The Education Review Office has stated that “the number one challenge facing the New Zealand education system is to achieve equity and excellence in student outcomes” (ERO. 2016). UNICEF’s annual Innocenti Report (2018) placed New Zealand 33rd out of 38 countries in regards to equality. UNICEF commissioned a specific New Zealand report that noted poverty, racism and unconscious bias in schools were factors that added to inequality. New Zealand has an excellent history of excellence in teaching but a poor history of equality.
I boldly stated recently that cultural responsiveness was just another iterative of equality for all and that there are provisions for change, adaptation and improvement for cultural responsiveness in schools and teacher practice, but there is a gap in the literature as to practical forms of implementation of equality and just not cultural equality and only pockets of success in New Zealand Schools. I believe you can have excellent contemporary teaching school wide with equality and the aim of this project is to create literature, evidence and partnerships for learner equality.
This scope for contemporary teaching with the incorporation of cultural responsiveness is a school wide focus for my intended project. Students, as learners, are at the core of this project and the main learners of this project are teachers. My focus will be on teacher learning and school wide development, supported by digital learning.
He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
Contemporary teaching methods give teachers a variety of options when they are teaching a class (Westwood, 2007). Barrows (1986) sees that the risk with contemporary teaching methods is that they are made the focus of teaching and that teachers are no longer able, or permitted, to use more traditional teaching methods. Glen and Castle (2019) summarise that there is a discrepancy in contemporary teaching where some methods are being championed with many issues and some methods are not being used, even though they are showing effective and positive results for learners. The main issue I see with contemporary education and its research is the lack of evidence, based on the effectiveness of the differences between classroom relationships, between teaching, between learning, between teachers, between students, between schools, between social class and between age, gender and ethnicity. What equality of learning is there for students in contemporary learning? What has been the equality for students in traditional learning? I concluded from this evidence that teachers require more tools and a variety of them in the classroom, not fewer. In order to succeed with contemporary teaching methods we need to retain what has been learnt from traditional methods as educators. Before teachers can use contemporary and traditional methods successfully they require the skills and knowledge to harness both with equality.
Cue the equity project thought process.
I see the main work groups as: the school board as auditors and support, the senior management team as the equity team along with ministry support, resource teacher of learning and behaviour, school social worker and school health nurse, and the staff as the target learners and the students as the evidence of success.
I see this project being facilitated using technology. Contemporary teaching has been transformed by technology and the use of portable and easily connected devices. The rapid evolution and constant change of technology has seen learning environments change to enable the use of these digital wireless devices. Hughes’ (2017) digital appraisal sees this evolution as having restructured our entire society. This is evident from our community who now solely use Facebook as a means of communication. The 21st Century Fluency Project (2016) supports Hughes notion of change by stating that the digital evolution has changed the way humans have learnt, connected and interacted for thousands of years. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Education (2013) sees this digital evolution as having forced the learning of key digital skills of gathering, evaluating, analysing, creating, and designing. A byproduct of this evolution is a person who can interpret and communicate information acquired using multiple technologies. I have determined that in my context, a digital teacher or learner is one who is able to understand, select and use technologies locally and globally to create and evaluate while applying technical skills while doing so. This summarises someone with digital fluency. Digitally fluent is very different to being digitally literate. Davis (2019) sees digital fluency as not being digitally literate. Davis (2019) uses the analogy in the context of languages. You can be literate in a language by being able to read, speak and listen and be fluent by being able to create something in the language. In the context of my own practice and project I am going to require teachers, board, community and service providers to be digitally fluent as it is my intention to experiment with a number of contemporary digital platforms to find out which is best suited. Sparrow (2018) believes that the challenge in order for learners to be successful they need to be provided with a wide range of learning opportunities to practice diverse skills in order to leverage outcomes of technology. I will need to support equity project partners with this journey as not all adult learners will be at the same stage. Stanford University (2019) calls this the digital divide and refers to the growing gap between the poor, the rural, the elderly, and the impaired. Teachers in my context are not poor, but do live rurally, they range in age from 21 - 58 and sometimes I question listening ability. There exists a real challenge for some of the staff to ‘keep up’ digitally and there will need to be a thoughtful and considered approach to learning so that the equity team and I are able to close this digital divide for teachers.
Contemporary education and cultural responsiveness are at the heart of this equity project and through further iterations I hope to see it develop into a more succinct project with positive outcomes that can have an effect on wider New Zealand.