Sustaining and scaling school-wide reform

A significant starting point in the search for a model for a sustainable and scaleable school-wide reform was the large meta-analysis conducted by Cynthia Coburn (2003).

Most of the studies Coburn reviewed were of schools in their first few years of implementing a new, externally generated reform.

In considering how to take a project to scale in a large number of classrooms in a school, how to sustain the gains made in these classrooms and schools, and how to take the project to other schools once it has proven to be successful in the initial schools, Coburn identified four main components, these being:

  1. pedagogy
  2. sustainability (essentially meaning institutionalisation)
  3. spread
  4. ownership.

However, in light of our experiences in Te Kotahitanga and the literature reviewed for Scaling up Education Reform: Addressing the Politics of Disparity (Bishop, O’Sullivan & Berryman, 2010), we further developed the Coburn model by adding three more components, these being:

  1. the need for an unrelenting focus on improving Māori (or any target) students’ educational achievement
  2. the need for leadership that is proactive, responsive and distributed
  3. the need to develop further evaluation and monitoring instruments, along with the need to raise the capacity and capability of staff in the schools to undertake this evaluation and monitoring.

From this list the following model (Figure 6) was developed within a study that ran parallel to Te Kotahitanga and that was funded by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga.

Initially, the model was first published as a monograph (Bishop & O’Sullivan, 2005) to both identify the necessary change dimensions and provide a tool for monitoring the progress of the reform.


GPILSEO [Download 5]

Figure 6: GPILSEO model

It is important to go back to these seminal documents to get a full understanding of the GPILSEO model and how we have used this model in Te Kotahitanga to contribute to scaling up the education reform.

Bishop, R., & O’Sullivan, D. (2005). Taking a reform project to scale: Considering the conditions that promote sustainability and spread of reform. A monograph prepared with the support of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, The National Institute for Research Excellence in Māori Development and Advancement. Unpublished manuscript.

Bishop, R., O’Sullivan, D., & Berryman, M. (2010). Scaling up education reform: Addressing the politics of disparity. Wellington, New Zealand: NZCER Press. In this section, we use the GPILSEO model to focus on the actions that those at the school level need to take to develop, implement, sustain, and extend a theory-based reform. This begins at the classroom level.

GPILSEO at the classroom level

The GPILSEO model can help us to understand what a reform initiative requires if it is to bring about sustainable change within classrooms, and also, what is required if it is to be spread to other classrooms. In terms of GPILSEO, this requires:

  • Goals: A clear focus on improving the engagement, participation and achievement of the students being targeted by understanding, developing and implementing a pedagogy proven to be effective.
  • Pedagogy: A means of implementing this proven pedagogy consistently and with integrity, so that teachers and in turn all students can understand and implement the new practices. This requires teachers understanding the new theories of practice, in their day-to-day classroom relationships and interactions with students and teaching colleagues.


  • Institutions: A consideration that pedagogical reform might require new institutions (changes to systems or structures) in classrooms. For example desks in rows might not be the best system for undertaking a more relational, dialogical approach to pedagogy.
  • Leadership: A relational, dialogical approach to pedagogy may see different and more distributed opportunites for leadership to emerge. For example it will promote people as being initiators of their own learning and who take responsibility and leadership for supporting the learning of others.
  • Spread: New classroom relationships and interactions will need a means whereby they are able to be spread to include all students (across classrooms and across year levels) and all teachers (across departments/faculties) in the school.
  • Evidence: A means whereby the progress of all students can be monitored to inform the ongoing changes in instructional. The gathering and examination of classroom evidence provides practice.
  • Ownership: New understandings and practices must be owned and understood by all members of the school and they must begin to move out into the community.



The following video clips offer a view into how GPILSEO may look at the classroom level and in different contexts

Video 2: Discursive Teachers Driving School-Wide Change

Understanding, developing and implementing a culturally responsive and relational pedagogy has proven to be effective in improving the engagement, participation and achievement of students in these schools.

Key thoughts

“There’s been a major cultural change where classrooms have been de-privatised.”

“You get teachers to buy in and they take ownership of it and once they take ownership of it, then it runs much more smoothly.”

Key questions

  1. What connections between a culturally responsive and relational pedagogy in the classroom and teacher ownership do you see?
  2. What does this suggest about teacher leadership practice?


Video 3: Relational pedagogy – progressions, purpose and power

When students’ voices are heard and they have opportunities to be self-determining, learning can be accelerated as in this context of a writing class.

Key thoughts

“When we looked at what the kids were saying...they liked a sense of humour, they liked to have an easy relationship with staff and students in the class…they like the learning to be broken down into small bits so they could decide to jump ahead or work away at the next thing.

They really liked the idea of achievability… so by freeing them up they're in charge of their own learning.”

Key questions

  1. What connections between relationships and learning do you see?
  2. If we understand pedagogy to be the interaction between teaching and learning, what are the implications if we do not work to create and maintain positive relationships within that context?


