Back to Our stories

Riccarton High School – Embedding Tātaiako in the appraisal process

The appraisal process at Riccarton High School is focussed on professional growth and development, and the school strives to place the learner at the centre of appraisal. The five cultural competencies outlined in Tātaiako – Cultural Competencies for Māori Learners, have become part of the appraisal framework.

This initially involved staff developing a shared understanding of how the competencies could be incorporated into teaching practice. As well as unpacking the competencies in a Riccarton-specific context, the competencies were also explicitly aligned with the Practising Teacher Criteria. This ensured that staff view the competencies as an integrated part of their everyday practice, rather than an ‘add-on’ or an additional initiative.

Examining the ‘how’

Riccarton High School is currently working with a Grow Waitaha Navigator on preparing its Education Brief prior to its scheduled redevelopment. The school is also close to completing a major review of curriculum which involved students, parents and staff. Principal Neil Haywood is satisfied that the review demonstrated that:

“What we are teaching is on the mark; we now need to look at how we are teaching it; and then the best physical space that will enhance that teaching.”

The school has undergone a similar journey as it unpacks how the cultural competencies can be demonstrated in teaching practice. While the teaching staff shared a general understanding and agreement on the reasons why the cultural competencies were important for creating culturally responsive teaching and learning, there was less understanding of how the competencies could be incorporated. This became the starting point for professional learning.

Developing a shared understanding

The initial focus for incorporating the cultural competencies was ensuring that staff understood and had engaged with the Tātaiako document. Sharyn Varcoe, Head of Faculty, Science, is clear that:

“Staff must engage with the document. Just reading it is not engaging with it.”

Staff undertook professional learning with the Mana Whenua Facilitators, which was valuable for developing a shared understanding of the competencies. Staff worked in groups to develop a set of examples of how each of the competencies could be seen in everyday teaching and learning practice.

These examples were compiled into an online document, which is seen as a living document that staff can add to as they further develop their use of the competencies. This document has been valuable for ensuring that good practice is recorded and shared, and that a focus on collective rather than individual development is maintained.

These examples were then aligned with the then Practising Teaching Criteria 3 (Bicultural Partnerships) and 10 (Bicultural Context). A number of staff had previously raised questions during the appraisal process on these two criteria, and what evidence would be sufficient for demonstrating these. The online examples provide a valuable resource for teaching staff as they collate evidence on these criteria.

The role of context

Staff also watched videos of other learning settings, and practised identifying the visible key competencies, and reflecting on the impact they may have had on the learner. Considering the competencies in a different setting led to valuable reflection about how the competencies looked in a Riccarton-specific context. It was important for staff that the competencies were unpacked in relation to their own school, with Sharyn describing this ongoing process as:

“It is always a series of steps and an understanding of how it looks in context to our school. Asking what does that look like for us?” 

Much of this discussion linked the cultural competencies to the ‘Riccarton Way’, and staff identified a lot of consistency between the competencies and the school’s core values. 

Celebrating good practice

It has been extremely important throughout this professional learning process, particularly given the link with appraisal, that existing good practice has been recognised and celebrated. This has allowed staff to share ideas and strategies with each other. The sense of empowerment obtained from valuing their own good practice also encourages staff to recognise and pursue their own next steps. Sharyn summarises teachers’ thought processes as:

“I am a pretty good practitioner I am already doing things to help both my Māori and my other students learn well. I wonder what else I could do?”

By starting with developing a set of examples and recognising existing good practice, Sharyn believes that staff view the competencies as more ‘doable’. The school has built on this perception by using mini-habits to integrate the competencies with everyday practice.

For example, when focussing on pronunciation, staff initially learned and practised six words that were in frequent usage. They have continued to incorporate this practice using the principle of ‘little and often’ to ensure that progress is achievable and sustainable. 

Top tips

  • Invest time to develop a shared understanding of what the competencies look like ‘on the ground’ in your school.
  • Collate examples of the competencies into a living online document for sharing and developing collective knowledge and understanding.
  • Align the competencies with the six standards for the teaching profession to ensure they are seen as everyday practice and not an add–on.
  • Increase teacher empowerment by recognising, sharing and celebrating existing good practice.
  • Use the principle of ‘little and often’ to embed sustainable and achievable mini-habits for increasing cultural competency.

Image credits: Amie Blackwell: Head Of Faculty Arts – Riccarton High School