ERO’s findings from the interviews and surveys with NGTs and leaders are presented separately for early learning services and schools. These findings reflect leaders’ and NGTs’ perceptions of the NGTs’ confidence and preparedness to teach. It is interesting to note that NGTs were more positive about their confidence and preparedness in their survey responses than they were in the more in-depth interviews ERO conducted with them.
Those NGTs who felt confident and prepared to teach generally had a good understanding of theory associated with curriculum and foundational knowledge of the early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki. They reported that their practicum experience was critical to building their confidence and preparing them as teachers. Leaders noted that students who were working in an early learning service prior to, or at the same time as gaining a qualification tended to be more confident and able to link theory to practice, particularly in relation to curriculum design and implementation.
NGTs who felt less prepared or confident told ERO they knew the theory but not how to implement it in practice. They felt they had limited knowledge about planning and the formative use of assessment information to plan, especially planning a curriculum that is responsive to children’s language, culture and identity.
Where students had the opportunity to undertake practicum in a variety of different early learning services (different service types, with different age groups of children, and different philosophical approaches) this helped to strengthen their practice.
Leaders interviewed had a range of views about the preparedness and confidence of NGTs to use Te Whāriki to design and implement a curriculum responsive to children’s language, culture and identity. They considered it was not good enough for NGTs to just have foundational knowledge of the curriculum in terms of theoretical understandings. They needed to know how to articulate this knowledge and apply it to practice. Many NGTs were not confident and prepared to plan a curriculum responsive to children’s language, culture and identity. This aspect, along with self review, inquiry and reflective practice, managing children’s behaviour and promoting social competence, bicultural practice, te reo Māori and tikanga Māori were all cited as areas of weakness.
Although about two‑thirds of the NGTs who completed the online survey reported they felt confident or very confident to design, implement and evaluate a curriculum responsive to children’s language, culture and identity, interviews revealed that the extent to which their courses prepared NGTs to work with diverse learners was highly variable. Often their courses gave emphasis to bicultural practice with minimal focus on the importance of children’s language, culture and identity in planning a responsive curriculum.
Other aspects of practice NGTs felt they could have been better prepared for included working with infants and toddlers, and with children with additional learning needs. Those studying through a field-based provider told ERO that they were expected to learn a lot ‘on the job’ and gained the most knowledge from working in centre at the same time as completing their qualification.
Leaders interviewed identified assessment as an area NGTs were less confident and not as well prepared to incorporate into their teaching, particularly when using assessment information to inform their teaching strategies. They told ERO that NGTs tended to have basic knowledge of ‘learning stories’ and how to write them but were not so prepared to notice and recognise learning, and were less confident with assessing children’s progress. Leaders noted that ITE programmes provided theoretical knowledge, and services were expected to provide the opportunity to apply this in practice.
Leaders needed to support NGTs with assessment, particularly in relation to focusing on making children’s learning visible. One leader commented the NGT “was good at noticing and needed to be reminded that it was about significant learning.”
Although nearly 80 percent of the NGTs who completed the online survey rated themselves as confident or very confident in relation to assessment, interviews with NGTs highlighted a lack of confidence and preparedness in relation to how to assess and document children’s learning, and how to use assessment information to identify teaching strategies. What they did learn about assessment was largely focused on a ‘learning stories’ approach with limited opportunities to learn about different assessment approaches and techniques. Other issues raised by NGTs included a lack of focus in their ITE programme on dispositions, assessment portfolios and bicultural assessment.
Assessment was an area where the theory-practice link was not sufficiently robust to enable NGTs to feel confident and prepared. Expectations were not always understood and shared as to the relationship between what was being learnt through the ITE programme and the role of practicum in supporting this learning. One NGT highlighted this – “My ITE tutor said ‘you learn that (assessment) on placement’ and my associate teachers said ‘you should be learning that at university’.”
Leaders and NGTs interviewed expressed a variety of views about NGTs’ confidence and preparedness to work collaboratively with parents and whānau. Although leaders acknowledged the important role of practicum in building student teachers’ confidence to work with parents and whānau, this is an area that students did not always get to experience on practicum. Leaders told ERO that NGTs were sometimes confident to talk with parents about things such as health and safety, but were not as confident to have more in‑depth conversations about children’s learning. Leaders also noted the challenges for NGTs in working collaboratively with parents and whānau of learners from diverse cultural backgrounds.
