Kaiaka Reo: Reo-ā-Waha Ki Te Motu - The Development of Māori Oral Language Proficiency Progressions Publications
This report presents the development process and outcomes of establishing Māori oral language proficiency progressions for year one to year eight learners that would inform National Standards in Māori-medium contexts. The Ministry of Education sought to improve its understanding and develop progressions that would make explicit the progress students could be expected to make at the different ages and stages of their reo Māori development and how this could be measured.
Author(s): Katarina Edmonds, Ngaere Roberts, Peter Keegan, Waldo Houia, Hemi Dale, Hākoni Limited.
Date Published: August 2013
The research is underpinned by two paradigms: kaupapa Māori and language proficiency assessment, each with its own epistemology and skill base. Kaupapa Māori is grounded in indigenous language and culture. Language proficiency assessment comes primarily from a tradition focused generally on English as a second or foreign language, and a culture of testing.
Māori-medium education operates in environments where te reo Māori, the indigenous language of Aotearoa, is a minority language. Māori-medium education is central and vital to Māori language revitalisation. In 2010, there were 11,738 students at Level 1 (81–100% of class time in Māori).
Minimal consideration has been given to the Māori language proficiency necessary to achieve social and academic language proficiency. The need to provide nationally consistent benchmarks in literacy for National Standards prompted this investigation into Māori oral language proficiency progressions for year one to year eight.
The literature review confirms that there are very few standardised assessment procedures available for Māori-medium. Those that exist generally focus on the achievement of curriculum objectives or literacy. Fairness is a major issue in assessment and should take into account language proficiency and achievement, the learner's instruction context and special background such as culture and language.
Assimilatory education in New Zealand from the 1840s to the 1970s has had a major role in the decline of speakers of the Māori language. Several national movements initiated by Māori have had some impact on reversing the demise of the Māori language. Legislation under the 1989 Education Act sections 155 and 156 enables Māori-medium education in today's education environment.
There are approximately 10 curriculum documents that show some relevance to levels of language for te reo Māori. In contrast, there is a vast literature on language proficiency, especially for learners of English as a second, foreign and heritage language.
Despite the extensive literature base, the field of second language acquisition has not yet established an index of oral language development. This is possibly due to the nature of second language learners who do not have a uniform starting point.
Literature regarding Welsh-medium yielded some information on national standards and level descriptions in schooling. In the United States standards have played a prominent role in federal legislation under the No Child Left Behind Act (2001). All states are required to assess the English language development of English Language Learners (ELLs).
Some formally recognised assessment tools for Māori-medium were identified. These include Aromatawai Urunga-a-Kura/School Entry Assessment, the National Education Monitoring Project, and Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning (asTTle).
The literature available on Māori-medium assessment, Māori language proficiency, National Standards Māori, Māori oral language proficiency progressions and alignment to the curriculum reflects te kore, a vacuum where practically nothing exists.
There is much debate on what constitutes proficiency. In developing a construct of Māori oral language proficiency for year one to year eight, the research sought to analyse data that demonstrated Māori-medium learners' ability, knowledge and skill in the use of te reo Māori in a communicative way.
The tools investigated were the Kaiaka Reo 2000–2001 speaking materials and the 2005 Māori-medium National Education Monitoring Programme (NEMP) videotapes. Kaiaka Reo 2000–2001 yielded a 15% representative sample of each of the year five and year eight cohorts for oral language analysis. These identified six elements to define the construct of Māori oral language, namely, oral production (phonology, fluency, intonation, pitch, stress, pronunciation), grammar, vocabulary, discourse, Māori discourse (socio-linguistic competence), and cognition.
A Draft Rating Scale was developed that resulted in a five point scale as follows: 1 – very limited proficiency; 2 – limited proficiency; 3 – basic proficiency; 4 – elementary proficiency; and 5 native-like proficiency.
A rater hui – Rater Hui 1 – was conducted over four days to establish the reliability and validity of the Draft Rating Scale. One hundred and forty-eight oral language samples of the year five and year eight Kaiaka Reo 2000–2001 cohorts were rated by fifty-seven raters, a minimum of seventeen times.
Rasch analysis of the raters' performance, student performance (the language samples) and trait (language elements) determined the rating scale as a reliable and valid tool to assess the Māori oral language proficiency of learners in Māori-medium contexts.
A survey was conducted to investigate what teachers in Māori immersion think, know and use to assess Māori language proficiency and when they think proficiency assessment should take place. The sixty-seven respondents ranged in age, ethnicity, teacher experience and knowledge of proficiency.
The timing of the research did not permit maximum participation. Some schools were affected by prior agreement to participate in the trialing of the Ngā Whanaketanga Reo and Pāngarau for National Standards.
The Kaiaka Reo 2000–2001 tool was used to collect the data for language analysis. No adaptations were required of the tool itself. The only change required was the rewriting of the script for administration. The participating schools conducted the assessment themselves with minimal need for personal assistance.
At Rater Hui 2, 270 student scripts ranging from year one to year eight were rated. Statistics were produced covering the rating of the student scripts, and the rating scale itself. Two families of statistics were used to analyse data, Classical Test Theory (CTT) and Item Response Theory (IRT). The analysis of the student data indicates that the rating scale is reliable and valid.
Iwi affiliations of the students are mostly based around the Northern, Central and East Coast iwi. Over 50% of the students had attended Kōhanga Reo. Although a reasonable proportion of students were reported as being able to speak Māori at home (35.6 %), only a small proportion usually spoke Māori at home (16.3%). The older generation (kuia/koroua) was reported as having a higher number of first language speakers of Māori and they were more likely to use Māori at home. Females in all age groups reported slightly higher numbers of first language speakers of Māori than males.
Students had spent most years at either kura kaupapa Māori or rumaki (immersion). In-class use of Māori language by students in the sample was high. There was less usage outside of the classroom, and less again used outside of the kura.
Students mostly agreed that the assessment task was well administered, the length appropriate, it was fine to be recorded, and they were happy to talk about the task pictures. Students generally agreed that this activity enabled children to talk, was appropriate for assessing oral language and gave them an opportunity to display their oral language skills.
The overall range of student performance was within an accepted range. There were a few students who did not fit (perform within statistical expectations). They were generally earlier year students with low scores or later year level students with low scores. There was a rapid progression in years one to three, but less so in years four to eight. Females were generally slightly ahead of males in years one to four. Year five was the only level in which females were behind males.
Te Rōpū Whāiti, a thirteen-member team of practising teachers, determined the progressions. Ten of the team were native speakers, the other three had native-like competency. The team established Māori oral language progressions at each year level from year one to year eight and three progressions within each year level. The team also examined the links between Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, Ngā Whanaketanga Reo Māori He Tauira and the Māori oral language proficiency progressions.
The term Māori-medium Young Language learner (MMYLL) recognises the contexts of learning and the community environs of Māori-medium education as sites of Māori language revitalisation where much hope is placed for the survival of te reo Māori. The term also recognises, that for the most part, these learners are a unique population for whom Māori may be a first, second, foreign, heritage, indigenous and/or native language. The 'YLL' recognises that these are young language learners of year one to year eight status, who are also at varying developmental stages in their human development, language acquisition, and school learning.
The development of consistent Māori oral language proficiency has immense implications for the successful achievement of MMYLLs. This research also has significant potential to inform other indigenous groups pursuing similar language revitalisation and educational goals.
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