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Research into teaching practice

3 Chapter Three: New Zealand research on Māori-medium education education

3.2 Research into teaching practice

Research into teaching practice in Māori-medium education has produced mixed and contradictory results. Earlier research showed (for example, Hollings, 1992; Education Review Office, 2002) that, in its infancy, there were many gaps in assessment practices and teacher pedagogical knowledge in Māori-medium education. Some of these issues continue to persist into the present. However, more recent research (for example, Bishop, Berryman and Richardson (2001) provides evidence of high quality teaching practice.

These research findings will now be discussed.

3.2.1 Hollings, Jeffries and McArdell (1992)

One of the earliest studies of Māori-medium teaching practice was Hollings, Jeffries, and McArdell (1992) who researched the assessment practices of 47 Māori-medium programmes (using questionnaires and cluster interviews with 73 teachers from these programmes).

These authors found that the teachers in Māori-medium education were using a wide variety of English-medium derived methods to assess Māori language development, including, Running Records to assess reading (Clay, 1988), and the Six Year Net to assess general literacy levels.31 However, incidental observation was the method most often used by teachers, because of a lack of appropriate assessment tools for Māori-medium schools in the early 1990s. Hollings et al. found that, of the various forms of language assessment regularly implemented by these teachers, few of them demonstrated a sufficient understanding of their relevance for L2 learners, or their appropriateness to L2 contexts – a crucial omission, given that Māori is an L2 for most students in these programmes. The authors also found that there was little coordination in the recording of assessment. In fact, many teachers indicated that they based their decisions on a “feeling”

about the students’ progress.

On the basis of these findings, Hollings et al. concluded that, while most classroom assessment was at that stage still largely anecdotal and intuitive, this was primarily because of a lack of appropriate language assessment resources and related training in the use of them. The study’s principal recommendation was to improve the resource materials base in Māori language for schools, including Māori versions of the major language and literacy assessment tools available to mainstream English-medium schools. Better coordination and sharing of information about language assessment among teachers in Māori-medium contexts was also recommended. This study shows that, in the earlier years of Māori-medium educational development, schools were attempting to catch up to mainstream English-medium schools, and doing so with few Māori designed resources at their disposal.

3.2.2 Educational Review Office (2002)

The 1990s was a period of capacity building for Māori-medium schools. It saw the development of some key Māori language assessment tools for junior primary levels –

31 The Six-year-net is a New Zealand designed literacy assessment that is conducted when New Zealand children turn six. It tests letter identification, concepts about print, vocabulary and reading ability, and was devised by Marie Clay (Clay 1988).

particularly Ngā Kete Kōrero and Aromatawai Urunga-ā-Kura.32 However, there was little research conducted during this period. Despite this, several national reports were written by the Education Review Office (ERO), 33 which, like the research of Hollings et al., found some positive features, a number of constraints and some weaknesses in the Māori-medium programmes.

The 2002 ERO report provided a summary of reports from 52 kura kaupapa Māori with immersion levels in te reo Māori above 80 percent. The report continued to highlight the significant constraints experienced by kura kaupapa in terms of teaching, evaluating, planning and management. Surprisingly, however, the report did not focus specifically on the quality of Māori language instruction or on the extent to which students were achieving fluency in te reo Māori. Only 16 of the 52 kura kaupapa Māori that were reviewed received specific comment regarding their te reo Māori programmes. Of these ERO found that 12 had demonstrated good quality language programmes.

The Report commented on the instructional methods teachers used to teach te reo Māori and found that at 23 kura the methods were appropriate and likely to lead to competency in both te reo Māori and English, while at seven kura the teaching methods were less appropriate. However, the basis for this assessment is not stated, nor does the report indicate the types of language competencies the reviewers focused on.

There were a high number of other areas of instruction, assessment and governance that ERO deemed to be of concern in around 50 percent of the kura kaupapa Māori studied.

These areas included curriculum planning, curriculum delivery, student assessment,

32 Ngā Kete Kōrero is both a series of junior level Māori language readers arranged according to text difficulty, and a framework for ranking junior texts. It was developed from the mid-1990s. Aromatawai-Urunga-ā-Kura (AKA) is a standardized assessment tool to assess literacy and numeracy at school entry in te reo Māori, and has been available since 1997 (see Rau, 2005). However, as Bishop, Berryman and Richardson (2001) have since found, it is still not widely used by Māori-medium teachers.

33 The Education Review Office is part of the Ministry of Education. Their job is to assess all state-funded schools.

meeting individual needs, learning environments, administration and governance, the supply of staff and personnel and teaching resources.

The greatest strengths of the programmes included the use of cooperative learning techniques in instruction, the creation of safe and effective learning environments, and the nurturing of effective relationships with the community. However, as Hollings et al.

found earlier, the evidence from this ERO Report indicated that there were still issues regarding teacher practice and assessment in Māori-medium contexts. This contrasts with the research that appeared on effective practice in Māori-medium schools by Bishop, Berryman and Richardson (2001), which will now be discussed.

3.2.3 Bishop, Berryman and Richardson (2001)

In 2001, Bishop, Berryman and Richardson (2001) conducted research entitled Te Toi Huarewa, which focused on the teaching of language and reading in Māori-medium programmes. It sought to identify effective teaching strategies, learning materials and assessment characteristics among 13 Māori-medium teachers who had been identified by school advisors as effective practitioners. The study used primarily observations and interviews to gather its data. This research found that these 13 teachers displayed exemplary teaching characteristics in regards to five areas.

1. Creating caring relationships

2. Creating positive and structured learning environments 3. Building on students’ prior knowledge

4. Using effective feedback to encourage and reinforce students’ progress 5. Using power-sharing strategies.

The central finding from this research was that the Māori-medium sector employs some extremely effective teachers of reading and writing who have high levels of expertise and who use a wide range of materials to support their literacy programmes. However, while this research addresses teacher practice in the Māori-medium context, the findings do not focus on bilingual themes. In fact, many of the findings from this study could probably have been derived from studies of effective teachers in mainstream, English-medium schools. Nevertheless, this study shows that effective teaching is not just associated with English-medium education in New Zealand.