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

Identifying professional learning needs: What it might look like

This section includes excerpts from case studies on the schools that participated in the Ruia exploratory study and links to relevant professional learning projects and research studies. In addition, there are extracts from Rangiātea case studies with links to the Rangiātea website.


Aorangi School

Aorangi School is a decile 2, year 0–6 school in Rotorua. It has 140 students, 88 percent of whom are Māori. The principal, deputy principal, and a parent were interviewed for Ruia.

Appraisal at Aorangi School is an ongoing process throughout the school year.

To reduce teacher workload at the beginning of the school year, the bulk of achievement data that informs the year’s appraisal goals is gathered at the end of the previous year. The leadership team collates and analyses the data, looking for trends and patterns before discussing it with the rest of the staff.

Together, the staff and board of trustees set school goals for student achievement that are clearly linked and articulated in all key documentation, from the school charter through to the school’s annual goals and in appraisal goals. These decisions inform discussion and decision-making about resourcing.

The staff also sets collegial professional development goals that are in line with the goals for students. For example, the charter states that one of the school’s strategic goals for 2011–13 is: “By promoting te reo Māori me ōna tikanga, children will value their Māori heritage, be proud to be Māori, demonstrate high levels of self-esteem, and believe in themselves as high achievers.”

In 2011, the school’s specific objective in relation to this outcome was: “Strengthen the delivery of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga in all classes.”

The actions required to achieve this objective included: “Continue providing regular professional development in te reo Māori me ōna tikanga at staff meetings.” Progress was to be measured against the outcome “All students have the opportunity of learning te reo Māori me ōna tikanga delivered effectively by their classroom teacher.”

Each teacher also meets individually with the principal and sets confidential goals. These goals are revisited each term with ongoing self-assessment against the professional standards.

The teachers have to use evidence of student achievement to show that they are meeting their goals. They also have classroom observations to examine the link between their practice and their students’ achievement.

Leading teacher appraisal

Case 1 of the School leadership and student outcomes: Identifying what works and why best evidence synthesis (BES) draws on Claire Sinnema’s doctoral research "Teacher appraisal: Missed opportunities for learning".

Case 1 explains how three of the leadership dimensions identified in the leadership BES influence the extent to which appraisal can be used to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Those dimensions are:

  • planning, co-ordinating, and evaluating teaching and the curriculum
  • establishing goals and expectations
  • selecting, developing, and using smart tools.

Observation protocols

The Ki te Aotūroa: Improving inservice teacher educator learning and practice project includes a case study of a Literacy Professional Development Project (LPDP) facilitator. She used  the LPDP protocols to support a literacy leader to better regulate her own practice.

The case incorporates video clips, transcripts, and links to current research that allow you to explore in depth how professional learning conversations about observations of teacher practice can be used to stimulate deep reflection on that practice.

While the focus here is on literacy, the deeper ideas are universal:

  • helping teachers to understand the impact of their practice
  • using professional learning conversations to help teachers build their professional knowledge.

Ōpōtiki College

Ōpōtiki College is a state secondary school in the Bay of Plenty. Over 80 percent of the students are Māori. The school is a participant in the Te Kotahitanga project. The principal, a teacher who is the school’s Te Kotahitanga facilitator, and a parent were interviewed for the Ruia project.

In term 4 each year, individual and collective professional learning goals are decided by using information from teacher evaluation rubrics designed by the principal and by reviewing action plans from terms 1–3.

The rubrics provide the basis for individual evaluation conferences between the principal and teachers.

Together, the principal and teacher use evidence, including from teacher observations, to reach consensus about the teacher’s performance in six areas. This includes:

  •  planning and preparation for learning
  • classroom management
  • family and community outreach. 

Specific criteria provide guidance on expectations and how to improve. Collated and converted to a spreadsheet, the rubrics provide a powerful (and confidential) road-map for school-wide professional development.

The action plans from term 1–3 describe teachers’ professional learning goals and the actions required to achieve the goals:

  • Teachers conduct personal teacher inquiry as part of their participation in Te Kotahitanga. 
    • They set goals around their inquiry, are observed by the Te Kotahitanga facilitator, and are provided with feedback around those goals. 
    • The information from that process can only be used in appraisal with the teacher’s agreement.
  • Departmental goals are decided by the curriculum team.
  • Another template designed by the principal is used to set targets for learning teams focused on particular student groups.

