The education of Years 7 to 10 students: A focus on their teaching and learning needs: Full Report Publications
Previous research shows that New Zealand students are generally positive about their school experiences during the middle schooling years. But at the same time, students’ perceptions of aspects of teaching and learning at school become increasingly negative during these years and there is evidence that their overall levels of engagement in learning show a decline. To help gain greater insights into the needs of students in the middle years of schooling the Ministry of Education designed and undertook an exploratory study to seek the views of principals, teachers and students regarding teaching and learning in Years 7 to 10. This research collected the views of principals, teachers and students in 185 schools throughout New Zealand on the education needs of students in Years 7 to 10 and whether those who teach this age group need specialised knowledge, skills or personal attributes.
Author(s): Nicola Durling, Lisa Ng, and Penny Bishop. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.
Date Published: June 2010
The literature shows that New Zealand students are generally positive about their school experiences. But at the same time, students' perceptions of and engagement in school, their teachers, and their learning become increasingly negative during the middle schooling years. This raises questions about the match between middle years students' learning needs and learning opportunities, and provides evidence that the middle years of schooling can be an important point of intervention for later school engagement, success and completion.
In response to this, and the need for more information on the education of students in Years 7 to 10 in New Zealand, the Ministry of Education designed and undertook an exploratory research study involving Years 7 to 10 principals, teachers and students. In this report we look at the views held by Years 7 to 10 principals, teachers and students on the education needs of Years 7 to 10 students, and whether those who teach this age range require any specialised1 knowledge, skills and personal attributes to effectively work with these students. Teachers also provide their views on how well they felt their teacher education and induction programmes prepared them to teach Years 7 to 10 students. The report provides a picture of the qualifications and teaching confidence levels of Years 7 to 10 teachers in 2008.
Summary of Years 7 to 10 teacher qualifications and confidence
- The majority of Years 7 to 10 teachers had completed some tertiary level study (for the purpose of this report, tertiary-level study did not include courses leading to a teaching qualification) and this tended to be at 300 level or higher. There were however, around 25 percent of Years 7 and 8 teachers and five percent of Years 9 and 10 teachers who had not completed any tertiary level study.
- The qualifications of Years 7 to 10 teachers showed some noticeable differences across subject areas. Years 7 and 8 teachers were found to teach a range of subject areas so were less likely to have completed some tertiary level study in the areas they were currently teaching compared to Years 9 and 10 teachers, who were, in general, teaching only one or two subject areas.
- At Years 7 and 8, very low proportions of teachers currently teaching other languages had completed any tertiary level study in this area. At Years 9 and 10, science teachers were most likely to have completed subject-related tertiary study (with 36 percent studying to postgraduate level), whereas current Years 9 and 10 teachers of the arts and technology were least likely. There were also a number of teachers who had completed tertiary level study in a subject area that they were not currently teaching to Years 7 to 10 students.
- The majority of Years 7 to 10 teachers reported that they were 'very confident' or 'confident' teaching the subjects/year groups they were currently teaching. Years 7 and 8 teachers were likely to be 'confident' rather than 'very confident', while Years 9 and 10 teachers were more likely to be 'very confident'.
- The confidence levels of Years 7 to 10 teachers varied considerably across subject areas. Years 7 and 8 teachers covering more specialist2 subjects – Māori, other languages, science, technology and the arts – had lower levels of confidence in teaching those subjects. However, when the Years 7 and 8 teachers had completed high levels of tertiary study in the specific subject area, their confidence levels were higher. Years 9 and 10 teacher confidence levels tended to be higher than Years 7 and 8 teacher confidence levels in all subjects, but of note were the strikingly higher levels of confidence in the more specialist subjects.
- Analysis showed that teacher confidence was associated with a range of other school and teacher characteristics, depending on year level and subject area. However, higher levels of teacher confidence tended to have the strongest relationships with years of teaching service and completing higher levels of tertiary study in the subject area taught.
Views of teachers and students in relation to effective teaching practices/activities for Years 7 to 10 students
- Group work and hands-on activities were most often identified by teachers and students as being effective classroom activities for students in the middle years. Teachers and students also emphasised that Years 7 to 10 students require activities to have clear instructions, guidelines and relevance to their lives if they are to fully understand the key concepts of the activity.
