INDEPENDENT NEWS

New approach lifts Maori students' achievement

Published: Thu 11 Dec 2003 01:35 PM
New approach lifts Maori students' achievement
A research project, Te Kotahitanga, has shown significant evidence of improvements in Maori students’ achievement through a new approach to teaching, Education Minister Trevor Mallard and Associate Education Minister Parekura Horomia said today.
The ministers today released a report on the first phase of Te Kötahitanga, a study aimed at identifying what works in education for underachieving Mäori students and what doesn’t.
The research was conducted by Professor Russell Bishop and a research team from the University of Waikato along with the Poutama Pounamu Research and Development Centre, Group Special Education, Ministry of Education.
Trevor Mallard and Parekura Horomia said the in-depth research had important implications for Maori education and would be a useful approach for teachers and their professional development.
“This government is committed to ensuring that all our children have the opportunity to reach their full potential in education. We are putting a real focus on using research like this to help lift Maori student achievement, as it puts the spotlight on what actually works in practice, in the mainstream classroom.
“It also shows ways to keep students enthused and excited about learning," the ministers said.
The Te Kötahitanga research looked at the experiences of Year 9 and 10 students in mainstream classrooms in four schools.
As a starting point for the research, students, their parents, teachers and principals were interviewed to find out what they thought were the best ways to improve Mäori educational achievement.
A professional development programme for teachers was developed where student experiences were used to challenge teachers' thinking about how classroom experiences could be improved.
"The research clearly shows that it's the quality of the in-class, face-to-face relationships and interactions between students and their teachers that makes the difference,” the ministers said. The need for a classroom environment that's culturally appropriate and responsive to the learning needs of Mäori students was identified early on.
Teachers in the project focussed on changing their teaching practice to create an environment where there was improved interaction and a better relationship between students and teachers.
The professional development programme, with 11 teachers from the four schools, was followed up with visits by the researchers to the teachers involved. The teachers also attended a five-day wänanga (professional development seminar).
"Even though this initial study was small, the report says there is significant evidence of reduced absenteeism, improvements in work completion and increased levels of attendance and achievement among the students involved, " the ministers said.
"We are looking forward to this valuable work being extended further next year with 12 other schools becoming involved in the project."
The report can be accessed at http://www.minedu.govt.nz/goto/tekotahitanga

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