NGTs identified similar issues, often with services or associate teachers not allowing them to talk to parents when on practicum. One NGT was told by her associate teacher, “it is not your place to talk to parents on placement.” Others felt confident about developing relationships with parents and whānau but found having more courageous conversations about a child’s learning more difficult. NGTs who felt confident to work with parents attributed this to the strong focus on relationships in Te Whāriki. Conversely, others noted it was not a strong focus of their study. Shyness and confidence were personal issues that sometimes contributed to NGTs lacking confidence and feeling not so well prepared.
NGTs who completed the online survey were most confident about working collaboratively with parents and whānau. Eighty‑seven percent rated themselves confident or very confident in this area. A few NGTs noted this was an area they needed support with, especially in relation to developing relationships and with communication.
Leaders recognised the importance of the personal qualities of NGTs that contributed to their confidence and preparedness to teach. These qualities included being motivated, enthusiastic, warm, caring, passionate and mindful. Being able to form relationships and build on these relationships to work collaboratively in partnership with parents and whānau was often seen by leaders to be more about the personal qualities of the person rather than something that can be learnt in an ITE programme. Leaders recognised the new knowledge NGTs brought to their service and their strengths in communication and working collaboratively.
Overall, NGTs in schools felt confident in their preparation to be teachers, however they tended to be more confident about their content and pedagogical knowledge than their ability to use assessment data to show progress, plan strategies and refine their practice.
NGTs’ personalities, life experiences and learning on practicum supported them to feel confident. They found it useful when practicum was across a broad variety of contexts and aligned with the theory they learnt.
Leaders and NGTs identified variability in the content and quality of their preparation across lecturers, courses and ITE providers, and across NGTs’ experiences on practicum.
A stronger alignment between NGTs’ learning on practicum and in lectures would better support their confidence in their preparation. NGTs reported that when theory and practicum aligned, practicum was a useful way to develop their understandings. They felt less confident when what they experienced on practicum did not align with the theory they were taught. Links between theory and practice were not always explicit, which limited NGTs’ confidence.
NGTs generally felt well prepared with the content and pedagogical knowledge they needed to begin work as a teacher. Over 80 percent of NGTs who responded to the survey reported feeling confident they had the content and pedagogical knowledge they needed.
NGTs were supported to be confident in their content and pedagogical knowledge by learning about theories and philosophies that inform teaching, as well as practical strategies they could use in their class. They generally felt they were prepared to plan lessons and units. Practicums were helpful for many NGTs’ understanding of the theory they learnt, and how it related to their practice.
When NGTs did not feel as confident or prepared, it was often because the theory they learnt did not link to what they experienced on practicum, or it was too theoretical and they did not see how it applied in practice. Some courses had too little focus on areas outside of reading, writing and mathematics or the pedagogy they were taught was outdated. Others wanted to know more about working in a Modern Learning Environment (MLE).
Leaders also noted NGTs’ sound baseline knowledge that they could build on over time, but identified some areas where they felt NGTs could be better prepared. These included up‑to‑date pedagogical knowledge, a broader understanding of curriculum and pedagogy, and working in an MLE. Leaders recognised it can be challenging to take theoretical knowledge and apply it practically, and that NGTs learnt a lot when they first started teaching.
NGTs who felt less confident and prepared also identified areas that ITEs could improve, such as better preparation for teaching students with additional learning needs, students who were at risk of underachievement, or extending students who were achieving well, and the day‑to‑day practices they needed as new teachers. They needed more opportunities to develop confidence in areas such as setting up a classroom, writing a report or planning a trip. Leaders agreed this was an area they needed to build NGTs’ capability in.
Both leaders and NGTs highlighted classroom and behaviour management as an area that needed more support.
Nearly all the NGTs who responded to the survey felt confident in their ability to develop positive relationships with learners and members of their learning community. In interviews, NGTs told ERO they learnt about a variety of factors that influenced students’ learning, particularly the importance of culture. They felt their own culture and life experiences supported them to better understand the influences these things could have on students.