- Teachers also identified the need to ensure that middle years students have the opportunity to learn in a range of different ways and through a range of different activities — to cater for different learner characteristics, increase and maintain levels of engagement, and increase students' depth and breadth of learning experiences.
- Years 7 to 10 students identified physical movement as an important aspect of an effective learning experience. They also felt that movement was undervalued in schools.
Views of principals and teachers in relation to the needs of Years 7 to 10 students
- The particular needs of Years 7 to 10 students tended to be related to the learning environment and the quality and characteristics of the learning opportunities, with little difference between principal and teacher responses.
- The learning environment for Years 7 to 10 students needed to incorporate clear boundaries and rules for behaviour, which help to ensure a safe environment in which to learn. Structure and routine in Years 7 to 10 classrooms was also identified as important, especially for boys.
- Most participating teachers and principals believed that Years 7 to 10 students benefited more from having 'homeroom' teachers than they did from having specialist subject teachers. They felt that a 'homeroom' situation provided greater consistency for students, which in their view was a continuing need for middle years students. A few teachers and principals, however, believed that a mixed or flexible approach was necessary for some students. Nevertheless, it was stressed that whatever the learning environment provided, it needed to prepare Years 7 and 8 students in to cope with the learning, social and other challenges at the secondary education level.
- Teachers and principals thought that the learning opportunities for Years 7 to 10 students needed to be relevant and linked to the real world. To see this relevance, students needed to understand why they were learning certain content or undertaking particular activities. They also thought that engaging and challenging learning experiences would foster ongoing enthusiasm for learning.
Views of principals, teachers and students in relation to the knowledge, skills and personal attributes of effective middle years teachers
- There was considerable agreement amongst principals, teachers and students that teachers do require specific knowledge, pedagogical skills and personal attributes to work with Years 7 to 10 students. Whilst these would apply to 'quality teaching' for students at all age groups, respondents expressed the particular importance of these specific skills, knowledge and attributes for the teaching of middle years students.
- In particular, principals, teachers and students agreed that to be an effective teacher of middle years students instruction needs to be guided by the diversity and developmental nature and stages of this age group. Such teaching is characterised by active, hands-on learning that is varied and relevant to the student. Students also voiced a considerable need for clear explanations and instructions, working in small groups (especially Māori students), and for learning to be fun but not chaotic.
- Strong classroom management skills were identified by principals, teachers and students alike as key for teaching this age group. Teachers must create a stable classroom environment and set boundaries with consistency.
- Principals, teachers and students also expressed the importance of middle years teachers having good content knowledge including strong literacy and numeracy foundations. Years 9 and 10 students were more likely to emphasise the importance of a teacher "knowing their stuff" and "using assessment to help learning".
- The ability for middle years teachers to form positive relationships with their students was identified by all groups as important. Participating students saw this as a strength of their current teachers. Principals, teachers and students agreed that it is particularly important for teachers of middle years students to show a sense of humour and be patient, empathetic, and fair. Students, especially Māori and Pasifika students, expressed the importance of teachers "treating us fairly and consistently."
Views of teachers in relation to their preparation, development and support for working with Years 7 to 10 students
- Teachers were generally positive about their teacher education programme, beginning teacher induction programme and their professional development in preparing and supporting them for working with Years 7 to 10 students. However, around a quarter of teachers in this study felt that their teacher education and/or induction programmes did not prepare them well.
- There was considerable agreement amongst teachers that to better prepare and support teachers for working with Years 7 to 10 students, teacher education and induction programmes and ongoing professional development should have a stronger focus on behaviour/classroom management, teaching and learning strategies, literacy and numeracy and the particular needs and developmental changes of this age group.
- 'Specialised' in this report refers to skills, knowledge etc needed to teach Years 7 to 10 in particular, in addition to the general knowledge and skills needed by all teachers.
- In this report, 'more specialist' refers to those subjects which would commonly be taught by specialist teachers, even in Years 7 and 8.
Where to find out more
Education Data Requests
If you have any questions about education data then please contact us at:
Email: Requests EDK
Phone: +64 4 463 8065