Video 4: The principal as teacher

Key thoughts

“I could see through the eyes of other people what they were experiencing.”

“It’s about ensuring I keep developing my own classroom practice as well and, on a daily basis, thinking about the context of the classroom.”

“It shows I am supporting the process participating in it.”

Key questions

  1. What potential benefits do you see in a teaching principal?
  2. What messages does it send to other senior leaders, teachers, Māori students and whānau?


Video 5: Progressions - transparent processes for continual improvement

Pathways that identify the next steps or checkpoints for learners help to focus teaching and learning and promote learners’ self-determination.

Key thoughts

“Being able to sit with kids and set goals and say, this is where you are now and this is where we want you to be.”

“Our progressions are our living document … as we respond to kids.”

Key questions

  1. Kotahitanga (Teachers promote, monitor and reflect on outcomes that in turn lead to improvements in educational achievement for Māori students) is a core component of the Te Kotahitanga Effective Teaching Profile. What connections do you see between this aspect of the ETP and the progressions talked about in the clip?
  2. What institutions are currently in place in your school that facilitate conversations between teachers and Māori students around their results and what they need to do to progress?
  3. How are these institutions reviewed? By whom?


Video 6: Sustaining whole school reform - GPILSEO in action

GPILSEO at the school level

Key thoughts

“GPILSEO is a really good self-review tool. It ensures that we are looking at every element in terms of bringing about change and improvement around our goals…”

“Our three key goals are: building leadership capacity; ensuring quality teaching and learning; ensuring student success and achievement. If there is anything operating outside of these we get rid of it – anything that aligns we build on… We are also responsive to the voices of students, parents and teachers.”

Key questions

  1. What key ideas did you take from this clip?
  2. What would you say about the current work being done in your school to achieve your school-wide goals and vision?
  3. What connections do you see between GPILSEO, school vision and ensuring equity for Māori students?

Changes in classrooms must be coherently aligned at the school level. In terms of GPILSEO this requires:

  • Goal: A focus on improving the achievement of all targeted students across the school.
  • Pedagogy: A culturally responsive pedagogy of relations developed across all classrooms, that is then able to be used to inform relations and interactions at all levels within the school and community
  • Institutions: In order to support this reform, time, resourcing and space must be reprioritised for the development of any new institutions at the school required to support the goals and new pedagogy within classrooms.Organisational structures, such as timetables, staffing, meetings, curriculum implementation and student management systems, may all need to be considered.


  • Leadership: Leadership that understands and is responsive to the wider social implications of a reform of this kind. Leadership that is also proactive and distributed to ensure GPILSEO is understood and applied across the school’s leadership teams.
  • Spread: A means whereby the reform can be spread to include all staff, and where parents and community can also participate.
  • Evidence: Specific tools, to monitor the implementation of the reform and provide data for formative and summative purposes, must be developed/accessed and able to be used smartly.
  • Ownership: The whole school, including the board of trustees, must take ownership of all aspects of the reform.

Ownership is seen when there has been a shift in the school’s culture so that rather than an over-reliance on the transmission of knowledge in hierarchical, linear and streamed models, a culturally responsive pedagogy of relations is central to the school; and when systems, structures and institutions are developed to support this new culture.

In this way, the reform seeks to address both culturalist (the need to change the culture of the school) and structuralist (the need to change power and resource allocations within the classrooms and schools that reflect wider society) concerns at the school level.

Both cultural and structural changes are necessary if we are to remove the key contributing factors to poverty amongst Māori in Aotearoa/New Zealand and other minoritised peoples in Aotearoa/New Zealand and in other parts of the world. Education reform, to address disparities such as these, can not be done without support from those who work at the system level such as policy makers.

Structural concerns must be addressed at a system-wide level if schools are to be better supported, at a national level, to implement these structural changes.

Read chapter 9 in Scaling up education reform (Bishop et al., 2010), for more information on system level change.



The following video-clips open a window on how the elements of GPILSEO inter-relate in reform across school-wide settings.

Video 7: Accelerating achievement through sharing of evidence and goals

When students, teachers and leaders collaboratively set goals based on evidence, learning can be accelerated, as demonstrated in this example of literacy across a school.

Key thoughts

“It’s very daunting when you get a lot of new enrolments and you look at their assessment data, particularly literacy, and teachers can get trapped into that deficit theorising zone and feel like, what can I do about it.”

“We had to provide some professional learning for teachers to get more depth and understanding themselves”.

Key questions

  1. Evidence has been used at multiple levels in this context. Identify the different ways evidence was used and by whom.
  2. How is evidence used at multiple levels in your school and who is involved?
  3. How might sharing goals and evidence be used to accelerate learning?


Video 8: The strategic alignment of institutions to improve identity and achievement – Restorative thinking

In this context an institution which supports establishing and maintaining positive relationships within the school has been developed.