The principal or another member of the senior leadership team visits each teacher once every three weeks to:

  •  observe progress towards the teacher’s goals
  • provide feedback on:
    • the classroom environment
    • lesson structure
    • teaching strategies
    • student engagement levels
    • quality of classroom relationships. 

Observers use an observation template that the staff developed.

They note the things that impressed them and the things that they wondered about. They check whether students are clear about their learning and its purpose. Teachers receive written reports within 24 hours of any observation.

Read the full Ōpōtiki College Ruia case study.

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/Board of Trustees member asked to be interviewed together for Ruia, reflecting the way they usually work.

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 conversation 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.

Read the full Randwick School Ruia case study.

Sylvia Park School

Sylvia Park School is a decile 2 suburban school with a diverse student population of 320. Around a quarter of the students are Māori, and over half are Pasifika. The Ruia interviewer met with the principal, two teachers (the teacher in the bilingual unit and the teacher who is the project manager of the parents’ centre), and a parent.

Teachers at Sylvia Park School describe their appraisal discussions as being “fun, challenging, and encouraging of critical thinking”. They note that teacher inquiry has become a natural part of the way they do things at the school.

Teachers set their initial appraisal goals in discussion with the principal in term 1.

They take to these discussions evidence of where they are in their personal inquiry journey, including student data collected and organised to track students’ progress over time.

When focusing on literacy, they often use LPDP (Literacy Professional Development Project) tools such as the curriculum expectations chart and the wedge graph.

Appraisals focus on needs that are specific to the teacher, but teachers say that these needs fit within the bigger cause of realising the school’s plan and vision for its students. For example, one teacher’s focus was on understanding asTTLe so that she could easily and effectively share data with parents. This connects with a major school focus on ensuring that parents know about assessment and can have honest discussions with teachers about the data for their children.

Information from observations also informs the setting and monitoring of teacher goals. The principal conducts daily ‘walkthroughs’ of classrooms to keep in touch with what is happening and conducts formal observations two to three times a year, using the LPDP observation protocols. A set of scenarios developed by the LPDP to monitor shifts in teacher knowledge is another useful tool.

Read the full Sylvia Park School Ruia case study.

Te Ara Whānui Kura Kaupapa Māori o Nga Kōhanga Reo o Te Awa Kairangi

Te Ara Whānui Kura Kaupapa Māori o Nga Kōhanga Reo o Te Awa Kairangi is a decile 3 kura in Lower Hutt, with students in years 1–10. Four people were interviewed for Ruia: the tumuaki, deputy principal, a senior teacher, and a parent.

Teachers’ appraisal goals take into account the strategic goals of the kura and the developmental needs of individual teachers. The appraisal goals relate to the focus areas of the kura, as outlined in the annual operational plan.  (At the time of the Ruia interview, these were curriculum, performance management, and student targets.)

The deputy principal co-ordinates the performance management system. All documentation is confidential to her, the tumuaki, and the kaiako. The process supports provisional registration and registration renewal and creates a record that can be used to support further professional development, either for the individual or across the kura.

Each term, the deputy principal makes school-wide observations of classroom management and the classroom environment. This observation is based on either a kura-wide focus or the individual choice of the kaiako. The purpose is to provide critical feedback and celebrate effective practice.

The kaiako receives a copy of the classroom observation sheet before the observation and has an opportunity to negotiate specific focus areas.

Following the observation, the deputy principal provides face-to-face feedback on the teacher’s strengths and professional development areas.

The following questions support teachers to identify their vision for their own practice and participate in planning to address their needs:

  • What goals/aims do you have?
  • What do you want to achieve/improve?
  • What resources/support do you require?
  • On what evidence/information have you based the goals and required support?

Staff with data expertise discuss the data analysis and trends with the principal and with each teacher individually. If there are specific areas or alerts that require greater attention, a teacher’s individual appraisal goals may be adjusted to include the identified issue.

Attestation against the professional standards is rigorous and ongoing throughout the year, with kaimahi (members of staff) checking in with the deputy principal fortnightly. Individual staff checklists are used as a quick visual overview to monitor areas that have to be covered off by the end of each term.

