An independent audit of the Te Kotahitanga project - - "a research initiative commissioned in 2000 by the Ministry of Education under Te Tere Auraki and developed by the Māori Education Research Institute, School of Education, University of Waikato, and Poutama Pounamu Research and Development Centre" - is damning.
The “initiative developed to improve teaching strategies and the effectiveness of teachers to increase the engagement and academic achievement of Māori students within mainstream secondary schools” is exposed as having fundamental flaws in the data collection and in the project’s underlying assumptions which casts doubt on the truthiness of everything we have been reading valorising the projects design and outcomes in the Education Gazette and Te Mana Kōrero:
The questions I’d like to ask are
How could a school of education at a New Zealand University design a research programme that fails to address such simple measures of reliability and validity in research design?
How could the Ministry of Education fail to pick up these research design flaws that have encouraged the conflation of opinion with fact for seven years?
Perhaps the answer lies in the areas of concern (p6) with respect to tertiary research in New Zealand identified by Adrienne Alton Lees in Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis:Strengthening Research, Policy and Practice Links to Improve Outcomes 4th Annual Policy Conference: Policy Evolution 29 March, 2006
Despite this optimism for the future, the need for R & D to improve practice for diverse learners is pressing, and there are areas of concern. These are:
• the uneven distribution of the excellent researchers across tertiary institutions;
• much of the quality research may not be oriented towards R & D (only a proportion of the available quality research focuses on improving educational practice which is small subset of the wide-ranging interests of academics in education);
• the relatively low prevalence of quality research in some teacher education institutions,
• research quality in New Zealand education was assessed as lowest in teacher education, e-learning and curriculum (with the exception of mathematics and science); and
• undermined social capital in the form of networks and relationships fostering trust and reciprocity in New Zealand educational research was identified as a national weakness in the OECD Review (2001)16.
Perhaps the answer is in our predilection for dogma and myth in educational initiative in education in New Zealand – elaborated upon in an opinion piece from Dr John Langley, Dean of Education at Auckland University, in the New Zealand Herald
"Recent headlines about the effectiveness of Te Kotahitanga highlight this country's failure to realise that successful initiatives in education must be founded on robust evidence and research. For many decades educational practice has been based on dogma, opinion and political agendas, ideas that add up to nothing more than empty slogans and pop psychology."
Or perhaps it is something darker
When I read about the lack of credibility in the claims made for the Te Kotahitanga project research initiatives it reminds me of other flawed initiatives designed to address disparate outcomes in education.
Like for example the ECE PPP project – in my darkest moments these kind of revelations in the media make me suspect there is a deliberate strategy in place. A strategy to ensure that MoE funded disparity interventions make not a jot of difference for those who need them most. And that this strategy is condoned and supported by those who Omar Hamed would undoubtedly describe as the guards of the system - parents of the "rich, white and privileged - the sons and daughters of the guards of the system" - those drawing academic salaries for their “expertise’ whilst all the while clad in Taleb’s “empty suits” who do and say nothing to challenge these initiatives.
It would seem that the strategies we use in education to improve student learning outcomes for diverse learners are not that dissimilar from the strategies used by gallery owners to increase the price paid for works of art by gallery visitors. R Genn "Price floors and ceiling" October 26 2007
We have the “Collapsing Floor Syndrome” – the intervention that introduces a whole load of cheaper items/ easier learning outcomes into the gallery/ education system.
“...One of my former dealers--no longer in the business noticed that a very high percentage of gallery visitors just came in and went out. Painting sales were so infrequent he had to do something about it. Thinking price was the problem, he introduced a lot of cheaper items into the gallery--ceramics, souvenirs, knick knacks.
The "Sky-High Ceiling Syndrome." – the intervention that introduces "name" and "dead" artists as well as "investment" art or scholarships for high achieving students from diverse backgrounds into the gallery/ private school education system.
This generally involves dealers may even compete with one another to see who can get the highest prices. Supply and demand play a part in this environment, but it has to be said it's good for living artists to be associated with the high-end artists. Simply stated, this implies that someday your work will also be worth more. The downside for artists who work with high-end galleries is that a gallery may lose interest in the promotion of less expensive work.
And finally the "Haven't Got a Clue Syndrome." – the intervention that introduces a range of prices in a given gallery/ learning outcomes to suit all wallets/ education systems .
This generally implies that clients come into galleries with an idea of how much they want to spend, and it's the gallery's job to show them something in their chosen range. The variation in gallery capability in this matter is astonishing. Just as some artists have no business selling their stuff, some galleries show little or no natural talent as to how art placement works.
The telling observation is that “Some galleries show little or no natural talent as to how art placement works.” And these galleries/ educational institutions will never improve learning outcomes for diverse learners (despite claiming "pedagogies of personalisation") when “best practice” is more “myth and dogma” than reliable and valid research