Evaluation of Teacher Professional Development Languages (TPDL)

For teachers of languages in Years 7-10 and the Impact on Language Learning Opportunities and Outcomes for Students

Publication Details

This study was carried out during 2008 and aims to inform the Ministry about the TPDL and the impact on language learning opportunities and outcomes for students.

Author(s): Sharon Harvey, Clare Conway, Heather Richards & Annelies Roskvist, AUT University

Date Published: December 2009


Like governments in similar jurisdictions, the New Zealand government is increasingly responding to pressures to internationalise and interculturalise the education system so that young New Zealanders finish their schooling able to meet the multifarious challenges of thriving in a multicultural, globalised economic and social world. To this end, the Ministry of Education has identified Learning Languages as a new learning area in The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) (Ministry of Education, 2007a). The New Zealand initiative is in line with the Common European Framework goal to foster plurilingualism and pluriculturalism (Kohonen, 2006) and concomitant Australian moves to integrate intercultural competencies into language learning (see, for example: The Department of Education Tasmania website).

The emphasis on extending and improving the quality of provision of language learning in New Zealand schools relies on the growing language and intercultural proficiencies of language teachers and their ability to effectively teach additional languages to New Zealand students. Language teachers in New Zealand schools span a number of levels of proficiency themselves in the teaching languages (TL), ranging from beginner to native speaker level. In a context of rapidly growing student numbers in some languages (Education Counts, 2007, p.1) and more schools offering a greater range of language learning opportunities, more, and more proficient teachers are needed to teach languages. Consequently, in order to meet demand many new language teachers are having to learn languages alongside of or just a step ahead of their students. A recent ERO report considering schools' readiness for the full implementation of the new national curriculum in 2010 noted:

The majority of secondary schools and a growing number of primary schools were already offering students opportunities for learning a second or subsequent language. The most commonly stated challenges in both primary and secondary schools were finding and/or retaining suitably qualified staff and building the capability and confidence of staff in teaching a language (ERO, 2009).

One way the Ministry of Education has responded to the challenge of building greater capacity in language teaching is to commission a professional development course. The programme is known as Teacher Professional Development in Languages (TPDL). The AUT research team were contracted by the Ministry of Education to provide research and evaluation services to determine the effectiveness of this professional development programme. The effectiveness of TPDL was to be evaluated in terms of:

  • teachers' development in language fluency
  • teachers' second language teaching knowledge
  • teachers' knowledge of the Learning Languages strand of The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) and of their specific language curriculum guidelines
  • student learning and outcomes
  • the sustainability and replicability of the TPDL programme

Concomitantly, the Ministry requested evidence about the programme's contribution to Effective Teaching in order to inform the design of future initiatives and decisions around resourcing and long term planning for learning languages.

The duration of this project was to be from February 2008 to March 2009. However, the contract was not signed until 2 May 2008 and will now run until June 2009. The final budgeted total was $67,066.90 (inclusive of GST) (Ministry of Education, 2007b).

Background to TPDL

The TPDL programme began as a two year pilot delivered through one contractor in 2005 – UniServices, and two contractors in 2006 (UniServices was one of these). The programme was implemented fully from March 2007. Since 2007 there has been one contractor for the programme and this is UniServices, University  of Auckland. In 2006 and 2007, the programme was offered to teachers of additional languages in Years 7- 8. In 2008, this was extended to teachers of additional languages in Years 9 - 10. In 2007, places were offered to forty applicants and in 2008 fifty eight applicants joined the TPDL programme.

The current target participants for TPDL are language teachers of French, Spanish, German, Japanese and Chinese who want to improve their teaching language proficiency, increase their knowledge of the languages curriculum and increase their understanding of second language teaching methodology.

The course offers three distinct components,

  1. Language proficiency improvement for those that need it through a course of a minimum of forty learning hours. These courses can be taken locally or by distance learning and teachers have enrolled as students at a number of institutions throughout the country in order to meet the course requirement. Where appropriate courses have not been available, customised courses have been organised for participants.
  2. A second language acquisition methodology paper (EDPROFST360) delivered at different locations throughout the country by University  of Auckland academic staff. In addition to learning about second language acquisition methodology, this paper also requires teachers to examine The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) (Ministry of Education, 2007a) and specifically the Learning Languages strand as well as the specific language guidelines for their teaching language. The paper includes four observations of language lessons (one per term) followed by a ninety minute discussion with TPDL facilitators based on evidence collected during the observation.
  3. Four two hour language group meetings which integrate language and theory and offer practice for teachers to sit international language examinations (University of Auckland, 2007).

In 2008, meetings for the course were held in Auckland, Rotorua/Hamilton, Wellington and Timaru.

This report is divided into eight chapters. The second chapter outlines the design of the study; it discusses the ethical issues and describes the approach to data analysis. The limitations of the study as well as an explanation of terms are also presented in this chapter.

Chapters three to seven discuss the findings of the study.  Each of the chapters addresses a key research theme as originally identified in the Request for Proposal (RFP). In Chapter three, we examine teacher participation in the language courses and the improvement in proficiency they have experienced over this time.  Chapter four focuses on the learning teachers have experienced while studying the University  of Auckland paper EDPROFST360, focusing particularly on their understanding of second language teaching methodology. Chapter five also considers teacher learning in EDPROFST360 but focuses on improvements and changes to teacher understanding and teachers' ability to work with the Learning Languages strand of The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) (Ministry of Education, 2007a) and specific language curriculum guidelines. Chapter six considers the outcomes for students as a result of teacher participation in TPDL and chapter seven examines the ways in which TPDL establishes sustainable teacher development and the possible replicability of the course. Chapter eight draws together conclusions and recommendations.  Appendices include the research contract, ethical approval documentation and the research tools.


  1. The Ministry of Education defines effective teaching (Ministry of Education, n.d) as, Effective teaching focuses on maximising learning outcomes for all learners in every situation. Effective teaching requires knowledge of subject and teaching practice. The heart of effective teaching is where these three areas of influence intersect.

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