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Michael McMenamin, New Plymouth Boys' High School: Sabbatical report

The classroom is a fishbowl. You can at least influence the quality of the water.

Michael McMenamin

In this sabbatical report Michael McMenamin, Headmaster New Plymouth Boys' High School, seeks to investigate, by talking with Māori students (and other participants in their education), how a better understanding of Māori students’ experiences in the classroom and analyses of these experiences might lead to improved policy and teaching and learning that would ultimately result in greater Māori student achievement. It also sought to identify those underlying teacher and school behaviours and attitudes that make a difference to Māori achievement.

The results of this research and professional development were that:

  • change took place in the teachers’ classrooms throughout the whole school and created a ‘cultural change’ in the school so that all teachers were supportive of and knowledgeable of the new approaches
  • students were able to experience consistency across as many of their subject classrooms as possible
  • there was a shift from the dominant teacher-directed traditional pattern of classroom interaction to a more balanced approach including more discursive teacher-student interactions
  • the belief that an influence on Māori students‟ educational achievement lay in the minds and actions (positioning within discourse) of the teachers
  • the development of an institutionalized means of teachers collaboratively reflecting upon and changing their practice in light of a range of evidence of student participation and achievement, from a range of measures, provides a way forward which has an explicit focus on improving teaching practice and improving the interaction and quality of relationships between teachers and students
  • there was a significant growth in Māori learner achievement for schools participating in Te Kotahitanga, in some cases twice the expected gain
  • there were fewer students had unexplained absences from school, more learners were engaged, and more said their relationships with teachers had improved.

From his investigation Michael gathered the following ideas to improve Maori educational outcomes:

  • Someone in Senior Management has the responsibility for Māori student achievement.
  • Middle Management discuss ways Māori academic achievement can improve.
  • Academic Director for Maori students is appointed.
  • Teachers of Maori Students report on the progress of their students.
  • Strategic plan is clear on expected outcomes for Māori students.
  • Appraisal system incorporates accountability for Māori results.
  • Mentor appointed to monitor Māori students.
  • Regular contact with feeder schools ensuring consistency of practice.
  • Staff are aware of tikanga, correct pronunciation etc.
  • Learning Centre for Māori students to “catch up” or improve results.
  • Assemblies reflect biculturalism and the emphasis is on academic success.
  • All teachers teach in a “school-wide” pedagogy.
  • Staff recruited are supporters of biculturalism and keen to be involved in ‘things Māori’.
  • All new teachers have an induction programme.
  • Use of programmes such as Te Kotahitanga.
  • Regular PD is provided for staff on ‘things Māori’.
  • Courses targeted to suit the students  as part of individual planning and goal setting.
  • Data is used effectively to improve educational outcomes.
  • Te Reo is used in the classroom.
  • Marae or Māori area is well-situated.
  • High expectations for Māori students. Zero tolerance for Māori failure.
  • Students involved in decisions for their future.
  • Engagement of whānau. Tangata Whenua involvement in decision making.
  • High attendance rates of Māori students.
  • A school haka.
  • Rumaki offered for fluent speakers of te reo Māori.
  • Te Reo is seen and heard around the school. Bicultural entry to the school is evident in signage, art work etc  and school website/facebook page reflect bicultural ethos.

As a result of this investigation Michael developed 11 practical suggestions based on his observations.

  1. Set up the structure
  2. Focus on Learning
  3. Focus on assessment results, pass rate
  4. Use data
  5. Use Te Reo Māori
  6. Area for Māori students
  7. Building relationships, making a connection
  8. Attendance at school is necessary
  9. Link with whānau
  10. School haka
  11. Choice of Rumaki or Mainstream

Questions / Things to think about

  1. As a result of this investigation Michael developed 11 practical suggestions based on his observations. How can you incorporate these suggestions into your school?
  2. Are these suggestions already in place at your school? Have you noticed about any changes at your school?

 To read the full report click on the pdf below.

Michael McMenamin Sabbatical Report 2012 (330 KB)

Filed under: Effective leaders

Tags: Research and evaluations

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