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  • Writer's pictureDel Costello

Reo ā-waha professional development positively impacts culture and achievement at Hokitika Primary

Updated: May 4, 2022

Case study and reflection on oral language development work, completed in 2017.

Ko ia kāhore nei e rapu, tē kitea.

He who does not seek will not find.

Designing and developing local curriculum is a multi-faceted job. To ensure we provide our learners with the best possible outcomes, we need to broaden our point of view and make sure we're always thinking about the bigger picture.

I believe that the most important task at the beginning of any piece of work is listening. This 'whakarongo phase' is critical for establishing and delivering the most impactful and sustainable professional development work possible for the education community.

A perfect example of this came back in 2017, when Hokitika Primary School was struggling to improve the performance of their tamariki across reading, writing and mathematics. The struggles were so significant, that the outcome of their ERO report made headlines in the local newspaper at the time.

After listening to the team at Hokitika, as well as other schools across the rohe, it was clear that the local community were facing many challenges. From taking the time to understand the different perspectives of the teachers and leadership team, it became evident that solid foundations needed to be laid - to lay the groundwork for all areas of learning to improve.

This is how we came to the conclusion that focusing on reo ā-waha (oral language) was the right place to begin.

The reo ā-waha coursework which was delivered at Hokitika Primary school over a two-year time span included three different segments:

Co-construction of an easy and effective way to understand reo ā-waha progress for learners - which included links to literacy and pro-social elements of communication

Co-construction of effective teacher-practice guidelines, that would allow all kaiako to effectively incorporate reo ā-waha across their curriculum

Building a rich kete of resources, pedagogical strategies and activities that could be integrated into classroom practice, and could also easily transfer to home environments

In addition to this, we focused on fostering and strengthening relationships between different Early Childhood Centres and Hokitika Primary School, so the transition to a new reo ā-waha learning model was smooth.

The end result of this project has proven to be both significant and sustainable, with learner outcomes increasing over time in all areas.

Andrea Peters, Junior Teacher at Hokitika Primary School and oral language champion, says that the work has had a strong impact on whanau and the wider community.

“The community and whanau now know the importance of quality korero outside the school day and we have given them easy and simple tools to grow this” she says.

Principal of Hokitika, Shane Baillie says that the course set them up for long-term improvements - "Brenda Syme, our team leader who initially drove the project, has taken leave this year, but the baton easily passed and we haven’t missed a beat!”

One of the key takeaways from this work was the need to adopt a growth mindset. What does this look like?

An example of a growth mindset - is viewing a child whose second language is English, as having an advantage, rather than facing a challenge. This can help teachers understand how to make connections and leverage a child's home language for all learning.

Stay tuned for more blog content and learnings, coming soon!

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