An evaluation of PowerTeaching Maths, a technology-enhanced teaching approach in primary schools in which pupils in Years 4 and 5 work in small groups to help each other learn has found that the approach had no effect on attainment.
The evaluation was led by Professor Robert Slavin at the University of York and funded by the Nuffield Foundation. A cluster randomised trial undertaken in 42 schools found no difference between the PowerTeaching Maths group and the control group in terms of gains in mathematics learning. Both groups comprised Key Stage 2 pupils who were tested at the start and end of the academic year 2011/12.
Although the intervention did not improve attainment, the evaluation shows that randomised trials on a large scale are both possible and valuable when it comes to determining what works in the classroom.
What is PowerTeaching Maths?
PowerTeaching Maths is designed to improve attainment in mathematics through co-operative learning. Pupils work in teams of 4-5 to help each other learn mathematical concepts and skills. Mathematical ideas are explained in a humorous way using interactive whiteboards and embedded multimedia.
The approach is designed to improve mathematics attainment in all schools, but particularly those where there is a big difference between the highest and lowest achievers.
Response from teachers
Teachers were generally positive about PowerTeaching Maths but some found it difficult to divide their pupils into mixed ability groups rather than the more usual practice of setting within the class. Many did not use or celebrate the team ‘scores’, which are a key part of the approach.
Similar co-operative learning approaches have been more successful in the United States, where differentiation of pupils through setting within classes is less prevalent than in the United Kingdom.
Full findings from the evaluation are published by the Institute of Effective Education at the University of York in Effects of Co-operative Learning and Embedded Multimedia on Mathematics Learning in Key Stage 2 (PDF)