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Effective teaching for Pasifika students – Stories: Media gallery

Connecting Polyfest with academic performance

Pasifika students discuss the importance and relevance that the ASB Polyfest has played in their classroom learning, which in effect improved their academic achievement. Key points in this story also include the senior students mentoring younger students - tuakana/teina model, the opportunity to celebrate their culture by engaging with their traditional performing arts and being able to connect their cultural identifiers to Pasifika giftedness.



I think there’s a great correlation between Polyfest and academic success because during Polyfest everyone’s extremely busy and the schedule is just full-on. So I guess in a way you organization and your time management skills are tested and in some ways it can be positive and negative. But on a personal level I think it really benefitted me being part of Polyfest because I found that we had practices everyday after school, every lunch time, every weekend, every Saturday, so a lot of my time was occupied and I had to try and find time to fit in my schoolwork. And so I guess I became a more efficient learner outside of school, and my time management skills improved and I knew how to prioritize things and fit in time for schoolwork.

It was really time consuming, but I the end it really did pay off because not only did I learn more about my culture but I was also able to acquire the skills to learn new things in a short time span.

I believe Polyfest is a very good avenue for one’s success, academic success at school. In terms of the discipline you learn, to memorise the songs.

My memory has definitely improved over the years especially since I’ve been able to integrate my Polyfest skills into my schoolwork. I’ve been able to memorise a lot more things clearly and in a lot more detail because I’ve been able to pay attention that bit more.

The Polyfest environment you’re really pushed to try and succeed as a group, and this is carried on into our school work. So having practices every day. We’ve kinda, we’ve kept that mentality of being motivated every day and during class time we become more attentive, and effective listeners and learners.

Whether you’re a leader or you’re one of the group you learn a lot of the discipline and I believe that can be implemented into your schoolwork.

I believe that Polyfest really helped me because as a Tongan group member I was able learn skills that I wouldn’t have normally learned if I didn’t.  And at the same time I was able to learn more about my culture and I wasn’t able to do that when I was a little girl. So it really did help me.

I’ve actually made quite a few friends in the Polyfest group.  because we were together every day, six days a week, we would always get together outside of Polyfest to actually have study groups and the Samoan group, actually some of the girls, on Saturdays when we’d have an hour break we’d actually have our schoolwork out. So it is really good that Polyfest I guess, bring friendships together, that we could help each other in our schoolwork.

The relationships between the juniors and the seniors, I think in Polyfest especially, you they create a space that everyone feels welcome in. it’s not ah you’re older than me, so I shouldn’t be able to talk to you. They create a space that felt like home, especially, in such a big school where Polynesians are a minority.  They made me feel at home, they made me feel like I belong somewhere especially since I was new. And I think that girls, if other girls, reached out and asked to be a part of Polyfest, then I would I think they’d find those relationships as well. They’d find it easier to be themselves and find friends.

We had quite a few juniors and they’d I guess it was good being part of Polyfest because they found it easy access to the senior students where they’d ask for help and it was a more comfortable environment being similar nationalities, or ah, the same nationalities and just being comfortable and confident to ask questions. Yea so I was able to help a few juniors during my time at Polyfest.

I believe that we should also see Polyfest as way a learning tool a way to handle learning. So a lot of kids at school they excel at Polyfest or at sports, but when they come into the classroom they’re a completely different person. So I believe Polyfest should be a way a learning tool to handle other students.

How the Correspondence School can support Pasifika students

Glen Tuala - Pasifika Advisory Officer, Correspondence School explains the flexibility that the Correspondence School can offer in developing a more personalised learning programme for Pasifika students.



My name is Glen Tuala, and I’m the Pasifika advisor for Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, otherwise known as the Correspondence School. Part of my work is to help increase the capability of the staff and the students within the correspondence school a little bit about this school it is one of the largest schools in New Zealand. we teach right across the compulsory sector from ECE right up to secondary and we have a presence nationally for, originally for those who learning in a distance context but recently for engaging those student who are, for whatever reason outside of the mainstream education system.

So as Pasifika advisor it’s my job to make sure that as an organisation that Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu is making a positive contribution to the targets set out in the Pasifika education plan for 2007–2017. Also aligning with that are some of the other Ministry targets in terms of better public services.

So one of our main targets at secondary is helping to raise the achievement to 85% of our Pasifika, prior to the learners at NCEA level 2. How we feel we could contribute to this mahi is for those students who have come to us out of mainstream, for whatever reason, we feel that we are a good option to come onto our roll through the various gateways we provide, try and pick up those credits that they need in order to gain their level one, and especially the a NCEA level 2. As we recognise that those that leave school with a NCEA level 2 have a good chance of  going onto higher learning in the tertiary sector and just right across the trades and other vocational pathways that NCEA level two is very important as a base or a foundation for them to launch their careers from. And so we really believe that for Pasifika we do have a part to play in realising that goal.

