Introducing Reciprocal Teaching (RT3T™) into a secondary school
Excerpts from a Deputy Principal’s Blogs
As Head of English and then as a Deputy Principal, Keir Whipp has been pivotal to introducing Reciprocal Teaching (RT3T™) into two secondary schools. He is now keen to introduce RT3T™ into a third secondary school.
This article is based on excerpts from blogs that Keir wrote over 3 months while he was involved in leading the change in a second secondary school.
Incentives to change
Our immediate incentive to change teaching and learning practices was borne out of data that showed our Māori students both underperforming in literacy and numeracy assessments, and also having higher disengagement rates than other ethnicity groups at our kura.
We introduced Reciprocal Teaching (RT3T™) because it is a proven literacy strategy (Westera, 2015) that incorporates pedagogical practices aligned to the effective teacher profile formulated in the Te Kotahitanga research (Bishop et al 2009). All of our teachers, whether they use this pedagogy or not, have to address the gap in Māori achievement and engagement in ways that meet the needs of Māori.
We had learned in the literature that RT3T™ deepens learning and increases access to challenging texts; connects thinking skills; improves content learning; promotes kanohi ki te kanohi collaborative skills and student leadership. These skills are central to success throughout school, and for lifelong learning (Westera, J. 2015).
As well, RT3T™ can afford the use of culturally responsive resources (including texts) and promotes culturally responsive and relational practices.
RT3T™ deepens learning and increases access to challenging texts; connects thinking skills; improves content learning; promotes kanohi ki te kanohi collaborative skills and student leadership
We started 2019 with a presentation to staff on how RT3T™ works, having already announced to the school in the previous year that we would be introducing Reciprocal Teaching – initially to the Year 9s through their English lessons.
Our introductory session was preceded by a presentation of the school's vision, values and strategic programmes for the year. The relevance of RT3T™ to our school's commitment to improving student agency and developing competence in reading and writing in Years 9 and 10 quickly became apparent to many of us.
We knew that implementing RT3T™ takes considered and careful leadership, and the map had already been created through the groundwork done by Westera and colleagues in schools around the country. RT3T™ is a highly structured strategy and its effectiveness is reliant on carefully structured implementation. With this in mind, we decided to implement it in our school in stages, beginning with Year 9s in English classes.
To help Māori achieve as Māori, as teachers we need to empower Māori students to be agentic by promoting tuakana-teina relationships; valuing ako and showing the learner that we care about them as a learner
Culturally responsive pedagogy
We see RT3T™ as a strategy that will support our rangatahi Māori to have better access to the curriculum, in an environment of collaborative learning which supports and promotes ongoing and immediate academic feedback and feedforward, co-constructed learning, ako, tuakana-teina relationships, culturally relevant texts, and prior learning and knowledge.
To help Māori achieve as Māori, as teachers we need to empower Māori students to be agentic by promoting tuakana-teina relationships; valuing ako and showing the learner that we care about them as a learner, even more than we care about the content knowledge we may want to impart.
The teacher also has to be agentic. They have to believe that they have the power, knowledge and skills to enable Māori to achieve as Māori in school. And where they think they fall short, they must endeavour to upskill so that we can become a culturally responsive and sustaining school.
both teachers and students agreed that RT3T™ is having an impact in at least two ways: an increase in student engagement in their learning, and secondly, an increase in student collaborative learning
Evaluating the impact
Data from the ‘Taking Action’ phase provided perspectives from both teachers and students directly involved in their classes. What we observed is that both teachers and students agreed that RT3T™ is having an impact in at least two ways: an increase in student engagement in their learning, and secondly, an increase in student collaborative learning.
The teachers from six Year 9 classes commented on how the students were more engaged in learning than they had generally observed in previous years when RT3T™ was not being used. It was observed that learner agency increased, as groups of students worked unsupervised using the RT3T™ strategy, while other groups in the same class worked collaboratively with a teacher. Students working in both supervised and unsupervised groups commented on how they enjoyed reading in class, how they were more engaged in their learning, and how they enjoyed working in collaborative groups. Teachers agreed with the students’ observations.
As school leaders and as teachers, we often have predetermined ideas of how to solve a problem in our school or in our own teaching and learning programmes, but we have learned that we need to try and be objective, and not just rely on our current practices, but be open to adopting new practices.
Introducing RT3T™ into our school has led us into a wider exploration of how it fits within the establishment of a culturally responsive and culturally sustaining pedagogy in our kura and has allowed us to celebrate the resulting positive changes in the engagement, achievement and learning behaviours of all our students.
This article is based on excerpts from Keir’s blogs. The collation and editing was done in consultation with Keir, by Robyn Foster, RT3T™ Facilitator, and Julia Westera, author of Reciprocal Teaching as a school-wide inclusive strategy and co-author of Best Evidence Synthesis – Reciprocal Teaching
For more information on the concept of ako: The concept of ako / Aspects of planning / Teaching and learning te reo Māori / Curriculum guidelines / Home
For more information on RT3T™, visit About - RTeach Institute
For more information on results over 5 years in two secondary schools implementing RT3T™: