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History of the Project

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Phase I

In 2001 and 2002, the first phase of the Te Kotahitanga research project was undertaken by the Māori Education Research Team at the School of Education, University of Waikato in partnership with the Poutama Pounamu Education Research and Development Centre based at Tauranga. We began the project by talking to Year 9 and 10 Māori students (and other participants in their education), in a range of schools. These schools covered a range of criteria including single-sex to co-educational, high to low decile, urban to rural, large to small, high to low proportions of Māori students. The aim of our conversations was for us to gain a better understanding of Māori student experiences in the classroom (and also of those others involved in their education). We then sought to develop a means of passing these understandings on to their teachers in a way that might lead to improved pedagogy, which would ultimately result in reducing educational disparities through improving Māori student achievement. In doing so we sought to identify those underlying teacher and school behaviours and attitudes that make a difference to Māori achievement. Overall, the research was concerned with finding out how schooling could reduce educational disparities through raising the educational achievement of Māori children.

The project commenced with a short scoping exercise in which we found the value of student voice (Bishop, Berryman, Glynn, McKinley, Devine & Richardson, 2001). This exercise guided the subsequent longer term project which commenced with the gathering of a number of narratives of classroom experience by the process of collaborative storying (Bishop, 1996), from a range of engaged and non-engaged Māori children in five unmodified public/mainstream schools. It was from these stories that the rest of this project developed. In their narratives the children clearly identified that the main influence on their educational achievement was the quality of the in-class relationships and interactions they had with their teachers. They also shared how, by changing the ways they related and interacted with Māori students in their classrooms, teachers could create a context for learning wherein Māori students' educational achievement could improve. It was clear from these stories that if Māori students were to achieve at higher levels, teachers must theorise differently about these students and about their own ability to assist Māori students to reach higher levels of achievement.

On the basis of these suggestions from Years 9 and 10 Māori students, together with other information from relevant literature and the experiences of the students, caregivers, principals and teachers, the research team developed an Effective Teaching Profile (ETP). This ETP formed the basis of the Te Kotahitanga professional development innovation. When this innovation was implemented with a group of eleven teachers in four schools in 2001 there were associated improved learning, and improved behaviour and attendance outcomes in the classrooms of those teachers who had been able to participate fully in the professional development intervention (Bishop et al., 2003). Fundamental to the ETP are teachers' understandings of the need to explicitly reject deficit theorising as a means of explaining Māori students' educational achievement levels, and their taking an agentic position in their theorising about their practice. That is, practitioners expressing their professional commitment and responsibility to bringing about change in Māori students' educational achievement by accepting professional responsibility for the learning of all their students. These two central understandings are then manifested in these teachers' classrooms when teachers demonstrate on a daily basis: that they care for the students as culturally located individuals; they have high expectations for students' learning; they are able to manage their classrooms so as to promote learning; they are able to engage in a range of discursive learning interactions with students or facilitate students to engage with others in these ways; they know a range of strategies that can facilitate learning interactions; they collaboratively promote, monitor and reflect upon students' learning outcomes so as to modify their instructional practices in ways that will lead to improvements in Māori student achievement, and they share this knowledge with the students.

This phase of the project is reported in Bishop, R. Berryman, M., Tiakiwai, S., & Richardson, C. (2003). Te Kotahitanga: The experiences of year 9 and 10 Māori students in mainstream classrooms. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.

Phase II: Te Kauhua (sub-contract)

The next phase of the study continued in three different schools; two high schools and one intermediate school in the North Island. Selected teachers from these schools underwent professional development at a workshop held at the Endowed College at Hopuhopu in 2002. They were given insights into the results of the Te Kotahitanga study and offered ways of implementing the Effective Teaching Profile that had been developed in the earlier study. After the professional development workshop the teachers were observed in-class and provided with follow-up sessions on the new learning (as practiced in class).

Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Powell, A. & Teddy, L. (2005). Te Kotahitanga: Improving the educational achievement of Māori students in mainstream education Phase 2: Towards a whole school approach. Report to Ministry of Education.

Phase III: Whanaungatanga

The third phase of the project, Whanaungatanga, again sought to improve Māori students' academic achievement, this time in 12 schools. This project utilised the best lessons learned from phases I and II. This phase is ongoing and involves nearly 400 teachers and more than 10,000 students.

A research programme was conducted to measure the impact of the professional development intervention. We began this research by asking what happens when the Effective Teaching Profile (ETP) is implemented in mainstream secondary classrooms. Because of the complex nature of this exercise, we used a triangulation mixed methods approach (Creswell, 2005) to gather and analyse qualitative and quantitative data from a range of instruments and measures. As a result we have multiple indicators (Kim & Sunderman, 2005) that form the basis of our investigation.

Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T. & Teddy, L. (2007). Te Kotahitanga Phase 3 Whanaungatanga: Establishing a culturally responsive pedagogy of relations in mainstream secondary school classrooms. Report to the New Zealand Ministry of Education.

Phase IV: Current Phase

The overall aim of this project has been to investigate how to improve the educational achievement of Māori students in mainstream secondary school classrooms. From the theoretical position of Kaupapa Māori research, and an examination of appropriate Māori cultural metaphors, we suggested that this will be accomplished when educators create learning contexts within their classroom; where power is shared between self-determining individuals within non-dominating relations of interdependence; where culture counts; where learning is interactive, dialogic and spirals; where participants are connected to one another through the establishment of a common vision for what constitutes excellence in educational outcomes. We termed this pedagogy a Culturally Responsive Pedagogy of Relations.

Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T., Teddy, L., Clapham, S., Lamont, R., Jeffries, A., Copas, S., Siope, A. & Jaram, D. (2008). Te Kotahitanga: Towards sustainability and replicability in 2006 and 2007. Report to the New Zealand Ministry of Education.

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