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Te Kotahitanga

Pukekohe High School is in its fourth year as a “Te Kotahitanga” School. This programme was developed following a period of research to investigate “how to improve the educational achievement of Maori students in mainstream secondary school classrooms”. This investigation was headed by Professor Russell Bishop of Waikato University.

The following summary comes from:
Te Kotahitanga , Author: R.Bishop, M.Berryman, T.Cavanagh and L.Teddy Published: March 2007
and outlines the philosophies that underpin the Te Kotahitanga programme.

Addressing Maori underachievement will be accomplished when teachers create learning contexts within their classroom;

  • where culture counts;
  • where learning is interactive,
  • where participants are connected to one another through the establishment of a common vision for what constitutes excellence in educational outcomes.

We termed this pedagogy a Culturally Responsive Pedagogy of Relations.
To examine what this pedagogy might look like in practice, in 2001 we developed an Effective Teaching Profile (ETP), the design guided and shaped by experiences of Maori students, their whanau, principals and teachers.

Fundamental to the ETP is teachers understanding the need to explicitly reject deficit theorizing as a means of explaining Maori students’ educational achievement levels.

That is, practitioners expressing their professional commitment and responsibility to bringing about change in Maori students’ educational achievement by accepting professional responsibility for the learning of their students.

These two central understandings are then manifested in these teachers’ classrooms where the teachers demonstrate on a daily basis:

  • that they care for the students as culturally located individuals;
  • they have high expectations of the learning for students;
  • they are able to manage their classrooms so as to promote learning;
  • they are able to engage in a range of discursive learning interactions with students or facilitate students to engage with others in these ways;
  • they know a range of strategies that can facilitate learning interactions;
  • they promote, monitor and reflect upon learning outcomes that in turn lead to improvements in Maori student achievement and they share this knowledge with the students.

From student interviews was learned that when Maori students have good relationships with their teachers, they are able to thrive at school. Good relationships are based on teachers embracing all aspects of the ETP, including caring for them as culturally-located individuals as Maori, caring for their performance and using a wide range of classroom interactions, strategies and outcome indicators to inform their practice.

Teachers at Pukekohe High School are involved in the professional development programme that has been implemented to give effect to the classroom practices outlined above. This programme involves:

  • participation in a three day meeting or hui organized by the school for new teachers to the programme
  • having teachers from the school who are trained Te Kotahitanga facilitators observe lessons and provide teachers with feedback as to how they are implementing the ideas that underpin the ETP
  • meetings with teachers of the same class groups to discuss and report back on teaching and learning issues associated with that class
  • the assessment, recording and reporting of student achievement data and the willingness to discuss and share what the data demonstrates about student learning