Te Toi Huarewa

Publication Details

Te Toi Huarewa looks at effective teaching and learning strategies, and effective teaching materials for improving the reading and writing in te reo Māori of students aged five to nine in Māori-medium education. The main purpose of the project was to observe and collaboratively reflect upon the teaching and learning strategies used during literacy programmes by a range of year one to year five Māori-medium classroom teachers who were identified as effective.

Author(s): R. Bishop, M. Berryman and C. Richardson. Report for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: 2001

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Executive Summary

Project Team

This project was undertaken as a partnership between the Ministry of Education and a research team made up of researchers from the Māori Educational Research Institute (MERI) in the School of Education at the University of Waikato and the research whānau of the Specialist Education Services Poutama Pounamu Research and Development Centre of Tauranga. Four in-school researchers were used, all of whom were experienced teachers and fluent in te Reo. As well, Te Rōpū Whakaruruhau (a group of experienced Māori educationalists) at times accompanied researchers into the schools, guided the research process and evaluated its findings in terms of traditional Māori cultural understandings.

The Project

The purpose of the project was to identify effective teaching and learning strategies, effective teaching and learning materials, and the ways in which teachers assess and monitor the effectiveness of their teaching in Māori-medium reading and writing programmes for year 1-5 students. This identification had to be reported in such a manner that other teachers reading the report could monitor their own practices and develop processes for creating an effective learning environment in their classes.

Through negotiation, the project was expanded so as to locate its focus within the wider discussion of what constitutes effective teaching for improving educational achievement in Māori-medium educational settings.

Research Questions

The following are the main questions developed to guide the development of the research instrument and the project overall:

  1. What are effective teaching and learning strategies to improve reading and writing strategies in te reo Māori?
  2. What are effective teaching and learning materials to improve reading and writing strategies in te reo Māori?
  3. How do teachers assess and monitor the effectiveness of their teaching and learning programmes?

Research Methodology: Kaupapa Māori Research

During this research project, consideration was given to approaches fundamental to Kaupapa Māori research in that the issue of initiation of the research, who would benefit from the research, ownership of knowledge and intellectual property rights, representation, cultural legitimation and accountability were addressed.

Research Method

The main purpose of the project was to observe and collaboratively reflect upon the teaching and learning strategies used during literacy programmes by a range of Year 1 to Year 5 Māori-medium classroom teachers who were identified as effective.

In order to identify the teachers and their sites of effective practice, the first step in this project involved a process of triangulation. At least three Key Informants were used to identify each teacher in terms of their effectiveness and suitability for placement within this study.

The data-gathering instrument consisted of six separate sections (see Appendix A). The data was gathered through pre- and post-observation interviews, in-class observations, and both semi-structured interviews and stimulated recall interviews (SRI). Throughout these interviews the teacher and the researcher collaborated to provide a narrative based on their responses to the questions on both the interview and the observation sheets.

The data gathered was then processed into the first draft summary report, evaluated by the project's advisory team and kaiwhakaruruhau and modifications and additions were made as necessary.

Overall Findings

Despite the fact that Māori-medium education is in its infancy and there are limited resources available and limited understanding of strategies, there are indeed Māori-medium teachers with effective teaching and learning strategies for improving the reading and writing of their students. Further, these teachers could well be used to help others improve their practice.

These teachers, who are readily identifiable by their peers, were found to be in a range of settings (Kura Kaupapa, Mainstream schools with Māori, Immersion or Bilingual classes) and from North to South, East to West of the country. It is also important to note that while this study chose 13 teachers for its sample, this was due to sampling criteria and other teachers could well have been included in the category of effective teachers.

The concept of effective teachers was collaboratively defined by key informants asteachers who were working in a professional manner to make a positive difference for Māori children and their families. Effective teachers also understood what they were doing and could explain why they were doing it. Further, they had competency and ability in te reo Māori and in cultural practices.

The teachers in this study exemplified these characteristics, and in the process created a culturally appropriate context for learning.

These teachers go further and create a context for learning that responds to the culture the children bring to the classroom. That is they create a culturally responsive context for learning.

Such a context allows children to bring who they are and how they make sense and meaning of the world to learning interactions.

In this manner, children are able to interact with teaching strategies and raw materials in such a way that new learning occurs, identities are affirmed, on-task engagement is increased and achievement in on-going and spiralling.

Effective literacy learning therefore does not occur in isolation. It occurs within a culturally appropriate and responsive context for learning.

Such a context is created by teachers through a range of personal and pedagogical characteristics.

Personal Qualities

This study provides numerous examples of teachers who exhibit Fraser and Spiller's (2001) personal qualities criteria for effective teachers in that these teachers treat their students with respect, are compassionate and confidential, have a sense of humour, act in a fair and just manner and are friendly and firm with their students.

The teachers:

  • Treat their students and their whānau with respect.
  • Are compassionate and confidential.
  • Have a sense of humour.
  • Act in a just and fair manner towards others,
  • Are friendly but firm in their relations with students.
  • All these personal qualities are culturally located.

