Waka ama and tuakana teina help achieve literacy jump

Issue: Volume 97, Number 21

Posted: 22 November 2018
Reference #: 1H9omm

Fitness training, waka ama and building strong tuakana teina relationships are part of the formula for success in a project to improve literacy at Papatoetoe High School.

Building positive relationships between students and teachers was helped by shared activities such as waka ama.

Auckland’s Papatoetoe High School used funding from the Teacher-led Innovation Fund (TLIF) on a two-year inquiry project that focused on improving NCEA Level 1 achievement for Māori and Pacific boys. 

The teaching team called it the GAP programme, and the focus was on contextually grounded collaborative action research and trialled interventions. The result is that all the Year 10 boys successfully gained four NCEA Level 1 credits and six boys gained a further five credits in 2017. This year all the students are well on track to achieving their NCEA Level 1.

Lead teacher Russ Maged says they found no silver bullet, but there was intense learner-centric collaboration to develop students’ motivation, engagement and depth of thinking through the use of three collaborative teaching-learning options – teacher focused, learner self-discovery, and tuakana teina support. The latter option was preferred by the students for fostering their engagement.

The vocabulary around NCEA was found to be an issue holding back the students’ achievement. The inquiry team discovered students struggled to understand instruction words used in NCEA Level 1 assessments and with the form for NCEA Level 1 internal and external assessments, so they were introduced to key aspects of NCEA terminology, and formats and instruction words used in Level 1 assessments.

Papatoetoe High School teachers Jonathan Mariner, Eleanor Griffiths and Russ Maged analyse contextual data for the TLIF-funded literacy project.

Sharing new learning experiences

A strong sense of trust, connection and support between students and teachers was created from one-on-one time where teachers came to understand the learners’ backgrounds, and sharing new learning experiences together such as a waka ama session, fitness training and boxing. As part of close teacher/student interaction, the students were encouraged to talk about themselves and the issues in their wider lives – as were the teachers.

“The students discovered the teachers were sharing this journey with them and were authentic and caring, giving support through their ups and downs. That made a huge difference. It was very important for the teachers to really get to know the learners, how they see things, what their background pressures and motivations are,” says Russ.

Students learnt to identify distractions weaknesses, and counteract them. 

Circle talks were used extensively and the collaboration included the involvement of their families and community, as well as different learning disciplines, specialist teachers, and local tertiary institutions.

Fitness and waka ama powerful motivators

As boys respond positively to games, sport and competitive activities, fitness trainer Mark Anthony Howe visited to give the students motivational talks, and there were boxing and fitness sessions, all of which emphasise working hard towards goals, discipline and persistence. Teachers participated in these.

Russ says, “A waka ama session was very powerful because it showed the students the importance of rowing in sync with others, and working as a team. Sitting alongside a teacher in the canoe was eye-opening as they came to see the teachers as human beings with weaknesses. It really created a connection.” 

TLIF funding was used for relief teachers, to transcribe and video interviews with the students during the process, buying equipment, developing resources and many other incidentals such as helping pay for parental transport to the school to attend family meetings.

Russ says it wasn’t easy and there was no rule book in their inquiry. “You need to think outside the classroom, outside your department, and outside your school. Collaboration is vital, but any activity can be used to get to your goal. You are always going into the unknown, so the teachers are learners too.”

But the team had highly effective guidance from Te Wananga o Aotearoa as their inquiry expert, he says.

“We were constantly gathering data on the students and their progress, so it was research and data-driven”.

Russ gave a presentation on the school’s literacy project at the recent uLearn conference(external link) in Auckland. 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 10:54 am, 22 November 2018

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