Te Reo Māori in the Mainstream Professional Development (PD) Pilot Programmes for Primary School Teachers - An Evaluation

Publication Details

In 2005, the Ministry of Education funded four te reo Māori professional development (PD) pilot programmes for mainstream primary school teachers. These pilot programmes were run in different areas of the country by four different providers.

Author(s): K. Murrow, K. Hammond, E. Kalafatelis, K. Fryer and H. Edwards

Date Published: January 2007

Executive Summary

The objectives of these pilot programmes included:

  • increasing the participating teachers’ proficiency in te reo Māori;
  • increasing their understanding of and respect for Māori culture;
  • improving their knowledge and use of second-language teaching and learning strategies;
  • increasing their familiarity with the draft Māori in the New Zealand Curriculum.

The Ministry contracted Research New Zealand (formerly BRC Marketing & Social Research) and Aatea Consultants Ltd (together “the Evaluation Team”) to evaluate the pilot PD programmes.

The objectives of the evaluation encompassed: describing how the PD pilot programmes have been implemented; determining what outcomes or impacts have been achieved; identifying what factors contribute to or detract from the effectiveness of the PD programmes; and identifying the key learnings that may be taken forward to optimise the initiative.


The evaluation of Te Reo Māori in the Mainstream PD Pilot Programmes for Primary School Teachers comprised a number of related research activities. Specifically, in addition to a scoping phase with the Ministry of Education and providers, the evaluation involved: a pre-PD survey of all enrolled participants; a post-PD survey of all those who completed the PD programme; site visits to the schools of eight selected teachers, involving interviews with the selected teachers and with other key members of staff; interviews with the PD providers; and analysis of secondary information.

In addition to these specific research activities, members of the Evaluation Team visited each programme at one of their sessions, to introduce themselves to the teachers and explain the purpose of the evaluation.


Getting the PD programmes up and running

For three of the PD providers, recruitment of participants was an issue, mainly due to the short lead-in time between Ministry acceptance of their proposal and the proposed start of the programme. The timing of the notification that their tender was successful was an issue for all four of the providers, although they generally commented that they had received good support from the Ministry. The providers employed a range of means to promote the programme and recruit participants; this was a time-consuming process for some as many schools turned down the opportunity, for a number of reasons. In spite of recruitment difficulties, three of the providers maintained an application process, whereby teachers and their schools had to commit to the PD programme and, in some cases, demonstrate their commitment to implementing te reo Māori in the school following its completion.

Participating teachers and schools

A range of demographic characteristics were evident among teachers participating on the PD programme, including a fairly even split between Māori and Pākehā. The teachers ranged widely in terms of age and teaching experience, but most were women, as is the case across primary schools. A fifth of the teachers had never taught te reo Māori before. Their schools had a huge range in the proportion of Māori on the roll (6% to 99%), and half of the schools were low decile. There was also a wide range in terms of roll size – from 26 to 965 students.

Motivations for participating

Teachers generally enrolled in the PD programme because of a personal interest in learning and/or teaching te reo Māori. Many had also been encouraged by senior staff at the school. Schools were motivated by the perceived quality of the programme, the fact that it was fully funded, the expectation that the school would benefit, and the enthusiasm and commitment of the individual teacher(s).

Content and delivery of the programme

Each of the PD programmes covered the required elements of the programme – knowledge, proficiency, and use of te reo Māori and tikanga Māori; language acquisition theory and application; teaching, planning, and assessment; and future planning and sustainability – with their own styles and some differences in programme structure.

Feedback on the programmes

The participating teachers rated the PD programmes and the providers highly, with the vast majority rating the knowledge and competence of the tutors, professionalism of the tutors, and content of the course as at least “good”. The pace of course delivery was generally seen as “about right”; however, a majority felt the course could have been longer. The four pilot programmes were compared on this set of indicators, and few differences were found between them.

In at least three of the programmes, the pre-existing skills of the participating teachers varied. This was addressed by the providers by dividing the teachers into groups based on prior ability level. Generally, this was seen by both the providers and the participating teachers to have worked well.

Teachers identified a range of aspects of the PD programmes that they felt had been the most helpful. This included having some written language provided in addition to the oral language, the programme personnel, the literature on second language acquisition, and simply being able to develop their reo Māori. Providers also believed a range of aspects of their programmes had worked well. Included were the language ability groupings, the use of the communicative approach, having the school clusters, and visiting the schools to work with the teachers in the classroom. In addition, one provider believed their facilitation of whānau hui in each of their participating schools was a strength of their programme.

