Supporting student success

What is success? How we answer this question says a lot about what we value in life. It would be easy to think that in an education setting success has already been defined for us. However, Helen Jackman, Adviser for Accent Learning, believes that success looks different for different groups of people and that schools can, and should, accommodate these different perspectives on success.

Helen understands that teachers need support to do this and is currently working with schools across the Wellington region. She begins her work by asking teachers from a range of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to talk about their own education. Through sharing these personal education stories, participants not only get a better understanding of how to respond to some of the unique needs of their students, but also get to know their colleagues better. Often more recent migrant groups are not represented on the staff, so Helen encourages schools to have parents share their education story with the others.

All teachers are asked to consider what success looks like to their ethnic or cultural group. Interestingly, Helen says, differences are evident right from the beginning, just in the way people approach the question. Pakeha teachers often focus on what success looks like when it has been achieved. Other cultures, particularly Māori and Pasifika, are more concerned about what understanding, support and resources their students need in order to achieve success. Helen supports schools to create a document that describes what ‘success’ looks like for the different ethnicities represented. This process presents an opportunity for teachers to make connections, discuss similarities and differences and start to understand what impact this might have on their teaching.

Helen supports teachers to create practical strategies for the classroom. She encourages them to start with small changes that they can make immediately; maybe by just changing the way they work with one student, and to build from there. This will be an ongoing process, one that will need to respond to evolving school curriculums and the increasingly diverse nature of New Zealand classrooms. This process exemplifies the importance of teacher self-reflection through the teaching as inquiry cycle.

 

While numeracy and literacy are, and always have been, key indicators of success in the New Zealand Curriculum, Helen points out that we should also look at numeracy and literacy as essential tools which allow students to access other rich learning opportunities and achieve success on their own terms.

 

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