Paekākāriki School is a year 0-8 primary school on the picturesque Kāpiti Coast of the lower North Island of New Zealand. It has a roll of 155 students, 6 classroom teachers and a range of support staff. The learners, the teaching team, the community and whānau are all driven by the school values: Belonging, Connecting, Exploring and Thriving.
The year 0-1 class uses an active and effective play-based approach to learning which evolves into various project-based approaches as learners’ transition through the school.
In 2018, their inquiry process led the teachers to think about the challenges they had progressing target learners writing and they identified that learners may be further supported in writing if they took a focus on oral language teaching and learning.
Paekākāriki School applied for and were successful in gaining centrally funded oral language professional learning and development. Over two rounds and 18 months, the school worked with Cognition Education Consultant, Del Costello, to build teacher knowledge around the pedagogy of oral language. Each teacher developed their own inquiry into how oral language can support target learners in specific curriculum areas and then transfer this new knowledge into practice.
The specific areas of focus for individuals in the team were diverse. The inquiries were around; building vocabulary, mathematics, social-emotional development in the junior learners, effective feedback strategies, building effective classroom discourse, oral storytelling and building learner confidence.
As the teachers worked on their inquiry, they used oral language data to inform them about learner progress and to inform teaching actions. Exciting things were starting to happen.
However, the leadership team had some questions:
- How can we effectively evaluate oral language of our learners without the teacher being present or leading all the time?
- How can we, as a team, reflect on our oral language practice?
- How can we build evidence of effective practice that we can use to support us (and new teachers) in the future?
- How can we ensure that the work we have done is sustainable and allows learners to transition and continue their oral language progress as they move through the school?
Paekākāriki School decided to use the video-based PLD tool, IRIS Connect, to answer these questions. In May 2019, the team added the tool to their oral language work. The induction and training with IRIS Connect happened in the last 6 months of 2019 and they plan to use the platform to its full capacity starting in 2020.
Teacher Voice: How has IRIS Connect had an impact on your practice so far?
- “I have been able to reflect on how much talk I do and plan to get the kids to do most of the talking.”
- “Being able to get a view on the depth of discourse. There were plenty of surprises, children that I thought were talking meaningfully just weren’t and I needed to scaffold for them. It made such a difference.”
- “It has provided students with the chance to view their progress and to set oral language goals for themselves.”
- “It has supported my appraisal work.”
- “Awhi – it has certainly strengthened our work as a team, and it has been wonderful to reflect on each other’s practice.”
- “I was dubious about being recorded but there was no need. It has really supported me to reflect on my practice and view the kids talk in finer detail.”
It is early days for the team at Paekākāriki School and IRIS Connect but it is fair to say that they are off to a great start. Standby for the next report where we will be looking at the mid-term impact of using the IRIS Connect as a tool to build teacher capability and effective practice.