A contemporary issue

An issue in education which is at the forefront of my own practice and has been since 2012 after reading Bolstad, Gilbert, McDowall, Bull, Boyd, & Hipkins (2012) is that of student-centered learning. Although student-centered learning is a natural part of the way I carry out my own classroom practice at the Intermediate level, I am wondering how true this is of classes at some High Schools. The reason I am using this contemporary issue for my third assessment is that it is ‘close to home’.

The Education Review Office report (pg. 7, 2012) states firmly that in successful schools there is an “ethic of care for students’ current and future success”. Inclusive practices are practices generally recognised as effective for all students and include things like adapting programmes and resources, being innovative in delivery, allowing for creative problem solving, and using learner strengths and interests to develop programmes. Although there is a lot of talk about these practices as a way to engage disengaged learners, to raise achievement, and to cater for diversity it is frustrating when one experiences the complete opposite to what has been regular discourse in education for many years.

If we want Maori learners to succeed as Maori in our schools we must honour them as partners in learning. When we do this and encourage them to bring to the classroom what they know, their ways of knowing and making sense of the world, that their ways are valued and accepted we help them build a sense of themselves as “competent and capable learners” (ERO, pg. 8). This sort of practice requires teachers to see teaching and learning as reciprocal. In her EDtalk Janelle Riki (2014) speaks about self determination and discusses this notion (metaphorically through connecting it to the Tino Rangatiratanga flag) as Maori students being able to make connections with other learners (including the teacher) and what they are learning while maintaining their own identity. Responding to Maori learners in this way is empowering and allows Maori students to achieve as Maori.

Honouring all students as partners in learning however requires the teacher to step back, get off the stage, and accept that everyone can be a teacher and a learner. Allowing our learners to have some say in their learning journey means we give over some control and we learn to trust that our students can make some decisions for themselves. It is about accepting that our role is changing and becoming one of guide and mentor but there to teach ‘just in time’ rather than ‘just in case’. 

If we want to cultivate teaching communities that are focused on improving student success then Teaching as Inquiry  is one way to do this. This process encourages us to focus intensely on the connection between our actions/decisions and learner engagement. According to ERO only 3%  of secondary schools had “highly informative and supportive systems and processes to support teaching as inquiry” (pg. 12, 2012). It is a concern that in many secondary schools there are no processes in place to support and guide teachers in inquiry and that it is less likely that inquiry is incorporated into the performance management system.

To conclude, speaking from a position of close to home my plea is this: before punishing, blaming the kids for disengaging, losing faith, and not caring maybe some teachers need to take a close look at the connection between how they are delivering learning and what is being learnt and ask themselves what they can do to change their practice so it is more inclusive and learner-centered.

Questions which arise from this short analysis are:

Who ensures that teachers are fostering student-centered learning in their classrooms?

What professional development is available for teachers to help develop student-centered learning in secondary schools?

Why has Teaching as Inquiry taken so long to embed into secondary schools?


Bolstad, R., Gilbert, J., McDowall, S., Bull, A., Boyd, S., & Hipkins, R. (2012). Supporting future-oriented learning & teaching: A New Zealand perspective.

Education Review Office. (2012). Teaching as Inquiry: Responding to Learners. Retrieved 12 February 2017, from http://www.ero.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Teaching-as-Inquiry-Responding-to-Learners.pdf

Education Review Office. (2012). Evaluation at a Glance: Priority Learners in New Zealand Schools. Retrieved 12 February 2017, from http://www.ero.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Evaluation-at-a-Glance-Priority-Learners-in-New-Zealand-Schools-August-2012.pdf

Riki, J. (2014 November 3). Te Ao Maori and Modern Learning Pedagogy. Retrieved from http://edtalks.org/video/te-ao-m%C4%81ori-and-modern-learning-pedagogy

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