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The Common Practice Model - What is it? What does it mean for leaders?

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

By Steve Saville and Rebecca Thomas



(Image, Midnight Rose, Sophia Minson)


Na Te Kore, Te Pō

Ki te Whai-Ao

Ki te Ao-Mārama

Tihei mauri-ora


Understanding the background, the beginning; unpacking the foundations of MOE documents is the best place to start before engaging with them. When you 'socialise' with the key philosophies and whakapapa of an idea, just like hearing Dr. Wayne Ngata's kōrero about Te Mātaiaho, it allows for a deeper understanding.


What would be a good way to begin our journey on our upcoming teacher only days as we investigate the Common Practice Model? How can we move from the void and the darkness to a place of light where there is life and growth?


In many respects it is about where we, as leaders of educational institutions, position ourselves with regards to new initiatives. We can see them as a ‘monkey’ that the Ministry is placing on our backs. We can see them as yet another problem to be cleared away; an obstacle to be overcome, a nuisance that distracts us from the business of running a school. Or, we could reposition ourselves and look at the intent, the purpose of the initiative. To position ourselves thus allows us to see the initiative, be it the Common Practice Model or Te Mātaiaho as a koha, a gift, an offering that we have to decide when we, how we, and indeed if we, pick up. To clarify this we lean heavily on Chapter 8 of Russell Bishop’s latest book, ‘Leading to the North-East’ (2023), where he explains this concept of koha with far greater clarity than we can.


If we see an initiative as a koha then tikanga dictates that those who lay it before us acknowledge, “the mana, the power of self-determination of the host to receive the koha.”


If we choose to pick the koha up (and yes we may not actually have much choice in the case being referred to here) the acceptance indicates a partnership that honours and respects the mana of the actual koha and those who accept it. In accepting the koha we as school leaders are indicating that we will care for, take ownership, and protect the fidelity of the gift. There is a responsibility here, but one existing within a respectful and mana protecting relationship. We agree to care for the reform and accept it, and to bring those who offer it into our space. The ‘givers’ acknowledge our self determination, but we give an assurance that we will (with support) implement in a way that the gift was intended, with fidelity.


So, the first step may be to just sit back and see the initiative through a slightly different lens. The first step could be to look at our positioning and to see the value of the koha being offered first before we see the problems it potentially poses.


What follows is some advice that can help to make your upcoming teacher only days in November, more engaging, more interactive, and more empowering than perhaps just working through some stand alone slides and videos. These ideas will help light up your dark, build a culture of trust, and help grow a sense of connectedness through collective efficacy.


Activity #1 - Cultural Capital


As a leader the first thing you need to do is create an environment of trust, as the journey you are about to embark on will require a sheltered space where staff and students can feel safe; one where their gifts are seen as potentialities not deficiencies, one that values prior knowledge, and one that is based on finding solutions - a whānau-like context.


Before any transformational change can take place and be successful leaders must allow Kaiako to bring their cultural capital to the table. Before we can ask teachers to change their pedagogies and adopt new policies we must first investigate, explore and discuss, why do they teach the way that they do? There is a great little whanaungatanga activity described here; perfect for the start of, or as a precursor to, that upcoming teacher only day.


Helping Kaiako to explore their own whakapapa behind the pedagogies they use, and allowing them time to align it to the underlying principles and theories of the Common Practice Model will not only empower them, but also help them to plan for growth. It will help them see that their pedagogical journey is one that will be added to, and not be one where the change is being ‘done to’ them. Their previous teaching and learning experiences are validated, this will help them be more accepting of changes ahead and build positive experiences that they understand will add to their kete, not replace it.


Remember that this new document and idea isn’t just something to ‘add on’ to our never ending list of things to juggle in this change process. The CPM is part of that connectedness we are growing with as educators, where the end goal is to have an education system fit for purpose, where our young people thrive - it is part of unfurling growth.


The Māori perspective of pedagogy (teaching and learning), is based on relational ontology. Paul Stucki, in his thesis titled, Māori Pedagogy, Pedagogical Beliefs and Practices in a Māori Tertiary Institution, 2010, describes relational ontology as: 'being that everything is interconnected in understanding the nature of reality. Relational rather than being independent. Everything in the universe is interconnected. Interdependent relationships shape the existence of meaning. Context matters; entities cannot be understood in isolation.'


Activity #2 - Pedagogical Approaches


The tool below which can be found in our shop, aims to echo that sentiment and invites teachers to see that the CPM is a model to help teachers map out their pedagogies. It is an evidence-informed document that will help equip them with the pedagogical approaches needed to address inequities in our education system, and teach critical literacies.



Rather than take the CPM at face value (in isolation), this tool will help educators see the connection between the approaches they currently use, examine how to align them to te ao Māori and the foundational learning theories it is grounded by, whilst supporting them to investigate what they need to do to grow; how to prepare for the future. This might be just what you need as an activity on your teacher only day.


Activity #3 - Learn


Once we have brought our cultural capital to the table, and unpacked the whakapapa of the CPM, you need to learn more about it. There is a range of resources and videos on the MOE website here. We found the following two podcasts with Matua Russell Bishop very interesting listening. This could easily be an expert jigsaw activity for a group of Kaiako to explore and give feedback to groups about what they found.



Activity #4 - Collaborative Decision Making


When we’ve become familiar with the CPM themes and ideals, leaders will need to think about their goals. They will need to think about what it is they need to do in order to help students who are not getting the quality education they deserve. This may involve a decluttering of ‘other things’ that distract our professionals from making a difference to their practice, things that distract them from being effective teachers.


Look at your data (don’t just make assumptions), look at the year ahead. What do you need to do more of? What do you need to do less of to close the disparity gap?


Have a wānanga with your staff based on the evidence you see before you, co-construct what you need to focus on for the next two years to make sure ākonga get the quality education they deserve, to ensure we reduce educational disparities.


You might need to ‘declutter’ your school events/PLD just for a limited time in order to: ensure that your teachers are supported to be effective; to ensure the CPM is delivered with fidelity; to ensure your school systems are effectively working to promote collaboration and make time for Common Practice Model meetings; to ensure there is quality feedback and feed forward opportunities; to ensure whānau, iwi and partners are included; to ensure resourcing is used effectively and to monitor how you are going towards your goals (including ākonga voice collection); to ensure teachers are supported to be effective professionals.


People are not effective on their own, but collectively they are.


We hope the above advice/ideas support you on your journey, as we can’t keep doing the same things over and over again and continue to get washed out. We know what we need to do, we have a guide to help us with how to do it, we just need to maintain the ‘will’ to make it happen.


(You may find some of our other tools helpful to you as we prepare for a new year where we own the changes ahead.)








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