Teachers and Support Staff

By Anthony Doornbos | Posted: Friday October 7, 2016

Educators during the middle years of student development need to be multi-talented and multi-skilled.

As middle schooling is focussed on emerging adolescents, teachers should be responsive to the real concerns and feelings of these students. Teacher-student relationships are not pre-empted by academic demands divorced from the physical, social and emotional needs of students. All educators involved with the middle years of schooling therefore must be concerned with the issues of engagement, motivation, opportunities and achievement of this age-group rather than the more peripheral issues of specific school structures.

Teachers of students in the middle years need to be:

  • committed to working with emerging adolescents;
  • empathetic with the physical, emotional, social and academic needs of this age-group;
  • skilled negotiators, responsive to student voice while setting firm, fair, clear boundaries;
  • in touch with youth culture, and able to connect with this age-group;
  • prepared to keep up to date with the current research on emerging adolescents and effective pedagogies for engaging them in earning; and
  • appropriate, positive role models.

The Ministry’s middle schooling research programme (2007-2010) included a review of the literature on learners’ engagement in the middle years of schooling (Gibbs and Poskitt, 2010). The reviewers identified three components of engagement: behavioural, emotional, and cognitive. The first two are preconditions of the third. That is, if students are to do the cognitive work of making meaning and building knowledge, they need to be present and participating in class and to feel comfortable and connected with their school, teacher, and peers.

Schools can improve middle school learners’ engagement in schooling through providing quality age appropriate teaching and learning opportunities, building educative partnerships with families and whanau and understanding the learners’ specific developmental needs.

Gibbs and Poskitt (2010) explain eight interconnected factors that influence student engagement:

  • relationships with teachers and other students;
  • relational learning;
  • dispositions to be a learner;
  • motivation and interest in learning;
  • personal agency/cognitive autonomy;
  • self-efficacy;
  • goal orientation; and
  • academic, self-regulated learning.

Unsurprisingly, positive relationships with teachers and other students are critical. These researchers (p. 15) cite evidence from Te Kotahitanga (Bishop et al., 2007) suggesting the importance to Māori learners of:

  • manaakitanga (building and nurturing a supportive, loving environment);
  • ngā whakapiringatanga (the creation of a secure and well-managed learning environment);
  • wānanga (engaging in effective teaching interactions with Māori students as Māori); and
  • ako (both teachers and students learning in an interactive, dialogic relationship).