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Project update August 2011

The cluster has been involved in a number of professional development sessions to date. This posting highlights our successes and challenges as the professional development contract has progressed.

Three half-day formal sessions with our facilitator Libby Paterson have involved all the schools’ lead teachers and, in many cases, the principals. The sessions covered various aspects of the process leading us towards establishing sustainable and effective moderation systems, the desired outcome of our contract with the Ministry.

For each session the professional development focus has been twofold:

  • providing resources to support development within individual schools
  • building the foundation for on-going development and modelling processes

We have linked with relevant outside providers when necessary.

Several informal after-school sessions between teams of teachers from different schools have been held in-between the more formal sessions, to allow teachers to develop sustainable systems for moderation and further enhance collegiality. They have included groups and individuals having a closer look at each school’s moderation processes and comparing them with their own processes in making judgments about student writing samples.

A thumbnail of each of the formal professional development sessions is below, with links to relevant documents:

Session One: April 6, 2011

Prior to the April session a wiki was developed to house all the resources needed for the schools involved, and baseline data on ‘assessment processes used in literacy’ was gathered.

The baseline data included information such as:

  • what assessments were used
  • why they were used
  • how the assessment information was used to inform practice.

This data provided the facilitator with a picture of what was happening across the schools involved.

The planned session then included:

  • an opportunity for the participants to state why they had chosen to be a part of the cluster and their expectations of what it would deliver (This information, from the What's in it for me? document, would be used as part of the milestone reporting.)
  • the establishment of protocols, which the management team had decided were needed to ensure that schools felt ‘safe’ in sharing their processes
  • a task which highlighted the skills required for moderation and the building of a supportive learning culture
  • an analysis of the baseline data, from the Baseline data - moderation tools and purpose in literacy document
  • roles and responsibilities of all participants Roles and responsiblities of UHNLC
  • a task which focused on clarifying the meaning of moderation, supported by a power point presentation
  • setting of individual school action plans (part of the milestone writing requirement procedures).

Session Two: May 18th, 2011

This session was a whole day session run in conjunction with Kay Brunton (Learning Media).

The planned session included:

  • feedback from evaluations of our cluster learning culture Skills required for moderation and building a supportive learning culture
  • feedback from each school regarding their progress with in-school work
  • action plan with staff – building a supportive learning culture and roles and responsibilities
  • sharing of Lead Teacher questionnaires Lead teachers' reflective questions
  • Overall Teacher Judgment workshop presented by Kay Brunton of Learning Media
  • updating of individual school action plans – organising informal after-school visits to other schools before 13th July workshop at Plateau.

Session Three: July 13th, 2011

The planned session included:

  • an opportunity for participants to discuss and feedback from in- school staff meetings and inter-school visits
  • Julie Beattie from Learning Media who came in to clarify ‘Below, At, and Above in making OTJs in writing
  • time for us as a group to moderate a piece of writing and to update individual school action plans.

Summary of progress to date


  • The contract has been well supported by the schools involved. Of the 13/14 schools participating, 10 Principals and 18 lead teachers have attended all formal sessions. The lead teachers are a mixture of DP, AP and lead teachers. This high level of participation from Principals at workshops has meant that lead teachers are supported in leading the in-school development.
  • Participants’ evaluation feedback provides strong evidence that the contract to date has provided the opportunity for in-depth work with other schools. This has been enjoyed by those involved.
  • The Cluster survey to establish baseline data of collegiality and collaboration was enlightening for the cluster as a whole, but also very useful for establishing a climate that ensured greater open collegiality within and between schools.
  • The opportunity to link with outside providers has provided a useful adjunct to our planned development.
  • The informal after-school visits between teams of teachers have helped to create mini professional learning communities and strengthen the collaboration and collegiality between schools.
  • There is a greater understanding within and between schools of the requirements for, and moderation of, Overall Teacher Judgments (OTJs) against National Standards. The contract sessions have also provided a forum for open debate about the relative merits of these.


Several issues emerged at the beginning of the contract and others have emerged as we have progressed. These are listed below:

New Principals, lead teachers and staff: It is important that personnel new to the contract are brought up to speed to ensure the successful continuation of the professional development. Processes have been introduced to ensure this happens, as it is particularly important for new principals. We have had two changes of principal during the term of the contract to date.

Baseline data: The gathering of the baseline data for workshop one highlighted a wide variation in understanding between schools around several key ideas and documents. These variations included:

  • the understanding of several aspects of assessment (diagnostic, formative, summative, informal, formal and processes in writing assessment)
  • the wide range of data gathered, including when it was gathered and what it was used for
  • variability in understanding of key policies and documents including Ka Hikitia, the Ministry of Education's Māori Education Strategy, and the NZC.

These issues will impact on our progress towards achieving some of the contract outcomes within the allocated time frame, as our planned professional development has needed to be reworked to more closely align to the needs of the participants.

More time than was initially allocated needs to be focused on:

  • examining and developing the supportive learning culture, which is required within, and subsequently between, schools, to ensure valid and reliable judgments are made
  • developing more of an understanding of assessment practices which underpin the making of OTJs
  • ensuring a common understanding of the underpinning policies and procedures.

Ongoing analysis of participant need as the professional development sessions continue

This has also highlighted needs outside our planned professional development programme, in particular from the session about making OTJs. A wide disparity of understanding has emerged in the workshops and this will need to be addressed in subsequent professional development sessions.