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Research report

Raising maths attainment through enhanced pedagogy and communication

Richard Churches and Fiona Allen

Results from a large-scale 'teacher-level' randomised controlled trial which investigated adult learning in numeracy.

The literature on adult numeracy suggests that pedagogy may be less effective if the relationship between teacher and learner does not reflect sensitivity to attitudes, beliefs and classroom emotional climate.

The research design for the present study took the form of a large-scale randomised controlled trial carried out over a six-month period. The study used established government adult numeracy tests before and after the three interventions. The analysis compared the effects of: a) teachers trained in approaches to hypnotic language and body language (as they appear in the
neurolinguistic programming (NLP) model) combined with innovative maths pedagogy, with b) teachers who just received maths continuing professional development (CPD), and c) a baseline control condition (learners whose teachers received no training or CPD).

The addition of NLP training produced a significant improvement in maths attainment. The increase in mean difference for this group was over three times that of the control group and approximately one and a half times that of the 'maths training only' group. Results suggest that some NLP training may be helpful to maths teachers where a baseline of effective pedagogy is in place.

The results of this study support approaches recommended by the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics, while indicating that teachers' communication skills amplify or attenuate the effectiveness of such pedagogy, and that where teachers receive training in communication strategies from therapy that aims to create a stable emotional climate, attainment is significantly greater.

Future research may wish to look at whether simply training language patterns or body language still results in the same increase in attainment.