Te Whāriki (2017) - an update on phase 1b of our evaluation

Earlier this year we shared our insights about how leaders and kaiako in early learning services were beginning to engage with Te Whāriki (2017), with our findings published in Awareness and confidence to work with Te Whāriki in July.

The next phase of this work continues. We have gathered significant data about engagement with  Te Whāriki and our second report is now published. This report reveals what we found when we evaluated 167 early learning services and six governing organisations. We collected our data at a point where services were six to nine months into accessing professional learning and development (PLD) to support the implementation of the updated curriculum document.

What are we seeing and its implications for practice

We are seeing that a high level of awareness is evident, with most services reporting they are aware of the updated Te Whāriki, while less than half of the 167 services had begun to engage with it.

We were interested in the steps leaders and kaiako were taking to decide what matters most in their service, review and design their local curriculum, and work with the learning outcomes to determine their priorities for children’s learning. Te Whāriki notes:

Te Whāriki provides a framework of principles, goals and learning outcomes that foregrounds the mana of the child and the importance of reciprocal and responsive relationships. This framework provides the basis for each setting to weave a local curriculum that reflects its own distinctive character and values. p.7

The expectation is that kaiako will work with colleagues, children, parents and whānau to unpack the strands, goals and learning outcomes, interpreting these and setting priorities for their particular ECE setting. p.23.

Our findings highlight wide variability understanding about the concept of ‘weaving’ a local curriculum based on decisions about what matters most and in relation to working with the learning outcomes in Te Whāriki.

To fully engage with the updated curriculum, leaders and kaiako need to make the following shifts in thinking and practice:

  • from planning a programme that children ‘fit into’, to working collaboratively with parents and whānau and the wider community to determine their curriculum priorities
  • from working with the goals in Te Whāriki (now positioned as goals for kaiako), to unpacking what these outcomes mean for the children’s progress and learning overtime and for their local curriculum.

Early learning services have some way to go to make these shifts.

Areas for further development

As we reported in Awareness and confidence to work with Te Whāriki, confidence to work with Te Whāriki to support Māori children to enjoy success as Māori was, and continues to be, an area where services are needing further support. Leaders and kaiako need to explore and discuss their understanding of, and commitment to, supporting Māori children to enjoy success as Māori. Te Whāriki provides useful guidance to do this.

Engagement with PLD continues to be high with leaders and/or kaiako attending initial workshops, engaging in webinars and accessing online resources. Some services were also working with external PLD providers to support implementation. The full impact of this engagement is an area we will look more closely at in our next evaluation.

The barriers and challenges for early learning services largely reflect those reported previously. The main barriers to implementation related to time, and variable levels of kaiako understanding of Te Whāriki within a service. Other barriers include access to, and the quality of PLD available, lack of leadership capability, changes to teaching teams, getting parents and whānau involved, and internal evaluation capability and capacity.

Questions to guide your practice

So what is it that might help you to work with the updated curriculum? We have identified some next steps and questions for you to consider in your service.

Next steps include:

  • engaging more deeply with Te Whāriki to build a shared understanding of expectations associated with reviewing and designing your local curriculum by asking: “What are our curriculum priorities? What really matters for the children in our service?”
  • unpacking and discussing the learning outcomes in Te Whāriki as part of your planning, assessment and evaluation processes by asking: “What do these learning outcomes look like in our service for our children?”
  • identifying your next steps and priorities for PLD by asking: “What are our next steps as we engage with Te Whāriki? What support do we need to take these steps?
  • exploring and discussing your understanding of, and commitment to, supporting Māori children to experience success as Māori by asking: “What do we know and understand about kaupapa Māori theory?” What expertise do we have to increase our understanding of practices that enable Māori children to experience success as Māori?

We are continuing to evaluate implementation with the next report focusing on preparedness to implement. This will be published in early 2019.

Read the report here - Engaging with Te Whāriki (2017)