Research-informed approach empowers exceptional learning

Issue: Volume 103, Number 6

Posted: 15 May 2024
Reference #: 1HAgXQ

Long Bay College’s journey towards exceptional learning, fueled by extensive research and collaboration, culminates in the creation of Tino Akoranga. It’s a guide that transcends the pages to enrich the entire school community.

Deputy principals Lauren Wing and James Heneghan are enthusiastic about the potential of Tino Akoranga.

Deputy principals Lauren Wing and James Heneghan are enthusiastic about the potential of Tino Akoranga.

In 2019 Long Bay College reviewed its approach to teaching and learning. With a view to considering research-based approaches and developments in culturally responsive practice, relational pedagogy, and cognitive science, the goal was to support teaching and learning in being exceptional.

The process also considered educational approaches from across the world through the lens of Aotearoa New Zealand and the college community, and led to the development of Tino Akoranga – a guide empowering ākonga, kaiako and the community to ‘care, create and excel’ in their own way.

CJ Healey, principal at the North Shore secondary school for seven years, says, “We have always wanted to establish, for our school, a point of difference.

“I asked, ‘How are we able to evolve our practice at a level that will support our staff and our students in their understanding of how they learn?’ That was the remit.”

What it has led to couldn’t have deputy principals Lauren Wing and James Heneghan more enthused. Mahi tahi (working together) may have resulted in a weighty, glossy A4 book, but it’s what’s beyond the pages that matters most.

“We progressed from hearing a talk by Graeme Aitken in 2019, with various provocations to deputy principals, to this coming into being,” says Lauren, deputy principal in charge of professional learning and development.

Weaving a unique kete

Deputy principal in charge of curriculum, James, recalls the embryonic phase of the project.

“We had this blank canvas, so we started by asking, ‘What is the science of teaching?’ And then, ‘How do we refine our craft?’”

This led to more and more questions, with a view to establishing how both staff and students can maximise the teaching and learning experiences available to them in the school environment.

A curriculum and pedagogy team, chaired by James, was fully supported by the school’s board to delve deeply into the work of esteemed educators, including Graeme Aitken, Russell Bishop, Richard Mayer, Viviane Robinson, Craig Randall and more.

Extracting what they felt fitted with the needs of their ākonga and kaiako, the drivers of Tino Akoranga wove together a unique kete of knowledge to carry into practice.

“We could see real value in the different pedagogies, but we had to look at how we could relate these to the teaching and learning at Long Bay College,” says James.

“It’s been a process of translating strategies off the page and into the classroom,” adds Lauren.

 Lauren and James with principal CJ Healey in the middle.

Lauren and James with principal CJ Healey in the middle.

Exceptional learning principles

Providing dedicated professional development days was key to expanding this mahi and establishing a whole school approach to developing, implementing and evolving the bespoke approach to learning.

The document introduces itself as, “underpinned by a diverse research base, contextually aligned to our ākonga, and proven within our classrooms and practices”, and “a road map for teaching and learning that … creates a shared educational philosophy across the college”.

“A key early learning was to create a shared understanding of what exceptional teaching and learning is. And how do we distil and translate these ideas from international and local sources for use here at Long Bay College?” says Lauren.

These ideas led to the creation of three ‘Exceptional Learning Principles’:

Tikanga – Our living classroom culture for learning

Ako – Know the student, know what to teach and how to teach it, and know it has been learned

Mahara – Teaching for memory. Learning is a change in memory and teaching supports that change.

Tino Akoranga

Tino Akoranga

From this, developed a raft of strategies and practices stemming from each of the three principles. The 92-page Tino Akoranga book documents these, as well as addressing curriculum design, adaptive routines, culturally responsive practice, considerations for application, lesson plan templates and a bibliography bursting with research references.

Valuing vulnerability

How the process and programme has been embraced by the school is testament to the way it has been a collaborative and, importantly, a safe environment that values vulnerability.

“There were some massive questions asked,” smiles James. “And we brought a real vulnerability to this. It has always been about improving, not proving.”

Senior leaders were the first to place themselves in the spotlight for observation and feedback, modelling the vulnerable approach needed to make this authentic and effective.

As well as regular PLD days and sharing at kāhui ako conferences, an annual showcase enables staff to share learnings and creates a collegiate atmosphere. Lauren says the depth and breadth of engagement is “massively heartening”.

CJ says this body has been a massive undertaking. But the approach, the principles underpinning it and the delivery serve as true examples of mahi tahi, of benefit to all involved, as individuals and as a collective.

Read the 2024 edition of Tino Akoranga on the Long Bay College website.

Tino Akoranga(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 2:01 pm, 15 May 2024

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