In terms of what had worked less well, most of the teachers interviewed believed there was nothing. The less helpful aspects mentioned were the long days, the use of the rākau method, and some of the guest speakers. Providers generally only raised the issue of the timeframe for delivery of the PD as something that had not worked so well, and other timing issues.

Almost all of the participating teachers (from the post-PD survey) were satisfied overall with the programme, and all would recommend it to other teachers. Satisfaction was similarly high across all four PD pilot programmes. Respondents to the survey and those interviewed all made positive comments about the programme, with some indicating it had been a “life-changing” experience. Principals were also generally positive about the programme.

Suggestions for improvements

Teachers made a range of suggestions for improvements to the PD programme, the most common being that it was not long enough. Also suggested was that a refresher course sometime in the future would be useful, as would having more written exercises and spending more time working with the curriculum. There was support too for having more than one teacher from the school involved. Providers suggested having more lead-in time before the PD programme started.


Knowledge, proficiency, and confidence

On average, participating teachers showed a modest gain in their self-rated knowledge of te reo Māori from the beginning to the completion of the PD programme. Gains were also made on proficiency statements based on Levels 1 to 4 of the reo Māori curriculum, with the largest gains occurring on the Level 1 statements. The teachers also made gains in their confidence in using te reo in different situations; however, increases in confidence in reading and writing in te reo Māori were more marked than increases in conversing in Māori. Providers and those involved in the site visits frequently reported increases in confidence in the participating teachers as an impact of the PD programme.

Participating teachers generally rated their knowledge of tikanga Māori in different settings higher post-PD than at the beginning of the programme. Those involved in the site visits also commented on what they had learnt in relation to tikanga through the course.


At the beginning of the PD programme, participating teachers also tended to be very supportive of the learning of te reo Māori in New Zealand schools; however, the strength of respondents agreement with the statements presented increased post-PD. The teachers interviewed also commonly described an attitude shift or a strengthening of their passion for te reo.

Use of te reo and tikanga Māori

Following completion of the PD, teachers generally increased their use of te reo Māori in classroom, with more responding teachers indicating that they used te reo “always” or “often”, rather than merely “sometimes”. Use of tikanga in certain situations also increased in frequency post-PD. The teachers also reported that they now used te reo Māori more in a range of situations, particularly classroom management, interactions with students and staff, and starting the day with waiata and/or karakia. Teachers also stated that they did more planning or felt their planning was more effective now, taught te reo Māori more often, and/or took a different approach to teaching it. These impacts were reflected in the site visits also.

Use of te reo and tikanga Māori in the wider school had also increased – particularly notable were increases in having Māori words and signs around the school and having a whānau support group. Teachers in the site visits also mentioned the spontaneous use of te reo Māori among students and staff at the school.

Knowledge and use of second-language learning strategies

Although teachers’ awareness of some of the learning strategies was already high, awareness of the other strategies covered increased following the PD programme. Most marked were increases in awareness of organising information, transliterating, coining new words, mnemonics, asking for correction and help, and learning from errors (with feedback). Teachers also increased their use of the strategies, both in their own learning and in their teaching with their students. After completing the PD, teachers were aware of and using more strategies than before and were favouring some different strategies. Teachers in the site visits commented that they liked this component of the programme.

The draft reo Māori curriculum

Probably due to the fact that it had not been publicly released, only a third of the teachers had looked at the draft reo Māori curriculum at the beginning of the PD programme and few had used it. Following the programme, however, the vast majority of responding teachers had at least read or glanced at the curriculum document and the vast majority of these were using it. The most common uses were for planning te reo lessons and as a resource for vocabulary and grammar. The teachers involved in the site visits generally appreciated having access to the draft curriculum, and some of the schools had plans to use it across the school.


Following completion of the PD programme, teachers’ use of some of the types of assessment covered in the course increased considerably. The most marked increases were in individual assessment, self-assessment, written tests, and peer assessment.

Transfer of skills and knowledge

Some of the teachers involved in the site visits were passing on what they had learnt on the PD to other staff, most commonly by running a short session as part of a staff meeting, and others had plans to do so. Generally, this session covered phrases the teachers could use or teach to their students. One school had set up a “buddy” or “tuakana-teina” class between the two teachers who had participated on the PD, where their classes came together for some lessons and the teachers shared the teaching and supported each other.

