Gary Punler – Rationale for participating in the Ariki project

Gary joined the Ariki project because he wanted an alternative to the traditional principal appraisal process.

The Ariki project was a school leadership and school development initiative which focused on the connection between principal intentions and teacher behaviours and student outcomes.



Initially I chose it, (Te Ariki), because I was looking for something that would help me to be more reflective. Many of us have tried a lot of appraisal programmes, which is what this is about, and we’d found them to be quite a summative process. So we would get hold of a consultant and they would come in and set some goals and then eight months, nine months later they’d come back and tick them off. And I didn’t feel for myself that I was being developed as a leader, as a principal, and that was something I was looking for.

When I found out about Te Ariki, the other thing it offered me was the opportunity to link in my appraisal with my staff appraisal, and as a consequence of that we’ve been able to do school development. So the appraisal is the ‘what’ part if you like and the school development has become the ‘so what’. So one’s been informed by the other. And I also wanted to engage in what I called worthwhile activities, so for me it was about - what do I want to spend most of my time on? And that was really about learning and teaching and working with teachers, not about those sort of things that maybe had preoccupied my time in the past. You know - that got in the way. So this was focused on learning and teaching and it helped me make correlations between what I wanted to do for learning and then how teachers carried that out in the classroom. And so it became something that we put together, was interwoven rather than ran parallel.

Because it’s linked to student learning, student achievement, student outcomes there’s a direct correlation to that and an impact for that. So the fact that I’m saying, "Here are what I think we need to be learning about this year," and of course I’ve gathered that from staff, from parents, from the board, and we put it together as part of our charter. Then we’ve been able to say to teachers, "So what would that look like in your classroom?" Supported them with PD. The focus is around children; always around children and their learning.

So this latest project we’re doing is looking at Māori boys, Pasifika boys in maths and their use of e-learning to support them. Next term staff will be choosing three children in their room and they’ll be developing a plan around how they’re going to do that. And then they’ll be monitoring the kids. Then that is going to be, (what will happen is) the children’s achievement will be monitored as part of that as well. So it has a direct impact.

Well in the past we would have had a person come from outside perhaps, or another principal who, (as I said) would have come in and sat down with me in the initial stages and said, "Well what are your goals for this year?" Now they could have included student achievement but not necessarily. "OK, I might come back one or two more times through the year that could be part of the contract and I’ll see how you’re going." So it was always a backward process in my view. And then at the end of the year they might write a report for my board about me and say that these are the goals I set myself and here’s some of the evidence and that might include some teacher interviewing, parent interviewing, children interviewing and they’ll make some judgements about whether that’s been successful or not.

This process is different. Because for a start I don’t set goals. Neither do the staff. The goals emerge from what we talk about. So we’ve got an idea about where we’re heading, we know what we want to do as part of the charter goals, but the goal emergence is quite a key difference. So over time, talking regularly (and don’t forget I’m talking three, twelve times in a year) with my group of colleagues. What I’m focusing on - the real goals emerge over time, and so in terms of appraisal it’s a self-led appraisal, self-supported appraisal using my colleagues.

In terms of the reporting (and that’s kind of important as well), the group writes reports for each other based on the work that they have done throughout the year. And we’ve got a set template for that, but it’s very specific to the board about what evidence I’ve presented and the learning that I have got out of it. That all then goes to how will the school develop in the future? So that all gets included. A teacher’s appraisal would look exactly the same. Again, in their groups they would be working on whatever their focus was. So if they’re talking about year three boys and e-learning, they might have a presentation around that. Their appraisal is with their other group members so at the end of the time there would be a summative report written about the kind of work they had done within that group.

Now my responsibility through their web diary entries, through their QLC (quality learning circle) summaries and through the direct and indirect discussions that I have with them in between those meetings, is to, at the end of it, make a judgement about whether they have passed professional standards.

About Ariki

Gary joined the Ariki project because he wanted an alternative to the traditional principal appraisal process. Stewart (2009) identifies six assumptions behind the thinking from which this project is created:

  • Current principal appraisal processes have a bias towards compliance and have limited ability to focus on the principal’s influence on learning and teaching.
  • Effective schools encourage reflective thinking and critique at every level.
  • We should be looking for correlations between what teachers do and leadership interactions.
  • Teachers should be expected to critique their practice on a regular basis and principals should be guiding this critique.
  • Summaries from these teacher reflective sessions should provide evidence of the school’s strategy in action.
  • Pedagogical leadership can be ascertained to be present when principals are able to assemble evidence of their own practice which can be shown to have a positive effect on what happens in classrooms.

 From: David Stewart. (2009). Collaborative Critique based on evidence of practice. NZ Principal, v24, p5.

The Ariki process engages principals in working regularly in small groups where they present evidence of their own leadership intentions and practices. After principals have presented to their colleagues, they are asked reflective questions to challenge them to think about whether their intentions and actions are worthwhile, whether they are in line with the goals they are seeking to achieve, the evidence they are using for their decision- making, and the links between their interactions and classroom outcomes.

The processes and protocols offered are based around the notion of collecting evidence of practice which is then exposed to collaborative critique. Digital tools and resources for this work are available, on line, and direct facilitation of the project is provided regionally by practicing principals.

The diagram below illustrates how the Ariki processes contribute to principal appraisal.

Tags: Appraisal

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