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

Randwick School

Randwick School is a decile 3, year 0–8 suburban school with 207 students, of whom nearly half are Māori. The principal, a teacher, and a parent/BOT member asked to be interviewed together for Ruia, reflecting the way they usually work.

RandwickSch

What are the priorities for our Māori students?

The appraisal process at Randwick School begins at the start of each year, with staff gathering, marking, and moderating student data. The management team collates the data and conducts the initial analysis, looking for overall trends and areas that need strengthening (for example, year groups or specific ethnic groups that need further support in particular areas).

The management team then presents their initial analysis of the data at a staff meeting, where teachers discuss school-wide strengths and needs and the implications for allocating resources, such as teacher aides. These initial judgments are recorded on large sheets of paper but not recorded on any formal template at this stage. Instead, the sheets are displayed in the staffroom so that teachers and school leaders can add to and amend them as they make sense of the data over time. The data is also presented to the community for their input.

At meetings with whānau, the data for Māori students is presented and there is discussion about what whānau can do to help. Whānau are also provided with the information needed to take part in informed discussion about the school’s goals for its Māori students and the rationale for its current focus for teacher professional learning.

Ultimately, the data is used to identify the school’s targets and annual goals. At the same time, teachers are supported to identify focus students, whose progress is tracked separately and closely monitored throughout the year. The make-up of the focus groups is fluid, changing over time in response to new data.

What are our own learning needs?

The information from the inquiry into student learning needs is used to identify and address both the professional learning needs of the staff as a whole and the specific appraisal goals of each teacher. The principal meets each teacher to go over their job descriptions and set their appraisal goals. This process is repeated in terms 2 and 4, followed each time by a formal classroom observation, after which the teacher is given feedback about their goals, especially in relation to their teaching’s impact on their focus students. These students are interviewed at the time of the classroom observations.

As well as the formal observations during appraisal, the management team have set up a process for teachers to observe and give feedback to each other around their goals. The process includes five criteria for how well teachers’ practice is meeting the needs of their students. These criteria are used to guide the observation and the practice analysis conversations afterwards. The five criteria relate to aspects of practice:

  • specific teaching of processes and strategies
  • making connections to prior knowledge and learning
  • sharing learning intentions and success criteria
  • giving focused feedback and feedforward
  • catering to diverse learning needs.

All teachers are trained in how to do observations and give each other effective feedback, and the leaders ensure that teachers have the time they need to do this. The teachers see observations as beneficial to their teaching and improving their practice and the achievement of their students. The interviewed teacher said:

Peer observations give me the opportunity to improve my practice in a variety of ways. I get to see good practice across all the levels of the school, I get feedback from a variety of people, I’m given time to reflect on my own practice, and I have the chance to hear what my students have to say. I also appreciate doing readings related to my own and my students’ learning needs and talking about my practice with others.

Professional learning

Before starting peer observations, the literacy lead team became aware that teachers were feeling some anxiety about them. They needed to be sure the observations would benefit all who took part, including the observer, the teacher being observed, and the students.

In response to these concerns, the literacy lead team organised one-on-one sessions with the school’s LPDP (Literacy Professional Development Project) facilitator where the teachers were able to discuss their goals and planning for the observed lesson. The sessions built teachers’ confidence about ensuring their deliberate acts of teaching were explicit and would benefit their students, as well as about the observation process and protocols. By responding to this identified need, the lead team built teachers’ ownership of the new practice and the peer observations became meaningful to them, as illustrated by the teacher quote above.

Making changes

During the school’s participation in the Literacy Professional Development Project (LPDP), a range of evidence from classroom observations, student interviews, and student achievement data indicated that the teachers needed to establish groups to address students’ writing needs, just as they did for reading and maths. The literacy lead team believed that writing groups would help build student capacity because:

  • groups are based on analysis of student strengths and needs, and so tasks can be devised to specifically address those strengths and needs
  • they give students more frequent opportunities to talk with each other and share strategies
  • many students find it easier to participate in classroom talk within a smaller group
  • the groups give students a sense of support.

What has been the impact of our changes?

It took time for teachers at Randwick School to get used to the writing groups, but it wasn’t long before they could see improvements in the students’ writing. The principal believes that this is because the changes were based on strategies that research shows help all students, including Māori, to be successful in their writing.

The appraisal process winds up at the end of each year with a feedback session, where the principal supports each teacher to reflect on their progress against their professional learning goals, to review their students’ achievement in relation to changes in their practice, and to think about what their next focus should be.

The appraisal process at Randwick School is quite formal and structured but also flexible enough to evolve. The members of the school community who were interviewed say that what worked well in one year may not work well in the next, and that they reflect on this and change the process if necessary.

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