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Te Kotahitanga at Kelston Girls' College

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Carol Jarrett, HOD, Kelston Girls' College, discusses Te Kotahitanga principles and their application in leading change and classroom practice.

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context

Promoting professional conversations

Te Kotahitanga is a research and professional development programme that:

  • supports teachers to improve Māori students' learning and achievement, enabling teachers to create a culturally responsive context for learning which is responsive to evidence of student performance and understandings
  • enables school leaders, and the wider school community, to focus on changing school structures and organisations to more effectively support teachers in this endeavour.

To examine what this pedagogy might look like in practice, an Effective Teaching Profile (ETP) was developed. 

The Effective Teaching Profile consists of six elements:

  1. Manaakitanga – teachers care for their students as culturally located human beings above all else.
  2. Mana motuhake – teachers care for the performance of their students.
  3. Nga whakapiringatanga – teachers are able to create a secure, well-managed learning environment.
  4. Wananga – teachers are able to engage in effective teaching interactions with Māori students as Māori.
  5. Ako – teachers can use strategies that promote effective teaching interactions and relationships with their learners.
  6. Kotahitanga – teachers promote, monitor and reflect on outcomes that in turn lead to improvements in educational achievement for Māori students.

Discuss the different elements of the teaching profile in relation to your school context. Which aspects require change o improvement? 


Te Kotahitanga is a very important part of our school overall. So all of us, as staff members as individuals in the classroom, are Te Kotahitanga teachers.

Where I’m trying to lead the faculty or the department in Te Kotahitanga is taking it... the principles that I’m applying in my classroom and applying them to the faculty, and the processes and the way we use it. Through that I’m hoping Te Kotahitanga will become sustainable. It will just become part of what we do.

The primary model for Te Kotahitanga of course comes from the work of Russell Bishop and Mere Berryman. In addition to the principles of Te Kotahitanga, I’ve also found it really useful to take another Helen Timperley approach, which is ‘Who is your class?’ So as a secondary middle leader, you think about the way you would work with your students in your classroom, and you apply that to your faculty - you see your faculty as your class, then it becomes very simple to take Te Kotahitanga principles and to apply them to your work with teachers.

So the basis of Te Kotahitanga is strong relationships. So we need to be very clear with one another about what is important in the faculty, we need to be very honest with each other, and we need to be very respectful. Another influence that integrates with that very clearly is Viviane Robinson’s and Michael Fullan’s work on learning conversations. So, always trying to find out, when you’re having a conversation with teachers, what’s the layer below? So what’s this conversation really about?

Manaakitanga is another principle that translates very well to teachers. So being strong, nurturing and encouraging members of the department, but also saying the things that must be said.

Ako is a huge principle in Te Kotahitanga. So not just being the teacher, it’s about being the learner as well. So in the case of our students, we recognise that they have things that they can teach us, they have expertise, and we create opportunities for them to share their knowledge. The same applies for teachers.

The last one is Tuakana. So it kind of links quite strongly to distributive leadership - the idea that making all your teachers leaders and giving them the opportunities to lead, in some way, in the faculty, and gain strength from that and recognition of their own abilities as leaders.

When, as a leader, I’m modelling Manaakitanga, Mana Motuhake, Ako, Tuakana, then you’re encompassing the effective teacher tool, which is a huge part of the Te Kotahitanga programe. [It] is a tool against which we assess our progress within the classroom.

Through Te Kotahitanga, in terms of monitoring effectiveness, we’re using the student narratives, which came from Russell Bishop’s book Culture Speaks. We’re creating our own narratives with our Māori students, so we’re listening to them about what they’re saying their experiences are in our classrooms. We’re monitoring their data, very closely. We are targeting Māori students within our classrooms at each level, trying to find the approaches that work for specific girls, and constantly evaluating how effective we are being for them. So all they way through we’re using our Māori girls as a kind of a litmus test, in terms of effectiveness, because Te Kotahitanga has shown us that what is effective for Māori students is effective for all other students in our class.

For middle leaders who are not part of a Te Kotahitanga school, Māori achievement is still incredibly important, and is a matter of urgency nationwide. Ka Hikitia is the Ministry document that gives us the strategy to step up and do more for Māori students.

Published on: 18 Jul 2011