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by Kate Shevland, Principal of Orewa College in Auckland, New Zealand
My professional background has been in stable, relatively well resourced systems within a self-managing state school environment. I believe the development of effective models of teacher practice is of universal importance. All governments seem to be aspiring to better educational outcomes for their budgets, and New Zealand (NZ) is no different. Our NZ research—and John Hattie has written extensively on this—has strongly supported the teaching quality, and particular aspects within that, as being very influential. Russell Bishop’s work in Te Kotahitanga also strengthens the role and influence of the teacher in lifting the performance of Maori learners. The Best Evidence Synthesis (Robinson et al, 2009) identifies quality teaching as a key influence on high quality outcomes for diverse students. So the message is clear and unequivocal: Teaching quality matters.
He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!
What is the most important thing on earth? It is people! It is people! It is people!
In the school environment, that means we need models of professional learning that support all our teachers to keep lifting their professional aspirations for student learning. That requires collaborative communities—peer to peer, school to school, and cluster to cluster. Leaders of schools need to nurture this sense of collaborative professional learning, while keeping a simple common purpose of always the best learning outcomes for all our students.
School-based professional small-group learning allows regular ongoing collaboration and feedback. Isn’t this how we want our students to learn? New Zealand schools, with the advantage of self-management are able to organise their timetables and budgets to make the best choice for their school. In some cases schools start later one day a week. For our school, we start the year with two full days of workshops where teachers have some mandated and some optional small group sessions. All these are facilitated and led by our own staff and all are focussed on the pedagogical and pastoral priorities of the school for that year. We have weekly after-school sessions for our Bring your own device (BYOD) programme to ensure all teachers are developing the skills and strategies and technical expertise to use technology to its full potential. We have full day group workshops for all teachers new to the school with followup sessions some weeks later to review and reflect. We have settled on the small group workshop approach with further sessions as the most effective for our teachers,
The NZ curriculum has five key competencies
It has eight values: (1) excellence, (2) innovation, inquiry and curiosity, (3) diversity, (4) equity, (5) community and participation (6) ecological sustainability (7) integrity, (8) respect. If we want our students to develop these competencies and espouse this values, then all that we do in school needs to model them. Our professional development and learning need to model them. We are fortunate in NZ to have a number of Ministry of Education supported programmes that support beginning teachers, that support aspiring leaders, that support leaders, that support Boards of Trustees, the voluntary parent bodies that govern schools. Schools can also apply for particular professional-development programmes funded by the Ministry of Education. This is contestable and is prioritised to areas of greatest need.
A team from the Education Review Office (ERO) reviews schools on a regular basis. These reviews include the school’s ability to self-review, set goals and support their staff as professional educators. As a country where more than 95% of students attend state schools, these programmes have wide coverage and uptake. We take it seriously that all of us are better for being supported and nurtured by those who have trod the path before and are treading it with us.
Such programmes develop competence and confidence to develop on-going support programmes within school. Each year when we start school here at Orewa College, we welcome all new staff, and students and their families with a powhiri. It is protocol that each speaker has a waiata sung for them after they speak. For me, staff have chosen this one, and it reminds me of the importance and responsibility of nurturing the professional growth of our teaching staff and through them the achievement of our mission statement for our students towards enriched and responsible citizenship.
Maku Ra Pea/Maku ra pea/Maku koe e awhi e/Kit e ara/Ara tupu/Maku koe e awhi e
It is I/It is perhaps I who will embrace you and assist you/In the pathway of your growth/I will enfold you
Kate Shevland is Principal of Orewa College a year 7-13 ( approx age 11-17) state co ed school of 2000 students in suburban Auckland NZ . She is an experienced Principal, having led the school since 1996 , and has managed many significant changes to structures and pedagogical approaches in that time. She is a strong believer in a broad based student centred holistic education, and bases all school decisions around that. She has led significant digital initiatives including a regional collaborative Virtual learning network for student coursework ( Harbournet) and the use of individual internet capable devices as the norm in classrooms . Both projects have attracted strong interest in NZ and the school is currently planning its second annual national conference on this digital emphasis to cope with the continuing interest . She is an active member of several educational groups ,Auckland Secondary Principals Association ,SPANZ the Secondary principals Association of NZ , MYSA, Middle Years of Schooling in Australia, NEAL ( northern Educational access loop)
Click to read more about the Teacher Professional Development in Crisis series.