Evaluation of the Te Kauhua Māori Mainstream Pilot Project

Publication Details

Te Kauhua is a professional development pilot project which provides schools with opportunities to address Māori student achievement in mainstream settings. The evaluation identified common transformative processes which resulted in sustained professional growth amongst teachers.

Author(s): M. Tuuta, L. Bradnam, A. Hynds and J. Higgins with R. Broughton. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: 2004

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Executive Summary

The under achievement of Māori students in mainstream settings has been a priority of government, particularly given that over 85% of Māori students are currently in the mainstream or general school system rather than in Kura Kaupapa or other Māori medium settings. The New Zealand schooling system has continued to perform less well for Māori students. Research has revealed that mainstream teachers have had lower expectations of Māori children, have failed to effectively identify or reflect on how their practice impacts on the educational experiences of Māori students, and have had limited support to address these specific issues.

Te Kauhua/Māori in Mainstream Pilot Project (henceforward referred to as Te Kauhua) was about reframing the mainstream school experience for Māori students. It provided an opportunity for schools to work towards developing their own strategies for achieving this rather than imposing a "one size fits all" approach.

As part of Budget 2000, funding was secured from 2001-2003 to enable schools to "pilot new and innovative approaches to professional development to enhance teacher effectiveness for teachers working with Māori students in mainstream educational settings".

Te Kauhua (meaning the supports on a waka and used as a metaphor for supporting each on the same journey) was an exploratory professional development pilot. It provided schools with the opportunity, in partnership with their Māori community, to explore professional development approaches that enabled teachers to improve outcomes for Māori students and work more effectively with Māori whanau.

The theoretical underpinnings of Te Kauhua were based on research evidence that productive professional development needs to give teachers a safe process for reflecting on what is happening for Māori students and enable the development of effective pedagogy and wider practices that challenge the deficit attribution theory amongst teachers. This approach required an intervention in the way teachers think about their world, their cultural identity, curriculum and cultural processes in the classroom.

The hypothesis underpinning the pilot was that Māori student outcomes will improve when they see themselves reflected in a curriculum, and when their teachers are supported to be reflective about their practice and to be agents of change for Māori students.

Each school cluster had a `teacher-leader' seconded over two and a half years as a facilitator of the project. Their role was to facilitate professional development opportunities and assist with the development of school strategic plans for building teacher capability that would contribute towards improving Māori student academic and social outcomes. The key aims were to:

  • build a professional learning community
  • raise teacher expectations, and
  • change teacher attitudes, skills and professional practice.

This report evaluates the impact of Te Kauhua/Māori in Mainstream Pilot Project in ten clusters of schools from Waitakere, Auckland in the north to Christchurch and Greymouth in the south. The schools included seven secondary and ten primary from a range of deciles and rural/urban locations, and had varying proportions of Māori students (less than 20% to 70%).

Key Findings

  • A range of models, elements, and strategies were put in place across the various clusters. The project allowed clusters to develop approaches to professional development which were unique, and which were seen as being highly appropriate by all parties and inclusive of their concerns, ideas, and identities.
  • All the clusters made substantial progress in reframing the mainstream school experience for Māori students. The professional development engendered a great deal of participant involvement, collaboration and teamwork. It created much enthusiasm, better communication, better understanding, and a substantial leap in hope and belief in the possibility of improved educational achievement for Māori students among all concerned - teachers and principals, students and the Māori community. A key theme to emerge from the collected data was the importance of constructive learning partnerships or relationships of teachers with other adults in the school community (specialist resource teachers, Resource Teachers of Māori (RTM), Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour (RTLB), other teachers, Te Kauhua facilitators, Māori parents/caregivers, kaiawhina etc).
  • As a transformative process, changing attitudes and understanding took time and effort from all involved. The range of strategies employed included accessing expertise and resources, goal setting, monitoring and evaluation, team work, sharing ideas, problem-solving and risk-taking, principal leadership and support and a general willingness to participate in transforming practices. The professional development models, developed by schools within Te Kauhua, were embedded within the daily work context of teachers and principals in mainstream schools.
  • The professional development was successful in addressing the concept of growth-in-practice. "Growth-in-practice assumes that teaching is intellectual work and that professional development occurs when teachers have the opportunity to learn from theory and practice as part of their job" (p.59). Many participants interviewed spoke about how the process of involvement within Te Kauhua enabled individual teachers and individual schools to grow more confident and become more effective at meeting Māori students' learning needs. Facilitators spoke of growing through reciprocal learning opportunities created through engagement with teachers, and subsequently were able to improve their own confidence/effectiveness in their roles. Te Kauhua allowed aspects of existing school culture to improve, including teacher collegiality and collaboration, particularly between Māori and non-Māori staff members. This was viewed by these participants as encouraging teachers to improve their practice and better meet Māori students' needs, by providing appropriate levels of challenge and support.

