Effective pedagogy – The team approach

Accent Learning has developed a unique approach to in-depth professional development in schools. Its success is founded on four key elements:
  • the sustained involvement of School Support advisers
  • a cross-school team approach
  • careful data gathering
  • a collaborative, monitored action plan.

How does it work?

Case study

Feedback from other schools


Joining the programme

How does it work?

  1.  A school registers interest in undergoing some professional development. Once accepted for in-depth support, the school completes a survey document – this provides initial baseline data.
  2. Accent Learning managers and staff members interview the principal and senior staff to ascertain the school’s areas of strength and weakness and its aspirations for development.
  3. Together, Accent and the school develop an action plan. Collaboration ensures the needs of the schools are met.

Case study

The school

A  multicultural, decile 6 primary school (Pakeha 43%, Maori 15%, Pasifika 12%, immigrants/refugees 30%).  The in-depth professional development programme lasted for three years.

The team

The Accent Learning team consisted of advisers in Assessment for Learning and NZC, team building and communication, ESOL, and numeracy. These advisers developed an action plan, and planned and reflected together to ensure they all had the same understanding, messages and expectations.

Desired shifts

In collaboration with the advisers, the school identified the shifts it desired as a result of in-depth professional development:
  • a team culture develops through enhanced communication and a trusting environment
  • teachers use assessment tools; an assessment schedule is developed using quality tools which meet the purpose of the school
  • teachers co-operatively plan units of work using student data as a starting point
  • there is greater student participation in their own learning, ie, co-constructing success criteria
  • teachers facilitate learning conversations in the classroom
  • teachers reflect on feedback they give, both written and oral
  • teachers increase their pedagogical content knowledge in both mainstream and ESOL
  • staff review assessment documentation
  • staff develop an understanding of the intent of the revised New Zealand Curriculum and develop thinking around the front-end components
  • all teachers become up to date in the Numeracy Project.

The process

  • The principles of assessment for learning were slowly introduced over two years, supported by research from Black & Wiliam and in-class support through observation and feedback.
  • National assessment tools (Observation Survey, STAR, PAT, asTTle) were introduced. Their purpose, administration, analysis, interpretation and use were discussed, and staff undertook extensive practice.
  • Collaborative planning was encouraged and support and guidance given to teachers. All this occurred within the contexts of full staff meetings, senior management meetings, syndicate meetings and, where necessary, meetings with individual teachers.
  • All opportunities to make links to implementation of the NZC were taken. The adviser met regularly with the lead NZC Action Group about aspects of the NZC and facilitated staff meetings on the principles and pedagogy.
  • A Teacher-Only Day focused on the use of the Student Management System for data entry and access. Protocols were developed collaboratively on assessment tools, assessment schedule, administration and moderation of data. Teacher expectations were developed and agreed to. School-wide data collection is now undertaken at the end of the year and will form the basis for the following year’s teaching. The teachers see the benefits of this change and are now using the SMS more effectively, ensuring quality data.
  • An early Teacher-Only Day discussed communication and trust and established some working protocols.
  • Catch-up Numeracy workshops were held where required.
  • Once a sound base was developed in assessment for learning the ESOL adviser took the focus role within the team.


The 2008 ERO report closely reflects the desired shifts which the school had identified at the beginning of the process. It states:

 As a result of participation in assessment for learning professional development, teachers have developed shared understandings about the use of learning intentions and provision of oral feedback to students. All teachers are using assessment information for grouping students. Learning intentions are evident in planning and are shared with individuals and groups. In some classes, student ownership of, and involvement in, learning are highly developed as a result of purposeful oral feedback that also supports self and peer assessment. This is encouraging students to reflect on their learning and make authentic links to related activities.

The teacher ESOL self-assessment tool indicated that oral language was generally perceived as ‘giving news’ and that little formal planning had been undertaken in this area. As a result of the professional development, teachers increased their pedagogical and content knowledge and now have a more structured approach with higher expectations evident across the school.  This is evident in planning, teacher talk and the peer assessments undertaken throughout the school.

The Principal commented:

Over the past three years advisers from Accent have worked with us on ‘unpacking’ and implementing the revised national curriculum. What was particularly useful was ascertaining and considering with us our needs in this regard and creating the appropriate team of advisers to meet these. We worked extensively on the place of formative assessment, learning intentions and success criteria in a practical and forthright way. Strategies to address the needs of ESOL students were introduced. The ‘fog’ created by the pace and pressure of change has been lifted.

Looking ahead

After consultation with staff and management it has been decided to continue with professional development in 2010, combining reading and ESOL. 

One focus will be on continuing to develop a professional learning community amongst staff through regular collegial observations and staff and syndicate meetings run by teachers.

Feedback from other schools

In-depth interventions have been undertaken in other schools, with similar success.

One school requested assistance in the area of gifted and talented students. Initial discussions indicated that assessment for learning was necessary to support this. At this stage, the Numeracy project was in its final year of development.

Staff worked with the gifted and talented, assessment for learning, and numeracy advisers in small teams, as individuals and as a full staff. A gifted and talented leadership team met with them regularly. Theory and practice were developed concurrently. The NZC adviser supported the leadership team in addressing the school-based curriculum development and assisted in community education.

 Accent Learning’s adviser led our staff through the process of our ‘Assessment Cupboard’ and refining our practices. As a result we have more consistency throughout the school. This led nicely into the initial stages of discussion around the National Standards.
[The team] worked together to support our school's initiatives, from one common base theme titled ‘Getting to know your children’. This gave us clarity and allowed us to make links between our three areas of focus. We still use this as a base for our learning, and of course it is key to formative assessment ... written reports about the programme are great for self-review and for reporting to the Board about how the programmes have added value to the children's learning.
Our Gifted and Talented teacher has appreciated [the adviser’s] input and thinking skills. She says she ‘wouldn't know what to do without her’.
[The adviser] really is in tune with us as teachers and she is so in tune with current thinking and practices.
The information [she] shared speaks at a grassroots level; she understands what schools need.
It has been so easy to access good advice – just an email away. The responses happen quickly and are really measured in their approach.
As a principal I have immensely appreciated [the adviser’s] advice as we educators grapple with leading our staff through the current myriad of changes … She is like a personal trainer. Just great for this high pressure and ever-changing environment in which we work.


For a list of references click here

Joining the programme  

Contact School Support for further information.

Email: helen.jackman@accent.ac.nz

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