So some of the practical support that we might be able to offer our Pasifika students, as I mentioned we have the flexibility, I suppose, we offer the flexibility to the students to their parents and their families and within their communities to be able to come on to our role with a real target and we offer that flexibility with the time frames that they might want to adhere to they have the goal of getting into a particular course in tertiary. We are able to offer them certain credits in all subjects across NCEA, from levels one through three, right up into scholarship, and so we’re able to feel that we could be doing a lot more for those particular students who might not be aware of takura, especially the families, the Pasifika families who really don’t know that we could be an option for them, in terms of our educators and teachers who are dealing with Pasifika students.

We do have in development an engaging Pasifika program which will be made available online to the sector, internally first, but we do hope to roll it out for those who wish to make use of it. And it’s a blend of online learning, and then also some face to face facilitation.

Just to help increase that capability across the sector we don’t usually have the capacity in the schools of Pasifika teachers, but we do realise there are teachers who have a real heart for Pasifika student and so we want to draw upon that good will and we want to make that work for our Pasifika learners.

Professional Learning and Development at McAuley High School

McAuley High School has an unrelenting focus on raising the achievement of their Pasifika students. School-based teacher professional learning and development enables teachers to collectively inquire into and identify what works well for their Pasifika students.


Key content

McAuley High School’s teachers put their emphasis on the questions they asked themselves in order to reach where they are at now. Their school has transformed into a safe, happy and supportive environment where their Pasifika students are able to flourish. Teachers participate in a professional community of practice underpinned by processes of inquiry and linked across all school systems and practices, including induction for new staff. While open to new ideas and new ways of doing things, the school’s strategic plan drives the teachers’ professional learning and development needs, with time set aside for that purpose. Expertise within the school is recognised and used. The focus is on what they identify as ‘good practice’ in the sense of what is working well for their Pasifika students.

“Effective communities provided teachers with opportunities to process new understandings and challenge problematic beliefs, with a focus on analysing the impact of teaching on students learning.” 
Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration, page xxvii


Thanks to the principals, staff and students of Aorere College, McAuley High School, Mangere Bridge School, Sylvia Park School, Mary MacKillop School and Wymondley Road Primary School for their contribution.

Things to think about

  • What role does professional development play in your school? How is it managed? Does the professional development help you share insights into what works and what doesn’t work for Pasifika students? If not, why not?
  • Do you have any professional development specifically around Pasifika student learning and achievement? Is it useful? How do you know? How do you put it into practice?
  • Do you share any professional development around your Pasifika students’ learning and achievement with others outside your school? How? To what effect?
  • To what extent is your school’s professional development strategically aligned to your school’s vision?
  • Does your school have a collective focus on raising the achievement of its Pasifika students? If so, how is that supported in your professional learning and development opportunities and professional networks?


Anne Miles – Principal
In our strategic plan we have identified goals for each year and we base our professional development around those goals. With the alignment of standards, with the curriculum that was introduced formally this year, our professional development is concentrated on those areas. And every Thursday morning we have professional development for staff, in addition to that we have departmental professional development, we also have a professional development programme that will identify teachers individual needs so that they can go on courses or wherever needed. But we have a very wide field of expertise amongst our staff, and its important before you go looking elsewhere to look within. And we've got staff here who are superb with different aspects of teaching, and so we get them to run professional development.

Moyeen McCoy – Teacher
We do have literacy PD that is done for the staff, and normally that is done by me as the head of English and what I have to do then is to try and understand the needs and demands of different subject areas. So I have to go and talk to people, other heads of department, and find out what they need and suit the PD to that.

Anu Patel – Teacher
Where a class is particularly difficult we come together as a group of teachers to look at what works in one area, and what doesn't, and it might just be a case that the class hasn't quite gelled or settled down, or different learning techniques that work well in one area than the other. I think as the need arises we set up those meetings so they’re flexible depending on what needs to be done.

Nola Dougall – Deputy Principal
With our beginning teachers they are timetabled, we have a six day timetable, and they are timetabled for a Provisionary Registered Teachers meeting once in that six day cycle.

Actuality – Provisionary Registered Teachers meeting

Reshmi Kumar – Teacher
When new teachers join our community it is important that they want to belong and that we get them to want to belong. So all teachers who come in new to our community they bring with them their own identity, their own set of personal beliefs and it is very very important for them to see our vision where we are going.

Actuality – Provisionary Registered Teachers meeting

They go through the rigorous training programme at teachers college that is the professional knowledge that they come into the community with. However it is very very important for them to move from that into professional engagement, and that's where we come in. We encourage these meetings, we encourage professional discussion, we encourage effective strategies that work for our students. And we are very open to the new ideas that new teachers bring into our community and I think that is really really important. And that we way build together a community that we are all part of and work towards.

