ICCAMS (Increasing Competence and Confidence in Algebra and Multiplicative Structures) is designed to teach two mathematical areas that are a key part of the Key Stage 3 curriculum, but which cause problems to students – algebra and multiplicative reasoning (e.g., percentages and proportions).
The programme is comprised of 40 evidence-informed lessons and extensive teacher professional development and materials. The lessons are designed to help teachers use formative assessment in maths, helping teachers to identify the problems pupils struggle with and how to address them. Activities are set in contexts that pupils can engage with, are collaborative, and use visual representations to help deepen understanding.
Research shows that formative assessment is an effective pedagogic strategy that can lead to improvements in attainment and attitude. But implementation of formative assessment is sometimes poorly understood and it needs to be integrated with subject-specific pedagogies.
ICCAMS was developed to enable mathematics teachers to implement formative assessment. The original project included a longitudinal national survey of Year 9 students, which demonstrated the need for the approach. The survey found that there had been a decline in students’ understanding since the mid-1970s in both algebra and ratios.
ICCAMS was first evaluated in 2010, with 22 teachers and 600 Year 8 students taking part in a matched controlled trial. Students in the intervention group made greater progress than those in the control group. Our evaluation is the first large-scale randomised control trial (RCT) evaluating the effectiveness of the programme.
Our trial involved 109 schools and approximately 20,800 pupils in Year 7 and Year 8. The independent evaluation found that schools that received ICCAMS made, on average, the equivalent of zero months’ progress in mathematics (the primary outcome) compared to pupils in other schools. This result has a moderate to high security rating: 3 out of 5 on the EEF padlock scale. The evaluation did find that the programme had a small positive effect for children eligible for free school meals.
The process evaluation included 8 school case studies involving lesson observations and interviews with teachers. One of the case studies, in particular, showed that in certain circumstances significant changes in practice could occur, which was understood by teachers and independent observations to offer potential for improving learning opportunities through ICCAMS. Findings from the process evaluation also suggest that the cascade training model was not implemented as intended. For example, when asked to deliver training to other teachers in their schools, around half the lead teachers reported that they did not deliver all the planned cascade sessions. In addition, while each cascade training session was expected to be an hour, only 13% of teachers reported receiving sessions of at least that length.
The EEF has no plans for further trials of ICCAMS at this stage.
- Pupils in the ICCAMS schools made, on average, no additional progress in mathematics compared to pupils in the other
schools. This result has a moderate to high security rating.
- Exploratory analysis suggests that there is no evidence that ICCAMS improved pupil progress in multiplicative reasoning or
improved attitudes to mathematics compared to pupils in other schools but that pupils in schools that received ICCAMS did
make the equivalent of one month’s progress in algebra.
- Pupils eligible for free school meals in ICCAMS schools made the equivalent of one month’s progress in mathematics and in
the subscales of multiplication and algebra, on average, compared to equivalent pupils eligible for free school meals in the other schools. There was also some evidence of a more positive attitude to mathematics. These results may have lower
security than the overall findings because of the smaller number of pupils.
- Teacher surveys found that 78% of lead teachers and 54% of cascade teachers said they were confident about ICCAMS
teaching. Additionally, student and teacher surveys found some evidence that the intervention did change teachers’ practice.
- One significant challenge was the cascade training. Only 55% of lead teachers reported managing all the expected cascade
training sessions. In addition, although each cascade session was expected to be one hour, only 13% of teachers reported
that the sessions were at least this length.