An evaluation of professional development to support the Arts in the New Zealand curriculum

Publication Details

This reports on an evaluation of how the professional development, offered on a national basis to schools over a two-year period commencing 2001, supported the initial implementation of 'Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum'. This included a survey of participants on their views of the issues they and their schools faced in implementing the curriculum and how they considered the professional development assisted them in addressing these issues.

Author(s): Fiona Beals, Rosemary Hipkins, Marie Cameron and Susan Watson, New Zealand Council for Educational Research. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: June 2003

Please consider the environment before printing the contents of this report.

This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.

Executive Summary

This report evaluates the professional development that took place to support the initial implementation of a new curriculum document, The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum. The professional development contract took place during the 2001 and 2002 school years.

Six regional providers implemented their interpretations of 2 models of professional development initially devised by the Ministry of Education. These were a "Curriculum Leadership" model and a "Whole School" model. All providers delivered at least one variation of each initial model of professional development, with one provider (Waikato) offering 5 different variations, and another (Auckland) 4 variations. The providers adopted this flexible approach in an attempt to best meet what they saw as the needs of the teachers in their regions.

The curriculum leadership model allowed teachers to selectively develop discipline knowledge in areas where they felt they needed it most. Providers were challenged by large workshop numbers in some cases, especially when teachers had diverse needs, including varied beginning skills and knowledge levels. Teacher tiredness was seen by some providers as an issue with the after-school time slot. Teacher mobility created a concern for principals when they lost curriculum leaders during their schools' Arts implementation phase.

Where schools have made a collective commitment to the whole school model of professional development within an established learning culture, this model has worked particularly well. It can, however, be compromised by unsupportive teaching staff and/or school leaders, and it has been resource intensive for providers.

Providers have built teacher confidence by taking a supportive, staged approach to the professional development. They appear to favour an "experience first" model in which teachers are introduced to new teaching and learning possibilities within the Arts curriculum before undertaking more formal lesson and unit planning, or attempting to assess and report on students' learning. They also favour a "one discipline at a time" approach to avoid overwhelming teachers with too many new ideas. Provider support has been ongoing, with some adding new after-school workshops in specific areas of perceived need, and attempting to support the establishment of school networks and clusters. Providers have promoted the use of the Arts Online website and some teachers are now accessing this as an additional source of professional development support.

Across the course of the professional development around 36 percent of New Zealand schools had staff take part in one or both models, as offered in their regions. There was a notable under-representation of secondary schools. Those who did take part mainly did so in the first year, and mainly selected the curriculum leadership model. Because it was not possible to gather data that was representative of secondary teachers' experiences of the professional development, or of their provisions for curriculum implementation within a range of secondary schools, this evaluation does not report separately on their perspectives. A case study in Section Eight is an exception, with the illustrative experience of one secondary school reported in context.

Evidence suggests that most primary teachers who attended the professional development are now teaching all 4 Arts disciplines as part of their regular classroom programme. Music remains the discipline most likely to be taught by a specialist teacher, reflecting the existing situation reported by principals at the start of the 2001 year. Some schools are using the Arts expertise of members of their wider community.

Of the 4 Arts disciplines, dance and drama initially caused the most implementation anxiety for the participating teachers. Dance facilitators appear to have been successful in overcoming this anxiety in the main. Teachers have reported powerful learning experiences that they have been able to translate to the classroom via the simple strategies that they have been taught. Those teachers who commented on this said they used these strategies to overcome initial reluctance of both teachers and students within their schools. Some teachers report that they have yet to resolve issues associated with teaching drama in their schools. However, for others the implementation of drama has been as successful as dance. Drama and dance warm-up strategies have been particularly well received because teachers see opportunities to integrate these with other curriculum areas.

Those students whose voices were heard in the 6 case studies we carried out also report powerful learning experiences. They have appreciated opportunities to have input into their own learning directions, and believe that they have been allowed space to express themselves creatively. The case studies compiled by the providers for their milestone reports also reflect the success of the transfer of teacher learning from professional development to the classroom.

There is some qualitative evidence that learning in the Arts is being successful in building knowledge in addition to the cognitive. One small group of case study students reports an instance of the development of empathetic knowing that they have transferred to their social studies learning, and kinaesthetic awareness that has led them to ask new questions in science. Students also report the development of discipline and perseverance, and sensitivity to each other's efforts as learners in a discipline. There is a sense of achievement and pride in their creativity and originality. They are learning to use specific Arts languages and conventions to comment on their own learning and to display their growing critical awareness of the outcomes they have achieved. Schools have reported celebrating their students' new Arts achievements in public displays and performances.

Teachers have embraced the "action/reflection" approach modelled in the Arts curriculum. They associate this with a "child-centred" philosophy for their teaching. After initial hesitation in 2001, the concept of "multiple literacy" now appears to be understood. Providers and teachers are using this to teach the specific languages and conventions of each discipline separately. Where possible they are also seeking opportunities for collaboration between Arts disciplines and to integrate Arts across the curriculum. Their planning decisions appear to constitute pragmatic responses to the inclusion of all 4 Arts disciplines in the "crowded curriculum" and the taking of genuine opportunities to add rich new dimensions to topics already being taught. The complexity of these curriculum interactions makes it difficult to determine with any certainty the actual classroom hours that are being devoted to the teaching of the Arts.

Overall, the contracted professional development has been very successful and demonstrates how curriculum change can occur in a supportive environment which involves the Ministry of Education, in-service providers and school staff (teaching and management).