Ambitious mathematics: Ratios, decimals, fractions and time for Ta’ovala:
Building student and teacher confidence and success: School leadership matters

Introduction/Whakataki

The findings of the School leadership and student outcomes Best evidence synthesis highlighted the crucial role of school leadership in promoting and participating in effective professional learning. This was found to be the strongest leadership influence on improved student outcomes.

Figure 3: School Leadership & Student Outcomes Identifying what works and why: Best Evidence Synthesis

The findings of that best evidence synthesis also highlighted potentially the second biggest leadership impact on student outcomes: the creation of educationally powerful connections with the culture, identities, experiences, families and communities of the children. The evidence, however, also revealed the capacity to lead the creation of educationally powerful connections for the diversity of students in a school, to be an area of system weakness.

Both the Principal and the Deputy Principal at Koru School afforded priority to participating in, promoting and optimising the DMIC professional learning, albeit through a time of great challenge, for example, with school building programmes underway for a move into an ‘Innovative Learning Environment’ in 2017. Koru School has also had significant resourcing challenges with, for example, 25% to 27% staff turnover per year.

At a school leaders’ meeting with Professor Michael Fullan in 2015, Deputy Principal, Bronwyn Jones, provided advice to other school leaders about the critical role of school leadership in engaging with the effective implementation of DMIC:

‘To start with, making sure that Stan and I were fully involved in the professional development. Being involved as leaders, sitting alongside the teachers, walking with them through professional development (PD), walking through them when they got six months into the PD and were like: “We can't do this. The kids aren't making progress. We want to stop, we want to change, go back to what we're doing”. And just walking that with them and saying: it's going to be OK. We have faith in what we're doing, have faith in what Bobbie's telling us, and it's going to be OK.

We got big shifts at the end of that first year. We had students who held their gains over the holidays, which is something that didn't always happen. They held their results from one year to the next. So that was really powerful for the teachers, and that gave a lot of proof to them.’

Principal, Stan Whata, concludes by explaining how important it is that school leaders sustain this challenging pedagogical approach as they take on the challenge of inducting new teachers each year and keeping experienced teachers on a learning curve.

In this example, Koru school leadership, and teachers, Matilda Ngaluafe Williams and David Ahlquist, exemplify a significant step taken in the challenge of the journey to value and learn from Pacific expertise in education.

Find out more about the Developing Mathematical Inquiry Communities approach in action