Questions and Answers

Julia Westera |

What is this new initiative?

The new initiative is about a modernised version of reciprocal teaching, Reciprocal Teaching - RT3T™.  The newly refined tools are developed for high impact and sustainability for our schools and communities of learning (CoLs).

There are currently nine schools involved – including five secondary. They draw from predominantly Māori, Pasifika, and multicultural communities that are either small town or urban.

Schools choose to start up with coaching intensives. In these they develop skilled trained teaching teams – with both students and teachers learning together.  Buy-in by all is near  instant.  These schools are continuing a phasing in plan over 2 to 3 years, with a few already spiralling into their CoLs.

If we have trained and skilled coaching teams, which students benefit?

International research and anecdotal information from our expert teachers and principals shows reciprocal teaching works for Year 1s as well as for seniors, trades, tertiary.

One principal of a multicultural primary school highlighted how her Year 1s were ‘no longer reticent’. Instead, they could now confidently and quickly clarify when they didn’t understand, opening up to learning and teaching.

Early this year a highly experienced secondary teacher was ecstatic about how many of her students achieved scholarship. This was a new one for her, and she credited reciprocal teaching for the dramatic results.

Teachers are also reporting other breakthroughs – for students in Years 4 to 6 reading at or above the 6.06 age equivalent level; and also for students with Downs, selective mutism (Year 12) and challenging behaviours.  Students become empowered and focused collaborative leaders, enjoying tuakana-teina.

In summary, this initiative is working in primary and secondary schools, for teachers, for both boys and girls, and for Māori and Pasifika students.

Is this initiative transformational?

Yes, it can be, for the majority of schools if done well, with integrity. For some the change will be evolutionary, for others revolutionary. 

Reciprocal teaching can be transformational only if teachers understand and are enskilled with its many evidence-based subtleties. Because the method appears easy to learn, results from a one-off PLD can be nil or negative. International researchers report an ongoing concern with the many ‘lethal mutations’ created by both teachers in their classrooms and in online forums.

For deeper and more lasting gains in schools and CoLs, integrity has to be an ongoing focus.  RT3T™ is a ‘complex intervention’, with high impact results depending on the integrity of the implementation and scaling up.

Success depends on teachers understanding both the evidence base and the practical steps to implement reciprocal teaching effectively. The role of the teacher in modelling, scaffolding, providing feedback and monitoring student involvement and achievement with reciprocal teaching is crucial. With continuity in professional learning opportunities, including within class support, provided by expert facilitators, the majority of teachers report stronger results in their second or third coaching round.

Planning for sustainability also has to be central. Basics would be having informed leadership, trained and skilled lead teachers, and employing a team approach. Designing and planning well ahead is also an essential, as leaders will need to mobilise their staff, resources, and timetabling differently. The investment of time and effort is largely at the front end – for initial professional development. Additional teacher/s and other resources are likely to be needed in order to continue to develop teacher skills and for the ongoing use of the group coaching component. Further, schools will need expert facilitators, particularly in the updated professional development and start-up stages, and to maintain momentum in working collaboratively towards sustainability over several years. Facilitators must be experienced with spiralling in the new tools, as a school-wide and CoL strategy.