Items for the checklist are negotiated and prioritised from 1 to 4, and items that rate 1 to 2 are discarded.

The discussion is then guided by four key questions:

  • What are the challenges?
  • What are the celebrations?
  • What’s going on in the team?
  • What else would you like to talk about?

Read the full Te Ara Whānui Kura Kaupapa Māori o Nga Kōhanga Reo o Te Awa Kairangi Ruia case study.

Using assessment to build teaching capability

Case 4 of the Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration BES (Timperley et al., 2007) describes the Assessment to Learn (AToL) project’s competencies matrix and the model of professional development that was built around it.

The case shows how the routines around this tool supported teachers to transfer their learning to their own practice.

Hamilton Girls’ High School

A Rangiātea project school

According to its Rangiātea: Hamilton Girls' High School case studyteacher appraisal at Hamilton Girls’ High School focuses on improving teaching practice and, ultimately, student outcomes.

The school’s structures and processes support ongoing critical inquiry, where teacher feedback and feedforward and analysis of achievement data are used to improve teaching and learning.

Inquiry focuses on the teacher’s impact on student learning and achievement:

It is about helping the teacher to understand not only the impact they have on students but also to investigate and gain knowledge of what the actual impact is. It’s not enough to say I will teach subject content. There is an expectation that teachers will be able to identify what the students gained, the added value for students by being in the classroom.


An important characteristic of the school’s approach is the use of student voice.

This is facilitated through a number of approaches, including feedback from students in their whānau tutor group classes and student diaries, and engagement with Ka Awatea (the Māori student council).

The case study includes an example of a teacher who was finding it particularly difficult to support the learning of her Māori students (page 9). The professional learning for that teacher included constructive feedback from students about how they found her classes and possible areas for improvement.

Kakapo College

A Rangiātea project school (The school chose not to use its real name; the pseudonym Kakapo College is used here.)

Kakapo College is a decile 9 co-educational college in an urban centre.

Compared to the national average, the school has a record of high and improving levels of achievement for its Māori students, but its goal is to ensure that the rates of success for Māori students match or exceed those for its non-Māori students.

The Rangiātea: Kakapo College case study cites an “emerging culture” in some departments, and especially in the English department, of “deciding to maintain or to change particular teaching approaches based on evidence about their impact on students, including Māori students” (page 10).

Systems and processes are being put into place to enable open discussion about how to better support teachers to improve teaching and learning for Māori students.

This includes involving students in appraisal. Students provide feedback on their teachers’ performance in relationship to up to 28 attributes.

The feedback is analysed according to students’ ethnicity and gender, allowing the school to identify teachers who need extra support to realise the potential of their Māori students.

Senior management, Māori staff, and the student support worker (who is Māori) all support their colleagues to learn what they need to better meet the needs of Māori students.

The school understands the importance of relationships and so has sought ways to probe teachers’ relationships with their students.

One approach was a survey to find out how much teachers knew about their students’ extracurricular activities. This demonstrated that some teachers did not know their students well enough to build effective teaching–learning relationships.

In addition, the support worker has sat in on classes to observe and provide feedback on the classroom dynamics.

Western Springs College

A Rangiātea project school

Appraisal at Western Springs College is clearly linked to improving student outcomes generally and Māori student outcomes specifically.

The school’s staff appraisal document sets out specific requirements with regard to teachers’ competency in te reo Māori me ōna tikanga and their obligations in upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The school’s Rangiātea: Western Springs College case study explains that teachers receive feedback on individualised approaches used with students and are closely monitored within each department. Teaching teams regularly discuss student achievement and the results of common tests or tasks. Staff use these discussions to inform their curriculum planning.

The school’s Rangiātea exemplar explains what takes place in the maths department, which has built a culture of collaborative inquiry that helps teachers to differentiate teaching for diverse students.

The ongoing inquiry is supported by such systems and processes as results analysis meetings, which include a focus on Māori students, and quality assurance meetings, where teachers discuss their observations, planning, record keeping, teaching strategies, and student work.

The exemplar explains that the head and assistant head of the maths department also undertake regular visits to the classrooms of beginning teachers and of teachers who are new to the school.

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