NGTs who felt less prepared to understand and respond to the personal, social and cultural factors that influence learning said their learning about the various influences could have been more in depth or more authentic. They told ERO they would have benefited from having more diverse experiences on practicum. For example, some had all their practicums at high decile schools.
Leaders told ERO that while some NGTs were culturally competent and had a good understanding of the factors that influence learning, others were naïve to the complexity of these influences. They said reality was a shock for some NGTs, and they could be better prepared for diverse contexts. NGTs’ confidence in this area was thought to be dependent on their personality, life skills and previous experiences. Leaders noted variability in NGTs’ preparedness depending on their course and practicum experiences.
Assessment, its analysis and use to inform planning and practice was a common area that needed strengthening. Leaders told ERO that NGTs often had little understanding of assessment tools, moderation, data analysis or data use. They said NGTs’ knowledge and understanding was dependent on what they learnt on practicum, and many were learning about assessment ‘on the job’.
NGTs felt more confident when they had opportunities to learn about assessment on practicum. These opportunities helped NGTs develop some understanding of assessment tools, and NGTs felt more confident when they had opportunities to practice using assessment during their ITE.
NGTs were not always prepared well enough to be confident in the use of National Standards or National Certificate of Educational Achievement, or to use achievement data to plan strategies to accelerate the progress of students at risk of underachievement. NGTs did not understand what acceleration was, and did not use data to inform their planning and teaching. Leaders said some NGTs were prepared in theory, but not ready to do this in practice. Moderating judgements, and reporting on achievement to parents, was also an area that some leaders felt needed strengthening. Assessment and data analysis were among the main areas leaders were building NGT capability in.
Nearly one‑third of teachers that completed the survey were only somewhat confident or not confident at all to use data to inform their planning. In general, secondary school teachers rated themselves as more confident to do this than primary school teachers.
Leaders noted variability in NGTs’ understanding of teaching as inquiry. Although leaders saw NGTs attempting reflective practice, they noted variability in the extent that NGTs used evidence to refine their practice. While some NGTs were improvement focused, making changes to their practice based on evidence and reflection, other NGTs reflected, but were not focused on improvement or outcomes.
Reflections on practicum often supported NGTs to feel confident and well prepared, as did the feedback they received. However, NGTs had mixed views as to how well supported and encouraged they were to use data to inform their reflections. In addition, a few felt they could reflect on what worked or not, but were not well prepared to improve their practice based on their reflections.
NGTs’ interpersonal skills and life experiences were a good foundation for them to engage with parents and whānau.
NGTs felt more confident in their relationships with students, than in their ability to work collaboratively with parents and whānau. Leaders noted this was largely dependent on NGTs’ interpersonal skills, and that age and experience supported them to be more confident to engage with parents about their child’s learning.
Just under three‑quarters of NGTs that responded to the survey indicated they were confident to work with parents and whānau. NGTs employed in primary schools rated themselves more confident to work collaboratively with parents and whānau than NGTs teaching in secondary schools.
Leaders told ERO that NGTs often developed good relationships with parents and whānau and understood the need to work with parents around students’ learning. Some lacked the strategies to develop learning‑centred partnerships. Leaders noted the challenge of taking theoretical knowledge and applying it practically. They commented that student teachers had limited opportunities to practise things like working collaboratively with parents before starting in their teaching role.
Leaders recognised and valued the personal qualities of NGTs as being important to their confidence to teach. Leaders valued NGTs’ enthusiasm and passion for the role, and their willingness to learn. Leaders said NGTs were hard working and quick to pick up the knowledge and skills they needed for their role. They saw that NGTs had a holistic view of student success, and developed good relationships with their students.
A few leaders commented that ITE providers should be more selective of the students they accept, or that they allow to graduate. Leaders said they employed NGTs that fit the culture of the school, and then built on their strengths and areas for development. For some leaders, having NGTs was seen as more work for the school, because of the need to upskill them, while others said they felt it was their professional responsibility to employ NGTs, to support the profession.