Te aromihi pouako e puta ai ngā ihu o ngā ākonga Māori

The principles and effective professional relationships

Timperley et al. (2007) and Robinson et al. (2009) identify the ability to engage in constructive talk around difficult issues of practice as essential to school improvement. This kind of talk needs to be rigorously focused on improving student outcomes, and the participants need to be able to challenge each other’s assumptions while also supporting each other to improve. Collegial interactions such as these require a climate of trust and respect in which people feel comfortable to take risks.


American researchers Chris Argyris and Donald Schön (1974) have developed a set of theories about professional relationships that facilitate workplace learning. They outline two contrasting models of communication.

  • Model I is based on unilateral control of the situation, ‘winning’ (proving oneself right), and suppression of data that does not fit the participant’s assumptions. Model I communication tends to be defensive and inhibit communication.
  • Model II is based on shared control of a situation, making sense of evidence, and open dialogue, no matter how difficult. Model II communication helps to unmask the gap between the values people espouse and the values they actually live by.

New Zealand researcher and teacher-educator Eileen Piggott-Irvine has a long history of leadership in the fields of educational management, appraisal, and action research. Argyris and Schön have been a key influence on her work. On the basis of their theories and her own extensive research, she offers the following definition of effective appraisal:

Effectiveness occurs when appraisal interactions are non-controlling, non-defensive, supportive, educative and yet confidential. Effective appraisal therefore is underpinned by a relationship of respect and has outcomes directly linked to improved learning and teaching. Effectiveness is also linked to appraisal processes that have clarity, objectivity and high integrity, where deep development is a goal rather than quick-fix expedience.

Piggott-Irvine, 2003, page 3

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