Ngāue Fakataha ki he ako 'a e Fānau: Schools and parents and families working together to better understand and support Pasifika students’ progress and achievement at school Publications
Three reports are available on this research and development project. For details of these reports, refer to the right hand column under "Where to find out more".
Author(s): Dr Lesieli Tongati'o, Kerry Mitchell and Shelley Kennedy
Date Published: November 2016
Introductory overview of the project and reports
- The Ngāue Fakataha ki he Ako 'a e Fānau research and development project was initiated by the Ministry of Education to help increase understanding of Pasifika parents' relationships with schools and teachers regarding their children's learning, progress and achievement.
- A fundamental premise of both the Pasifika Education Plan and the New Zealand Curriculum is that regular, positive input from parents in support of their children's learning has a strong part to play in young people's success. This premise is also reflected in the wider Government initiative, Investing in Educational Success (IES), aimed at lifting student achievement, and in current policy statements for Communities of Learning/Kāhui Ako which are a key strategy under the IES umbrella.
- Two of the three project reports presented on this site document findings from each of the research (Phase One) and development (Phase Two) phases of the project. The third report is a short summary of the project overall.
- The Ngāue Fakataha ki he Ako 'a e Fānau research and development project involved working with three primary schools in 2013 and 2014. All three schools wished to develop ways to better engage with Pasifika parents, families and communities. The proportion of Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands Māori, Niuean, and other Pasifika students enrolled at these schools ranged from one-fifth to more than three-quarters. Interviews and workshops were conducted with parents, senior leadership team members, board of trustees members, teachers and students.
- The project has provided valuable insights about the challenges faced by schools and parents and students themselves in working effectively together in support of student learning and progress and offers practical guidance to address the challenges.
- It has been particularly valuable to hear the voices of Pasifika parents and students to complement the voices of school senior leadership team members and teachers.
- The research literature reviewed as part of the project and the project findings provide evidence that reporting practices and wider aspects of partnering in relation to student learning, progress and achievement vary widely in schools and are often problematic.
- The evidence also indicates that while schools may wish to partner more meaningfully with parents in support of student learning, they do not necessarily have a clear philosophy or vision for what such deeper-level engagement would look like and this can lead to actions that while well-intended may bear little fruit.
- Project findings, together with wider research evidence, led the project team to develop a Talanoa Ako Cycle. ('Talanoa ako' is 'talking together about education'.) The Talanoa Ako Cycle is a key outcome of the project.
- The purpose of the Talanoa Ako Cycle is to help schools and parents work more effectively together throughout each school year (and across years) to achieve improved understanding of and support for students' progress and achievement. The intent is that a school will do this through adapting, refining and building on their existing reporting and associated mechanisms.
- The Talanoa Ako Cycle along with four 'guide tools' to aid its implementation are included in the Phase Two project report and in the summary report.
- The Talanoa Ako Cycle sets out key actions to help schools, parents and families, teachers, and students anticipate and understand what steps they need to take, and when, throughout the school year, to:
- establish and reinforce respectful, inclusive relationships as the foundation of effective partnerships around student learning
- reach a clear understanding of the purpose of working together about student learning and develop statements for inclusion in school policy documents that reflect this shared understanding and purpose
- establish clear, timely learning goals for students
- support, track, clearly report on and review learning goals
- establish and build on students' and parents' strengths in relation to learning
- help students address areas of difficulty in their learning
- increase deeper-level talanoa ako (discussion or conversations about education and learning) among all participants throughout each annual cycle.
- The tools to aid implementation of the Talanoa Ako Cycle include guides for parents and teachers in preparing for goal setting and reporting meetings, and a tool for schools, to be shared with parents and others, setting out the roles and responsibilities of each of the board of trustees, school leaders, teachers, parents and students within the year-long cycle of talanoa ako.
- There is also a tool for school leaders which identifies important elements of strong governance and leadership for change in working with parents to support students' progress and achievement under three key themes: leading organisational change; developing leadership capability; leadership for curriculum. (These themes were identified in the ERO (2015) report How do leaders support improvement in Pacific early childhood services?)
- The Talanoa Ako Cycle and guide tools complement and build on findings and recommendations within other New Zealand resources, such as: Improving education outcomes for Pacific learners (ERO, 2012); How is my child doing? (ERO, 2013); Engaging with families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds (The New Zealand Curriculum Update, June 2011, TKI website); Effective governance supporting Pasifika success: Information for school boards of trustees (Ministry of Education, 2013).
- During Phase Two of the project, in which participating schools trialled aspects of the then draft Talanoa Ako Cycle, positive changes occurred in the schools. For example, there was evidence of less teacher-dominated talk during reporting meetings, parents being encouraged and better supported to ask questions and provide feedback, parents and students gaining greater understanding of the contents of the written report of progress and achievement, and more discussion occurring about next steps to jointly support the child's ongoing progress.
- The project also found that strong governance and leadership are essential if schools, teachers, parents and families are to work together in an effective, consistent and sustained way in support of Pasifika and all students' progress and achievement.
- Project messages about establishing respectful, reciprocal relationships and strong, transparent leadership in order to effect change have direct relevance for Communities of Learning/Kāhui Ako which depend on partnership, clear communication, and collaborative decision-making and practice in order to address agreed achievement challenges. It is also expected that project findings and outcomes will be useful to audiences such as initial teacher education providers, professional development providers and facilitators who work with and for schools and Communities of Learning/Kāhui Ako, and Pasifika parents and family and community groups.
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