Supporting engagement and implementation

At the time of the data gathering for this evaluation report (Term 1, 2018) leaders and kaiako in early learning services had (or had had) access to workshops, webinars, online guidance and resources. Some services were also drawing on internal expertise and support from their governing organisation. A few services were also accessing PLD from other providers in the sector.

Leaders and kaiako in 82 percent of the services reported that they had accessed some form of PLD. Many leaders and/or kaiako had further discussions about Te Whāriki in their teams following PLD. Some were engaged in formal conversations (such as in meetings or hui) and for others, discussions were more informal. Leaders and kaiako talked about what has changed in Te Whāriki, with some focusing on what these changes meant for their practice.

Some services had their whole teams attend PLD and others only had the leader(s) and/or a few kaiako attend. While most services had those that did attend share their new learnings with others in their teaching team, ERO was concerned that in some services leaders or kaiako were not subsequently sharing with their teams. Consequently, leaders and kaiako in these services did not have a shared understanding of Te Whāriki.

Leaders and kaiako in 18 percent of services did not attend PLD for a variety of reasons. These included:

  • a lack of places in the PLD workshops
  • other commitments when PLD was being offered
  • negative feedback on PLD from association or other service leaders.

Some of the leaders and kaiako of these services intended to access the online webinars but had not yet done so.

As noted earlier, early learning services have been supported to implement Te Whāriki through workshops, webinars and other online resources. About half the kaiako and leaders in services found the workshops useful to develop their understanding of the updated Te Whāriki, clarifying differences between the previous and the updated document. Following the workshops, kaiako reflected on the changes to the curriculum, and the implications for their practice. Leaders and kaiako who did not find the workshops useful felt these did not provide enough detail on how to integrate Te Whāriki into their practice. They also felt the workshop was too general as an introduction to Te Whāriki.

Leaders and kaiako appreciated being able to watch the webinars in their own time. They, as a team or individually, could learn at their own pace and relate learnings from the webinars to their own practice. Leaders and kaiako also appreciated that webinars included topics such as mathematics and self review through a bicultural lens.

In a few services, leaders and kaiako did not find the webinars useful. They felt the content did not expand their knowledge of Te Whāriki, they experienced technical issues with the website, or they did not like the video format as a medium for learning.

ERO asked leaders and kaiako what expertise and resources they already had to support them to implement Te Whāriki. The most common resource to support implementation was having a hard copy of Te Whāriki and the poster. Leaders and kaiako also used Te Whāriki online (including the learning outcomes and kaiako cards and webinars).

Leaders and kaiako recognised that within their teams they are at different stages of their journey in working with Te Whāriki. They valued the existing expertise within their service which included those with knowledge of the previous 1996 version of Te Whāriki and those in training who brought their insights and learning to share with teaching teams.

Leaders and kaiako acknowledged it was important to be open and passionate to learn, and willing to consider the implications of Te Whāriki for their practice.

Governing organisations supporting implementation

ERO was interested in finding out what governing organisations were doing to support their services to begin to implement Te Whāriki – what was working well and what some of the challenges were. Across six governing organisations we found variability in the capability and capacity of professional leaders to support their individual services to build their confidence and understanding to work with the updated curriculum. Two Playcentre associations and a home-based education and care provider have considerable work to do at all levels of the organisation to support engagement with Te Whāriki.

Three of the governing organisations were kindergarten associations with a total of 18 kindergartens reviewed by ERO in Term 1, 2018. The findings in these associations, in which professional leaders completed the questionnaire for governing organisations, offer some useful insights into how professional leaders were supporting leaders and kaiako in individual kindergartens to engage with Te Whāriki.

Leaders and kaiako in these kindergartens were involved in a variety of PLD opportunities including initial workshops, webinars and some in the PLD where curriculum champions were supporting pedagogical leaders. In all the kindergartens, leaders and kaiako were highly aware of, and engaged with, the updated curriculum document. Kaiako were well supported by professional leaders who were tapping into, and utilising, the collective knowledge, expertise and resources across the association. One association was working with an external PLD provider to support kaiako in kindergartens with the PLD targeted to their needs.

ERO found most professional leaders had participated in the workshops and engaged with the webinars. However in one association professional leaders were concerned they were not able to participate in PLD where pedagogical leaders in their individual kindergartens were working with a curriculum champion. They saw this as a missed opportunity to work alongside the teaching teams and learn together.

A positive feature of these three kindergarten associations was the way in which governance boards were engaging with Te Whāriki, and thinking strategically about implementation as a priority in their kindergartens. In one association, each kindergarten had a goal about implementing Te Whāriki in their annual plan.

The following examples show how the implementation of Te Whāriki was being prioritised at the governance level.

Implementing Te Whāriki is a key strategic goal for the association and the kindergartens. The association education manager is supporting the development of initial understandings. The association is actively developing the PLD programmes and processes including webinars to build capability and capacity to successfully implement Te Whāriki (2017).

A head teacher and education services manager attended a board meeting in November to inform the board of the changes to the document, the key areas, the work undertaken at the kindergartens to date as well as the work planned going forward. At this meeting board members were able to ask questions and gain a clearer understanding of the new document and of course the commitment to the document from the kindergartens.

Appraisal processes were also focused on supporting kaiako development in relation to implementing Te Whāriki. Professional leaders used kaiako reflections and inquiries to respond to, and support, teaching teams as they started to engage with Te Whāriki.

In these associations, leaders and kaiako in the individual kindergartens were beginning to review and/or design their local curriculum. Many were starting with their philosophy and discussions about ‘what matters here’. Starting in this way helped them think about their local curriculum with some drawing on the expertise in their community.

The following example shows how kindergartens in one association were approaching the review of their curriculum:

The evaluation of any curriculum starts with the kindergarten philosophy at its foundation. Many teams are looking at 'Deciding what matters here?' as the focus for their philosophy review. They are using questions such as...

How do we decide what matters here?

How do we ensure a shared understanding about what matters in our kindergarten?

How are these priorities reflected in practice and evidenced in documentation?

This inquiry has led to many teams focusing on 'place-based learning', where learning is relevant for the community in which each kindergarten is located and to the attending children from that community.

In two of the three associations, a leadership position was dedicated to strengthening kaiako practice in supporting Māori children and their whānau.

Challenges and/or barriers to implementation in these kindergarten associations included:

  • finding time and space to engage more deeply with Te Whāriki
  • communicating the changes in Te Whāriki to parents and whānau and to teachers in schools
  • shifting kaiako thinking from the 1996 version of Te Whāriki to the 2017 document
  • professional leaders at the association level and leaders in kindergartens having the knowledge to lead their teams.

Thinking ahead and planning future steps was evident in these kindergartens (and at the association level). A strong sense of being on a journey prevailed as they engaged with Te Whāriki with a high level of commitment to shifting thinking and practice.

The following example shows the thinking about next steps in one of the kindergartens.

We are just about at the end of the webinar series, once we have completed this we will pull together the knowledge from that. Next we will revisit the learning outcomes during our weekly staff hui and brainstorm as a team, identifying what we are doing well and areas for improvement. We will continue to consider learning outcomes and our curriculum design to ensure we are 'walking the talk'.