Professional Learning and Development at Māngere Bridge School

Collaboration, inquiry learning and knowledge-sharing underpin the professional development and learning focus of the teachers at Māngere Bridge school. The learning and actions that result impact positively on their Pasifika students’ achievement and well-being.


Key content

A strong feature of the professional learning and development at Māngere Bridge School is the take-up of opportunities, with teachers participating in large-scale national projects as well as those within the school. The teachers develop and strengthen their relationships with Pasifika parents by sharing with them the professional knowledge that they themselves are gaining. The teachers’ participation in quality learning circles contributes to their learning about what is effective practice for Pasifika learners.

Teacher-student partnerships are strengthened by regular learning conversations. Through these conversations, they each explore the student’s achievement in sufficient depth for them both to know what they need to do next to be able to progress the learning. The focus is clear and constant. Teachers, parents and students investigate, deliberately and collaboratively, the effectiveness of teaching practices in relation to Pasifika student achievement patterns. These are some of the ways that teachers at Māngere Bridge school engage in professional learning and development to benefit their Pasifika students.

“Collaborative opportunities for professional learning are most likely to deliver benefit for students when they are characterised by:

  • an intensive focus on the relationship between teaching and learning;
  • collective responsibility and accountability for student achievement and well-being.”

School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration, page 120


Thanks to the principals, staff and students of Aorere College, McAuley High School, Mangere Bridge School, Sylvia Park School, Mary MacKillop School and Wymondley Road Primary School for their contribution.

Things to think about

  • How much time and what resources go into professional development around the achievement needs of Pasifika students in your school? Could these be increased? How?
  • Do you talk to your Pasifika students about your professional learning and development needs? If not, why not? How do you know what will help them to learn better?
  • Would you say that there is a strong sense of collective responsibility and accountability for Pasifika student achievement and well-being in your school? Could it be improved? If so, how?
  • Does the professional development you receive impact directly on the achievement patterns of your Pasifika students? How? If not, why not?
  • What forms of professional learning and development have you found particularly effective in helping you to meet the needs of your Pasifika students in the classroom and raise their achievement levels? Do other teachers agree with you? What works for them, and why?


Liz Crisp – Teacher

The professional development we get in the school, as a teacher is great. At the moment we’re on a contract where we’re aiming to raise the standard of reading for our Pasifika children. We have spent time together as a staff talking about them. Most impacting for me was actually looking at the whole building of relationships and in a busy life of a school and the drive to get reading and writing and maths standards up, I think I was forgetting that it is so important to build relationships with the children initially. So spending time at the start of the year to make connections with children. Making sure my classroom is warm and inviting and a great place for children and parents to be. Trying to learn the names of the parents you know so I can greet them appropriately. All those sorts of things came through our professional development, which we held together. On an ongoing basis we’re part of an Assessment for Learning contract. And I'm an Assessment for Learning lead teacher so I get input regularly on a termly basis on how to work alongside teachers and children, and what is great practice in helping them learn.

Rosina Prasad – Teacher 
We have had Pasifika literacy days, we’re with our cluster schools, and I've always found those really valuable because you get to learn so much from a variety of people. And I think the fact that they’re focussed as well and that everyone kind of shares their ideas, and shares their knowledge or something they’ve learnt has been really beneficial for my own practice. And I think we get quite a few readings as well, like professional readings to have a look through and quite often they’re from teachers who have had the same issues. And I've always found those quite insightful.

Liz Crisp – Teacher
Another part of our professional development is a little meeting that we have of teachers called the Quality Learning Circle. And it's a chance to sit down and bring to the table our thoughts about our Pasifika children and other children. To perhaps look at a reading, some data, to share ideas, and problems, find solutions, and just work together to better help our Pasifika children in their learning.

Actuality – Quality Learning Circle

Liz Crisp – Teacher
One thing that came out of some professional development we did was, it was around having some learning conversations. So something we put in place last year was sitting down with one of the pasifika children in our class and on a regular basis, weekly, talk about their learning, and record what was happening. And I think it had two effects, it one helped me get to know that child really well and they also me, so we had a great rapport but also we both became really knowledgeable and very specific about where the child was at in their learning and so the learning steps became really tight and really clear. And those children progressed really really well as a result of that. Not easy to do in a busy classroom and not easy to do for every child but really effective to target a child in that way if you’re a little bit concerned or just know there needs to be something happen to help them learn.

Language enhancing the achievement of Pasifika |  Pasifika Education Plan |  Effective teaching for Pasifika students – Strategies for success |  Effective teaching for Pasifika students – Working with students |  Pasifika and e-Learning |  Pasifika giftedness |  Engaging with Pasifika parents, families, and communities