathematics and there is an enthusiasm amongst younger year levels for new challenges in mathematics.
The program's success is also evident with a smoother transition for students from Year 10 to Year 11. Harry Amos said that the program is 'relieving the anxiety of the step up from Year 10 to Year 11'. The students demonstrate a high level of understanding through greater confidence in their own skills to achieve excellence.
Teacher capability in a differentiated setting
Vermont Secondary College's Annual Implementation Plan (AIP) has a focus on differentiation, and teachers across the school receive targeted professional learning to support the success of Professional Development Plan (PDP) goals. The team teaching environment in the Year 10 Mathematics Extension class allows teachers to observe good teaching practice and encourages professional conversations based on reflective practice.
Vermont Secondary College's Assistant Principal, Suzanne Plant says of the Mathematics Faculty, - 'They improve the learning confidence of our students in mathematics, give the students the feeling that they can achieve in mathematics and, because of the environment, they are motivated to pursue mathematics at a higher level, which then opens further doors'.
Importance of school culture to achieve excellence
Suzanne Plant attributes much of the program's success and the school's excellence in numeracy with a whole-school focus on the values seen in the Practice Principles for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Suzanne says that when students and their parents first visit on school tours in Year 5 or 6, there is a clear and consistent message that they are coming to a school with high expectations of its students. The school's values are shared at the community level and celebrated at assemblies and during staff meetings.
'A school must have a culture where there are high expectations and must have a supportive learning environment; it doesn't matter what curriculum planning and implementation looks like if kids aren't feeling they are in a safe and supportive place.' Suzanne Plant.
Principles of achieving excellence in numeracy at Vermont Secondary College
- Know your students: what are their skills and knowledge as shown by data? What are their desires and future goals as known by their teacher?
- Develop a whole-school approach to ensure that students and teachers are supported in their work.
- Work as a team to develop and deliver the differentiated program.
- Use a range of data to evaluate the learning program.
- Share what good learning and teaching looks like through team teaching, professional learning and celebration of successes.
- Work with students to develop programs that support their aspirations for school and life goals.
Explore the latest professional practice note
A Professional Practice Note has been developed to support you and your colleagues in achieving excellence in numeracy through the Victorian Teaching and Learning Model.
Professional Practice Note 18 resources
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