Feagaiga – relationships. Feagaiga also comes with trust, love, caring and sharing
We all love to hear success stories for all sorts of reasons. Here’s one that I have been privileged to be involved that may be of interest and of benefit to others. I’ll let the teacher (I’ll call her “Teacher A”) explain the genesis of this story:
“[As a teacher in the 80s] I teamed the seniors up with the juniors each morning for reading. This meant every child got heard at least twice a day and then at home at night. The Hoani then told me the concept was Tuakana-Teina (big sister/brother with their younger sibling). What was interesting was that these students had the highest reading scores in that year from our class. There were several factors that could have contributed to this and as teacher inquiry was unheard of in the 80’s I never researched the possibilities.”
Teacher A transformed her professional practice and processes using the Teaching as Inquiry model. She explored her past experiences of implementing the Tuakana-Teina concept by applying it in her class, which included priority junior students who were refugees and spoke English as a second language (ESOL).
The Tuakana-Teina model is a buddy-system model. An older or more expert tuakana (brother, sister or cousin) helps and guides a younger or less expert teina (originally a younger sibling or cousin of the same gender). The teacher at the centre of this story had a high percentage of Pasifika students, and the Tuakana-Teina model is easily transferred as Feagaiga in a Samoan context. This model was effectively used in Teacher A’s class, and reading levels were raised for the priority students as a result of her inquiry into her own practice and the impact of the model.
The teaching inquiry: evidence of low progress in reading
Teacher A found that student-achievement data and low progress in reading provided clear evidence that her practice of working with five groups of students per literacy block was not working. She recognised that she needed to rethink learners’ and teachers’ roles, to trust in the year 4 students themselves to be more experienced tutors to the year 2 students.
Teacher A believed that as the Tuakana-Teina model had worked effectively in a bilingual setting (Kaupapa Māori-driven classroom) in her past teaching environment, it may have similar success in a Pasifika learning environment.
Teacher change and next steps for learning
Talanoa (conversation) is an important aspect of building relationships, so I had a chance to sit down with Teacher A and share thoughts about the programme. By opening up to each other and respecting the space we were in, it became clearer that the Future Focused Inquiry (FFI) approach was woven into the normal programme she was implementing every day.
Teacher A researched theories such as those of Dr Mason Durie, Professor Angus MacFarlane and Professor Russell Bishop. She also referenced the Te Whare Tapa Wha model, with its strong foundations and four equal sides, to symbolise the dimensions of Māori well being. In this model, should any one of the four dimensions be missing or, in some way, damaged, a person or a collective may become ‘unbalanced’ and subsequently unwell (Ministry of Health).
As Teacher A began to engage the students in new learning experiences using the Tuakana-Teina model, she recognised that she needed to do the following to support this:
- Teach the year 4 students how to apply the Pause, Prompt, Praise method of peer teaching.
- Provide the year 2 students with their own reading buddy to hear them read one-on-one
- Involve the student, parents and teacher in three-way conferences to discuss the Tuakana-Teina model and talk about what the year 4 students would be doing for the first 15 minutes of literacy time daily.
- Change the classroom discourse so that it was more inclusive (ie change Tuakana-Teina to the Samoan equivalent — Feagaiga (relationships)).
Adaptation and adjustments
She found that her original Tuakana-Teina model changed as a result of assessing the impact of the model when she implemented it with her class. But the Tuakana-Teina model was obviously working for the year 4 students, which impacted on the year 2 students as it was personalised to their needs. The FFI programme has given opportunities for teachers to attend the Virtual Professional Learning Development (VPLD)/FFI National hui where connections are made, and where collaboration happens. This also gave the teacher different ways of utilising technology to not only enhance her teaching practice, but also her students’ learning experiences.
Beyond the VPLD hui, Teacher A was encouraged and supported by her FFI facilitator to engage with other technologies to engage learners and involve their parents in their learning. These practices included:
- The use of Padlet, which each student would use in their reading group to enter their ideas of what they had found interesting about what they had read. This Padlet would be a shared with the reading group online, allowing students to collaborate.
- The use of Google Docs for teacher collaboration, enabling the teacher to share her inquiry reflections with Teacher B in order to give and receive feedback synchronously.
- Photographing students on a class trip and uploading them to the class Google Site to encourage and enable three-way engagement between whānau, the learners, and the school.
As part of assessing the impact of the Tuakana-Teina model, Teacher A questioned the Teina students:
“Why do you love kids teaching you rather than an adult teaching you?”
The majority of the students answered her with ‘wait time’ and ‘patience’. They found there was no pressure to give an answer straight away, and that the older students were patient with them.
The impact of the FFI project on students and teacher
Teacher A conducted interviews with her students to see how they were progressing in their learning. She looked at parents’ comments on students’ profiles. Feedback from parents and caregivers showed that not only were the students learning, but their parents were too.
Reading data from Terms 1 to 4 (STAR, running records and e-Asttle data) showed that all year 2 students in the Tuakana-Teina group moved from Below to At and Above the National Standard. All year 4 students (Tuakana) also moved significantly in their reading age and were all reading well above age at Level 3 (they are 8/9 years old and ESOL). The year 4 students also moved dramatically in their STAR reading test, it showed that every student was reading well above age.
“It’s time to change, challenge, reflect, read current research or our pedagogical beliefs will never shift from what we were taught years ago”
– Teacher A.
In 2015, she planned to develop this inquiry and possibly take a school-wide approach with the Tuakana-Teina model. She wants to develop her skills to search and read Pasifika-based research that may support this kaupapa, and share the results with the aiga and community.
Teacher A’s advice to teachers engaging in future-focused inquiry is to:
- TRUST and BELIEVE in the students always
- We are teaching for students’ futures not teachers’ pasts
- Give up control and power (you never had it anyway)
- Read current research and have a go
- Why keep doing the same thing and then be shocked nothing ever changes!“
Using the talanoa model a great start to building relationships with the teachers you work with. As a facilitator, I know it is easy to have a talanoa with teachers but we need to remember that it is the ‘way’ we talanoa that builds effective connections and relationships.
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- The Pasifika way of connecting and collaborating - April 9, 2015