The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa set the direction for learning in our schools. These two curriculum frameworks are supported by national achievement standards and by other key policy documents such as Ka Hikitia, the Pasifika Education Plan and Success for All – Every School, Every Child. Collectively, these documents describe the outcomes we want for all learners.
The New Zealand Curriculum encapsulates these outcomes in its vision of young people who are ‘confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners’. This is the vision at the heart of the indicators framework. Realising it will mean that every young person is:
The indicators framework is organised around six domains that have been shown by current research and evaluation findings to contribute to the goal of improving student outcomes:
The domains educationally powerful connections and responsive curriculum, effective teaching and opportunity to learn have the most significant influence on outcomes for students.The relative influence of these two domains on student outcomes is a result of the quality and effectiveness of stewardship, leadership for equity and excellence, professional capability and collective capacity and evaluation, inquiry and knowledge building processes.
Effective schools are characterised by quality practices in all domains and by the coherent way in which they are integrated.
ERO is committed to honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand and the agreement that underpins relationships between Māori and the Crown. ERO’s internal strategy document, He Toa Takitini: Accelerating Outcomes for Māori 2013–2017 – a response to the Ministry of Education’s Ka Hikitia – reaffirms this commitment and calls for intensified action. ERO is also committed to promoting the achievement and success of Pacific students; its strategy for doing this is set out in Pacific Strategy 2013–2017.
We have a growing evidence base in New Zealand about how to most effectively promote excellence and equity for diverse learners. It is clear that to achieve equitable outcomes we must focus on accelerating achievement for those who have been under-served by the system, in particular Māori and Pacific students. We also know that school and classroom practices that work for Māori are likely to improve outcomes for all.
Learning in an environment where a culturally responsive pedagogy of relations is the norm significantly improves valued outcomes for Māori.5 Berryman6 advises leaders and teachers to look at the learning environment in their school and ask themselves to what extent:
The evaluation indicators framework gives prominence to the concepts of manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, ako and mahi tahi because they collectively provide the foundation for an approach to education that is culturally responsive and challenges educationally limiting deficit theorising.8 These concepts provide a lens through which we can examine how effectively our current school processes, practices and activities are promoting equitable outcomes for all students.
Manaaki embodies the concepts of mana (authority) and aki (to encourage and acknowledge). Manaakitanga describes the immediate obligation and authority of the host to care for their visitor’s emotional, spiritual, physical and mental wellbeing. Within this type of interaction there is a responsibility to provide reciprocal support.
In the school context, these understandings point to the need to care for children and young people as culturally located human beings by providing a safe, nurturing environment. This will include developing and sustaining the language, culture and identity of every student to ensure that they have the best opportunity to learn and experience educational success. The reciprocal nature of manaakitanga also encourages students and their whänau to actively contribute to this success.
Whakawhanaungatanga describes the process of establishing links, making connections, and relating to the people one meets by identifying in culturally appropriate ways, whakapapa linkages, past heritages, points of engagement, and other relationships. Establishing whänau connections involves recognising kinship in its widest sense.
Whanaungatanga affirms the centrality of extended family-like relationships, along with all the “rights and responsibilities, commitments and obligations, and supports that are fundamental to the collectivity”.12 Whanaungatanga also reaches beyond actual whakapapa relationships to include people who, through shared experiences, feel and act as kin. Whanaungatanga relationships are reciprocal: the group supports the individual with the expectation that the individual will support the group.
Applied to the school context, whanaungatanga demands quality teaching-learning relationships and interactions and that the teacher take agency in establishing a whānau-based environment that supports engagement and learning.
The evidence suggests that whanaungatanga, while not sufficient, is “foundational and necessary for effectively teaching Māori students ... As whanaungatanga increases, the probability of high cognitive demand increases. When the level of whanaungatanga was mid-range or higher, the lowest levels of engagement disappeared.”13
Ako describes a reciprocal teaching and learning relationship “where the child is both teacher and learner”14 and the teacher also learns from the child. Ako recognises that the student’s whānau is inseparably part of learning and teaching.
It is the acquisition of knowledge as well as the imparting of knowledge ... Ako as a process does not assume any power relationship between teacher and student but instead it serves to validate dual learning or reciprocal learning experiences that in turn promulgate shared learning.15
Mahi tahi (or mahi ngātahi) describes the unity of a group of people working towards a specific goal or on a specific task, often in a hands-on fashion. The solidarity that mahi tahi engenders is powerful; it builds relationships that can continue well after the goal has been fulfilled or the project completed.16
In the school context, mahi tahi describes the business of working together collaboratively in the pursuit of learner-centred education goals. This is an important aspect of all six domains in the indicators framework.
Like learning in the classroom, improving education outcomes is a collaborative enterprise. A growing evidence base confirms this: collaboration focused on improving teaching and learning has a strong effect on student, school and system performance.17 Successful collaborations involve working together on shared challenges that have been identified through the use of evidence.
Especially for those in challenging situations, networks and communities of learning can provide important opportunities to share, build knowledge and expertise, and stimulate improvement and innovation.18 However the effectiveness of networks and communities depends on the protocols they adopt and what they actually do: “the right drivers are: capacity building, collaboration, pedogogy, and systemness”.19 Leadership plays a crucial role in: developing the conditions for collaboration, ensuring coherent processes of inquiry, and stimulating collective efforts to explore new possibilities and sustain improvement.20
The evaluation indicators framework can be used to support education effectiveness and improvement in a range of contexts – schools, communities of learning, or at the system level.