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A Study of In-school Facilitation in Two Teacher Professional Development Programmes

Publication Details

This report evaluates the in-school facilitation component of two projects, Te Kauhua and Te Kotahitanga.

Author(s): Rawiri Hindle, Meri Marshall, Joanna Higgins and Sandi Tait-McCutcheon

Date Published: October 2007

Executive Summary

This report evaluates the in-school facilitation component of two projects, Te Kauhua and Te Kotahitanga. Both projects have the specific aim of improving Māori student achievement in English-medium schools through enhancing teacher practice and improving school-wide structures and processes. In both projects an in-school facilitator has supported the professional development programme from within the school and has also assisted with school strategic planning for building teacher capability. An examination of the in-school facilitation component contributes knowledge and understanding of important features in the design of such an approach.

The study sought answers to the following questions: 


  1. What evidence is there that in-school facilitation models are effective in building teacher capability and improving student engagement and student achievement?
  2. What are the key qualities and skills required for effective in-school facilitation of professional development projects which focus on raising Māori student engagement and student achievement?
  3. What are the similarities, differences, and unique aspects of the in-school facilitation models employed in Te Kauhua and Te Kotahitanga?
    • How were facilitators appointed?
    • What training did facilitators undertake and what support is available while in the role of facilitator?
    • What changes have facilitators noticed in moving from teacher to in-school facilitator? How does the new role impact on existing and new relationships?
    • What is the relationship between the facilitator and the school principal?
    • What have been the benefits and drawbacks of in-school facilitation according to stakeholders (facilitators, teachers, principals, support staff)?
  4. How can the quality of in-school facilitation be improved?
  5. What do facilitators see as their dilemmas of practice?

Key Findings

The key findings reflect the organisation of the findings in the main body of the research of foundational conditions generated through a facilitator working from inside the school; the personal knowledge and skills perceived by participants as helpful to the work of an in-school facilitator; changing roles as the in-school facilitator becomes a school leader; the impact of in-school facilitation on teacher knowledge, attitudes and practice and on student outcomes; and finally challenges to sustainability. 

Foundational conditions

  • The contextual nature of in-school facilitation ensured that the locus of decision making rested with the school community – those who held the significant knowledge.
  • The situated quality of the in-school facilitation model was believed to increase the ‘buy-in’ of teachers and to ensure the internally driven sustainability of the projects.
  • Existing relationships between participants were a key contributor to the success of the project as partnerships had already been negotiated and respect formed.
  • Participants agreed that success as a classroom teacher gave more credibility to the in-school facilitator, both within the school and the wider community.
  • The success of the in-school facilitation model for teachers was the immediate access they had to their facilitator, the wealth of knowledge their facilitator had about their school, and the willingness of the in-school facilitator to model effective strategies and ideas.
  • Participating whānau members felt more confident and comfortable about approaching members of the school community when seeking help or discussing concerns. 

Personal knowledge and skills of in-school facilitators

  • Interpersonal skills, such as being approachable, understanding and compassionate, were considered essential by in-school facilitators, principals, and teachers.
  • Teachers believed that a key quality required by an in-school facilitator was that they were skilled and respected practitioners with strong contextual knowledge and that they were able to connect and engage with theory and practice.
  • Principals recognised the need for the in-school facilitator to be a reflective practitioner with theoretical research knowledge and confidence and practical transferability.
  • A genuine commitment to the projects and aroha for all participants was deemed to be a key quality of the in-school facilitator. 

Changing roles in becoming an in-school leader

  • The personal and professional relationship between in-school facilitators, principals and teachers was strengthened and enhanced through the projects.
  • Relationships with the wider community were strengthened through increased communication and involvement.
  • In-school facilitators described having an increased understanding and appreciation of the issues management deal with.
  • There was a growing concern from some in-school facilitators in regard to their positioning within the school. Were they practitioners or administrators? The in-school facilitators who expressed these concerns felt that they were being pushed more toward an administrative role and that this was not where their heart was.

Impact on teacher knowledge, attitudes and practice

  • Teachers were reported as increasingly implementing culturally responsive pedagogy within their programmes. This was seen to link directly to increased engagement of all students.
  • Teachers expressed changes in their own confidence as they moved from observers of Māori culture to participants within Māori culture. This was leading to enhanced teacher-student/whānau relationships.
  • In-school facilitators in both projects spoke of teachers being evidentially challenged to rethink and reposition themselves in terms of their beliefs and expectations. It was believed that this positively influenced the personal accountability teachers accepted for student academic and social outcomes.
  • Teachers were increasingly using data to design and implement learning programmes focused on increasing Māori student achievement and engagement. Successes were then viewed as motivators toward more success.
  • The reflection-in-action nature of the projects was viewed as valuable by teachers. Their learning was deemed to be relevant as were their opportunities to implement their new learning in their practice.
  • The professional development was seen as embedded within the school community and culture and it was seen by principals as increasing teacher focus and accountability.
  • Teachers described the projects and model as the foundation for developing and sustaining professional learning communities. They felt sharing as a community was leading to a raised level of professionalism within their school.

Impact on student outcomes

  • In-school facilitators regarded the observation tool in Te Kotahitanga as underpinning and initiating evidentially based professional learning conversations.
  • In-school facilitators were recognising that effective strategies for Māori were effective for all students.
  • Teachers were increasingly acknowledging the prior knowledge and experiences of students, using flexible and co-operative grouping strategies, and culturally and contextually responsive material to engage students.
  • A success of the professional development was seen by principals to be the unrelenting focus on increasing Māori students’ achievement and engagement.

Challenges to sustainability

  • Time and money were viewed by principals as the two main barriers to on-going professional development and sustainability of the projects.
  • Time management and equity were the two issues described by in-school facilitators as a dilemma of practice.
  • In-school facilitators described changing teachers’ beliefs and teacher resistance as a difficulty. Some teachers showed indifference or had doubts about the legitimacy of the projects. Others felt threatened by the professional development.
  • Inclusive ways to engage whānau were being examined. Whānau were increasingly being asked to define what engagement looks like and sounds like for them. In-school facilitators expressed concerns that the projects were being done to whānau groups rather then with them.
  • Principals saw the retention of trained teachers as an obstacle to sustainability and as another drain on time and money.

Related Webpages on Education Counts

See Te Kōtahitanga home page.

Evaluation of the Te Kauhua Māori Mainstream Pilot Project

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