Pedagogical Characteristics

The teachers exhibit a large number of effective pedagogical characteristics.

Depth of knowledge

The teachers who the researchers observed and spoke to clearly demonstrated their depth of professional and cultural knowledge.

Passionate about what they do

Despite facing many problems, these teachers are passionate, committed and dedicated to the extent that is almost a calling to enhance and support children as the future of the culture.

Have a philosophy of teaching and clear teaching goals.

During the interviews, the teachers demonstrated that they were well able to explain their classroom activities. In so doing they often used Māori ways of knowing.

Have a commitment to developing students' understandings and growth.

The teachers worked assiduously towards creating contexts for learning where children could bring who they were to the classroom. By interacting with the new experiences, students could grow in their own understandings.

Use non-confrontational behaviour management.

These teachers preferred to use quiet non-confrontational behaviour management strategies, preferring to positively acknowledge students who comply with instructions rather than chastise those who don't.

Show a genuine interest in students including provision of high quality feedback.

These teachers have a genuine and caring interest for their children. They want the children to be healthy, have positive self-esteem, be confident, well educated with full cognisance of their indigeneity. They use positive feedback and praise as reinforcers. Extrinsic rewards are used. There was little evidence of formative feedback; an area for future professional development.

Continually reflect upon their own teaching.

These teachers have been very involved in professional development. They have a close network of critical friends. Reflection on practice involves listening to children and whanau.

Have high expectations while offering comfort and challenges.

These teachers have high expectations of their students. They expect students to adhere to routines, to succeed, and to have a high degree of on task behaviour.

Have excellent classroom management.

The classrooms were orderly, attractive and had a working atmosphere. Routines are heavily emphasised. Māori cultural practices are central to management.

Use prior learning experiences and knowledges.

The teachers were careful to identify the prior knowledges of the children, rather than expect them to be at a certain level.

Materials are related to children's world view and experiences.

The materials used, in being related to the children world views and experiences, demonstrated that the teachers understand that cultural legitimacy is paramount.

Monitoring of student progress.

The purpose of monitoring student's progress was to inform the teaching process. However, due to high levels of trust between students, whanau and the teachers, formative information is able to be used for summative purposes.

Importance of matching strategies and materials to individual or group abilities.

Small ability grouping and one-to-one teaching were the most common practices. The teachers catered for different stages of learning (input bilingual, elective bilinguals) and learning styles. Culturally legitimate pedagogies were ever present.

Emphasis on oral language.

Most of the children were second language learners. There is a great range of language abilities when children arrive at school. Oral language development is the base used for reading and writing. Teachers created an `oral rich language environment'. Children are grouped and taught according to their competency in te reo.

Integrate Curriculum.

An holistic approach to planning for the seven essential learning areas was employed. This resulted in integrated oral, reading and writing units round a central theme.

Writing Activities

Writing activities were integrated and were part of all activities. Children were encouraged to write freely from day one. Children were supported to write about what they had already talked about and this was based on their prior experiences.

Encouraging self-evaluation.

Students were encouraged to be part of their own evaluation, to determine what was to be evaluated.

Importance of Ako: to teach, to learn.

Reciprocal teaching and learning was a common feature of these classrooms. This was explained in culturally appropriate terms.

Fostered a high degree of academic engagement.

A high percentage of time spent on task was observed. Children were able to work independently and in groups when the teacher was engaged elsewhere. The children did not require teacher proximity to foster on-task behaviour.

Close links to whanau.

These teachers demonstrated that they understood the importance of sound whanau and school relationships for the development and advancement of children's learning at school.

Create culturally appropriate and responsive contexts for learning.

These teachers created a culturally appropriate and responsive context for learning by providing a visibly culture rich environment and also enabling the children to bring their own culturally-generated meaning-making processes to learning. In this way, cultural identities are affirmed and high degree of academic engagement is assured.

Emerging Picture

From this study there emerges a series of interlocking criteria that focus on pedagogic approaches and home and school relationships of these effective teachers.

Professional Development

The effective teachers in this study were all actively seeking and participating in developing their own skills and knowledge. This included learning in traditional and contemporary contexts. However we have some doubts about one of the aims of this project being realised by the majority of Māori-medium teachers without some form of supportive intervention like professional development. The aim in question is that the identification of effective strategies, materials and monitoring processes be reported in such a manner that other teachers by reading the report, could monitor their own practices and develop processes for creating an effective learning environment in their classes.

Appropriateness of the Research Method

The Kaupapa Māori research approach seeks to address the self-determination of the research participants. In this study, the research instrument sought to facilitate the representation of the research participants understandings in such a way that they would legitimate these representations.

In this project the teacher was able to present the detailed understanding they had of their own actions.

This interactive approach has been described and modelled in Bishop (1996) as part of the process of collaborative storying. This story is developed through a process of spiral discourse (Bishop, 1996) and demonstrates that power-sharing is taking place.

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