Now [the teachers] are growing skills that they need to meet the needs of their students ... and we are looking at consistent classroom practice throughout the school and up-skilling our teachers in areas of, just really effective use of resourcing and expertise and growing that in the year, challenging their beliefs and what they think a good teacher is. (Principal)

  • Teachers' self-efficacy or a belief in one's ability to make change was a powerful mechanism by which changes that lead to raising Māori student achievement could be realised. In the early stages of the project the overwhelming response from teachers (91%) was that it was possible to raise Māori student achievement in mainstream education. A small percentage (3%) felt that it was not, and slightly larger group (6%) did not respond to this question. By the end of the project 11 of the 12 facilitators, and 125 (69%) of the teachers felt they had become better equipped at raising Māori student achievement through their involvement in the professional development.
  • Throughout the project, across the clusters of schools, there was ongoing evaluation of existing classroom practices. There was a shift from early on in the project at which time only 51% of teachers reported they had made changes to their classroom practice. Towards the end of the project 70% of teachers reported that they had made changes.
  • There was increased representation of Māori in schools. The representation included increased numbers of: Māori staff employed; Māori members of Boards of Trustees; Māori parents interacting in the school setting; past Māori students returning to the school as role models; and Māori tutors. In some clusters there was greater use made by schools of Māori expertise either through specialist teachers (Resource Teachers of Māori), kuia and kaumatua, and Māori educational consultants and researchers. Facilitators and schools continue to explore ways of engaging whanau more fully in their schools.
  • Changing teachers' attitudes, skills and practice in relation to Māori students is a turbulent process. In many schools, teachers and principals took risks and experimented. Some participants reported feelings of anxiety and the need to overcome fears. Open communication and debate were seen as important improvement processes. Some participants reported that they needed to be better prepared for the process and felt they had received conflicting messages about the goals of the professional development. This highlights the need for certain types of skills that include an understanding of the change process (particularly for facilitators), the need to prepare participants, the need for team-building, an understanding of conflict resolution, data collection and problem-solving skills as well as a clear understanding of respective roles and responsibilities.
  • There is still a great deal of debate about what educational achievement for Māori students really is. There is ongoing discussion about development of effective data collection systems to assess Māori student achievement.

Recommendations for Further Research

  1. The aims of the project need to continue in a wider range of schools. Continued research will provide the Ministry with some specific data on the process of sustaining and developing teacher and school improvement and raising Māori student achievement.
  2. More research is needed on the effect of using consultants in the professional development process and in guiding the change process.
  3. Increased research is needed on processes that encourage or discourage teacher collegiality and their impact on school improvement and student achievement.
  4. More research needs to be conducted on the quality of support, accountability and feedback mechanisms and systems in schools and their role in teacher and school development as well as how these processes impact on raising student achievement.
  5. We need to know if Te Kauhua has had a positive effect on non-Māori students (and their families) regarding their attitudes towards biculturalism.
  6. Further research is needed on partnership processes between Māori and non-Māori in schools.
  7. Involving whanau is critical to raising Māori student achievement. Ways of doing this need to be explored further.


  1. Quality Teaching for Diverse Students: A Best Evidence Synthesis (2003). Adrienne Alton-Lee, Medium Term Strategy Policy Section, Ministry of Education.
  2. Alton-Lee, Nuthall with Patrick, 1993; Benton, 1988; Bishop & Glynn, 1999; Irwin, Davies & Carkeek, 1994.
  3. Lieberman, A., & Miller, L. (1999). Teachers transforming their world and their work. New York: Teachers College Press.

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