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Teachers on Tūturu training: "This is the kind of language we need"

Case study 14 June 2022

1

This story was captured from a Tūturu case study in an evaluation by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research - read the full report.

At one school which participated in the Tūturu pilot, leaders had identified a need to shift the whole school away from punitive approaches to behaviour. They wanted to assist teachers to develop more understanding of the challenges students faced outside of the classroom. The school decided to hold a full-staff Tūturu motivational interviewing professional learning and development (PLD) session to provide teachers with tools they could use to start conversations with students.

A lead from the school said: “At the beginning of this year, we worked with teachers on motivational interviewing … This is the kind of language we need teachers to be using with students. Teachers were saying it was helpful..."

The process involved all staff attending a PLD session run by Tūturu facilitators. Staff were asked to consider the importance of language when speaking to students. The session was powerful for some staff; it encouraged them to reflect on themselves as children and identify where they were in their lives now. It also focused on building more empathy towards students’ situations and moving away from deficit-thinking.

Teachers fed back they found this session enlightening: “You had to stand on four quadrants—what you were as a child and what you are now—most of us were in a different place ... If it wasn’t for the quadrant’s thing [workshop exercise]—I wouldn’t have realised I went through trauma [as a child] … Violence, drug abuse—there are a lot of things going on [at home].”

Teachers also identified that the PLD provided helped their interactions with students. A school lead said, “The most important thing was the language—the cues you use when you are validating—that empathic way of responding to negativity and violence. And to make it OK for them to be mad and come from that space where we understand without judgement.”

The PLD had also helped shift mindsets. Teachers talked about how they were thinking about students more compassionately, particularly students who they may have previously dismissed as being “naughty”. Teachers fed back: “When you don’t have much sleep or food and you are hungry and [the teacher] says ‘Why haven’t you done your writing?’, it’s not surprising that kids blow up. [The PLD] helped me to better identify this, so I don’t go there … I use it with my own kids [at home]. [I now think] there is nothing wrong with the child—it is the behaviour or attitude. I try to not ask ‘What is wrong with you?’

"Teachers think it’s cool … and they want to do more and have strategies of how to do that. We want to get to the position at the end of this year where teachers are very comfortable. It’s not something they’re thinking about—it’s like driving, they can just automatically get there. They are getting to that learning conversation" - school lead.

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This story was captured from a Tūturu case study in an evaluation by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research - read the full report.