Networks and community support

Teachers’ awareness of sources of support for teachers of te reo Māori was moderate at the beginning of the programme, increasing by its completion. With the exception of support from other teachers at the school (which the majority were aware of and used), participating teachers tended to make only modest use of the sources of support listed, even when the majority were aware of them. Although use of the sources of support listed increased after the programme, there was still a discrepancy between awareness and use of the available support, particularly for Resource Teachers of Māori (RTMs) and College of Education Advisors . (This discrepancy decreased for some sources of support, including teachers from other schools.)

Those involved in the site visits were asked what barriers there might be to teachers using sources of support that they were aware of. A variety of barriers were identified, including not knowing the person or who to contact, lacking the confidence to approach someone, not having time, and the distance from the people concerned. There was also a perception that RTMs did not visit mainstream schools or classes.

Benefits for the students

Those interviewed as part of the site visits generally believed that the students at the school (or in the participating teacher’s class) had benefited in some way from the teacher’s involvement in the programme. This may have been simply that the children were now learning Māori and enjoying it. The programme was seen as benefiting Māori children in particular, providing a sense of belonging, a sense of pride, increased confidence, and the opportunity to be an “expert” in the classroom. Māori students’ behaviour was also reportedly improved by the use of instructional phrases in te reo Māori and by the improved relationship with the teacher(s). The fact that the kapa haka was strengthened in some schools was also seen as a benefit to students, particularly the Māori students.

Some of those interviewed believed these benefits would flow on to improvements in achievement, but there was not (yet) any measurable evidence of this occurring. The teachers did, however, relate a number of anecdotes about individual students’ learning and achievements that illustrate the potential for improvements in overall achievement to occur.


The teachers involved in the site visits all reported that their schools were very supportive of their participating in the PD programme, and the schools generally supported the teaching of te reo Māori in the school, either across the school or in the teacher’s class. In one case, the teacher reported that there had been a change in the attitude of staff at the school – to a more positive one – as a flow-on effect of the teacher’s participation in the programme. Respondents to the post-PD survey indicated, through their level of agreement with statements about the support in the school, that the support of management, staff, and the school community had increased somewhat from the beginning of the programme.

Things that had helped teachers to put in place what they had learnt through the programme included their own attitude or commitment, support from the course provider/tutors, information on the course about how to put what they had learnt into practice, their own level of confidence, support from their colleagues, and the attitude/enthusiasm of their students.

Some teachers believed that there were no barriers to putting into place what they had learnt on the programme, and few barriers were identified by the teachers. The key barriers identified, however, were lack of time, lack of resources, and lack of financial support. Two teachers on the site visits had had a role change that took them out of a regular classroom, so this also created a barrier for them.


Two of the schools involved in the site visits reported having increased involvement of their Māori communities in the school as a result of the teachers’ involvement on the PD programme. In one school, this was a result of the whānau hui that the programme providers assisted the school to facilitate, and in the other, strengthening of the kapa haka brought more parents and whānau into the school to see the performances.

Factors contributing to and detracting from effectiveness

It was intended that these factors would be identified through the site visits, comparing the findings for those for whom the programme had been “effective” with those for whom it had been “less effective”. However, the site visits showed no consistent pattern based on whether the programme had been “effective” or “less effective” for the selected teachers. Rather, the assessments made about the effectiveness of the programme for each teacher did not necessarily reflect the extent to which the teacher was using what they had learnt on the programme. Thus, we have looked more at the commonalities across the programmes and the participating teachers that may have contributed to the programmes’ successes, than on the differences between the programmes and the teachers concerned.

Factors external to the programmes that were found to contribute to the programmes’ successes are the level of support received from the school and teacher attitude and commitment to implementing what they had learnt.

Programme-related factors that may have contributed to the programmes’ successes are the Ministry’s approach to the PD contract, the use of the communicative method and language learning strategies, the practical application through focus on the draft reo Māori curriculum, the perceived quality of the programme providers, having more than one teacher on the programme, and the use of school clusters and networking for the teachers.


The main conclusion from this evaluation is that the Reo Māori in the Mainstream Professional Development Pilot Programmes for Primary School Teachers have been a success. The evaluation has shown a range of impacts for the participating teachers, both for themselves and their own development and for the students, staff, and whānau/ community at their school.

A small number of issues or developments were raised through the evaluation that should be considered if the PD programme is to be run again and/or offered more widely. These include: more lead-in time to the start of the PD programme; addressing the diversity in the range of prior abilities on the programme; the length of the programmes; facilitation of whānau hui; and the availability of Resource Teachers of Māori (RTMs).

In addition, a number of aspects of the programmes are identified that worked well and would be desirable elements of the programmes to retain or strengthen in the future. These include: support from the school; programme content and delivery; and catering to teachers’ learning styles.


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