Monday, 16 January 2017

The Matrix of Student Variation in FE Maths: A perspective on student groupings

Happy Blue Monday everybody! A day that is considered the most depressing day in the year (usually the third monday in January), the weather is terrible, the sun isn't out long enough and the classroom is looking bleak, dull and not very exciting.

I noticed a massive attendance drop off today, lots of students not attending their maths lessons this week so far which I am hoping will improve by tomorrow. A lot of the students are motivated, engaged and eager to pass their maths qualifications in the up and coming Functional Skills Maths exams.

Today's post is going to revolve around the matrix of student needs in your classes. I personally don't really agree entirely labelling students in these areas as permanent positions but it is more likely that students can move between areas rather quickly. There are a few factors to consider when looking at each area and how we approach different students who are currently sitting in each area. Each student can be put off being in optimal working mode due to factors you cannot control, but if you can identify the signs early, this will make your life much easier.

The Matrix of Student Variation

1) Motivated and Capable

This is the optimal area for your students to sit in, students who are motivated and capable tend to be those who realise they are close to the goalpost but just need an extra few steps to ensure they get within the C grade (or 4 next year).
Students in this zone will need differentiated activities aimed to stretch their understanding of Maths, this will ensure that you are responding to their needs appropriately and encouraging positive participation amongst your student groups to avoid moving quickly into other areas on the matrix.

2) Unmotivated and Capable

Probably the most frustrating group of students to work with, these students do not like Maths, nor do they want to stay within your lesson long. These students may challenge your knowledge of the subject you are teaching as well as assess the need for different activities that you produce within your lessons. These students will question why they have to complete their subject as well as question what the use of a particular topic is within their lessons.
These students benefit from reassurance, constant encouragement and praise when they have genuinely done something that is positive within your lesson, this will in turn help them and encourage them to move towards their own motivation.

3) Motivated and Incapable

Incapable is probably the wrong term for this group, but these students are on board with your lessons and want to improve their own maths skills, they just struggle with the subject matter that you are giving them. These students are the reason you are going to question your role within the FE setting, you will assess the needs and realise how unfair it may be for a student like this to undertake Maths testing again without positive result.
These students gain positive results through 1-1 and small group teaching, there needs to also be a need to encourage homework and other work outside of classrooms. I would also encourage the use of the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) that your FE institution has to support your students with their Maths. These students may also want to be referred for Exam Access Arrangements (EAA's) to ensure that there are no processing and/or barriers to learning.

4) Unmotivated and Incapable

These students will be the source of your most challenging behaviour in your classroom, not only assessing your ability to teach them, but also seeking opportunities to disrupt the flow of your lesson. Some students will be hiding their own insecurities about their subject in the form of misbehaviour, one student actually said this "It's better to be a bad student then a stupid one", a lot of these students within this category will need some form of extra support.
These students will gain from positive language and encouragement throughout the lesson, as well as step-by-step instructions in small groups. These students do not want to be outed as failing in their subject so they will often ask questions during individual 1-1 sessions and activities. These students benefit massively from small group work and working individually with a member of staff and learning support.

So there we have it, four areas to focus on. As discussed earlier, students can quickly transition between different areas in this matrix depending on day, week, family life and other aspects of their life that they have on their mind. Obviously some students will remain in their respective groups on the matrix but do not be disheartened if you are unable to move out of the Unmotivated and Incapable (at least these students are attending).

If you have any other additions you would like to make to the matrix, or any other methods that have worked with your students, then feel free to leave a comment below. Please also follow on twitter @feguidebook for more information and inspirational quotes to start your day as a good one, even on blue monday!

Have an enjoyable week teachers!

- Matt