Key thoughts

“To lift achievement we have to work on the relationships.”

“Restorative practice ..is built around restoring relationships.”

“Raising achievement raises self-esteem. Raising self-esteem means people are happier with their identity.”

Key questions

  1. What connection do you see between:
    • achievement and relationships?
    • achievement and pastoral care?
    • achievement and identity?
  2. To what extent do your current discipline policies and procedures, in theory and in practice, work to restore and repair relationships in order to reconnect people?


Video 9: The Strategic Alignment of Institutions to Improve Identity and Achievement - School Meetings

The principal talks about how and why changes have been made to the structure and scheduling of different types of meetings

Key thoughts

“If we want every meeting to be worthwhile people have to be prepared for them.”

“We had to think about where these meetings would be placed in the calendar year…You also need to know that the data is ready, so there is no point in having it too early in the year when the data is not verified by NZQA if it is NCEA data …”

Key questions

‘Worthwhile’ meetings for the principal in the clip are ones that are focussed on supporting the school’s aspirations and goals around raising Māori student achievement.

Consider the various meetings in your own school.

  1. What factors determine the timing of meetings in your school?
  2. For what purpose/s are they held and for whose benefit?
  3. Are they ‘worthwhile?’ How do you know?


Video 10: Distributed leadership leading to quality and sustainable change

A range of leaders talk about their experiences of distributing leadership across the school.

Key thoughts

“It’s a shared vision now, it’s not just something that’s ‘the school’s’ vision, but it is everyone’s vision.”

“Everyone has an opportunity to have an input into how the school is run at the leadership level.”

“Everyone has a voice. Everyone believes that they are an important part of the school direction.”

“At the top, the buck stops with her (the principal).”

“Leadership really is not about one person, it’s about people within the organisation, and I think that could be everyone in the organisation, not just a handful of people.”

Key questions

  1. In what ways does distributed leadership challenge and resist the traditional power structures within a school?
  2. How does such leadership connect to a culturally responsive and relational pedagogy?
  3. What questions would you ask yourself in moving to work in this way? What questions would you ask others?


Video 11: Leading Learning Across the School Owning Evidence, Learning and Practice

Through the use of evidence department managers are becoming leaders of learning.

Key thoughts

“Co-construction makes the department members own the programme for learning. It makes the head of faculty leaders own academic progress in the school. So it’s a very effective way of achieving learning.”

“By looking at hard data it is very focussing.”

“They’re [HODs / HOFs] heads of learning. I think that is quite an important shift to make … when it is recognised that that is their primary role then they start looking at data in a different way.”

Key questions

  1. Who currently ‘owns’ academic progress in your school? What are the implications of this?
  2. What benefits do you see in having data on the table?
  3. To what extent is data shared and used currently in your school?
  4. What barriers, if any, currently exist in ensuring everyone is able to access and use data effectively in your school? How might you address these barriers?
  5. What do you see as the difference between ‘heads of departments’ and ‘leader of learning’? What are the implications of this difference?


Video 12: Using Evidence to co-construct a coherent leadership response

School leaders use evidence strategically and smartly.

Key thoughts

“We needed to develop some data protocols.”

“We began to develop our capacity, as a team, in terms of using evidence and analysing it.”

Key questions

  1. What data protocols currently exist in your school in terms of:
    • what evidence is collected?
    • how it is presented?
    • who has access to it?
    • and how it is used?
  2. To what extent does evidence currently inform the policies and procedures within your school?
  3. What would you say about the current level of ‘data literacy’ across your leadership team? To what extent is there a shared capacity to analyse and use data to inform decision making, planning and review?


Learnings from across the Te Kotahitanga phases

A case studies analysis, undertaken in 2009 and 2010 of Phase 3 schools in their sixth and/or seventh year of the project, used the GPILSEO model as an analytical tool to investigate the degree to which schools were supporting the pedagogic intervention.

This analysis showed that there were marked differences in the degree to which the schools had actually implemented the model and how they were maintaining the implementation of the project.

Phase 3 schools were seen as falling within one of four categories:

  1. high implementers and high maintainers of the project (four schools);
  2. previously high implementers but currently low maintainers (three schools);
  3. previously partial implementers, but currently poised to implement fully (four schools);
  4. low implementers and low maintainers (one school).

Schools in category one, were those that had managed to embed the reform dimensions into their systems, policies and processes to the extent that the Te Kotahitanga principles and practices were being maintained and institutionalised as business as usual.

Although many struggled to fund the facilitators’ positions within their schools once project funding ceased and were convinced that the role of the facilitator needed to be permanent, there was strong evidence that the underlying theories and principles of the reform had been taken on as new institutions by leaders in these schools.

Especially important were leaders’ understandings about the relationships between the quality of teachers’ theorising and practice with Māori students’ engagement and achievement outcomes.

One principal explained that the professional code of practice that Elmore (2004) had identified as being missing from education was provided for them by Te Kotahitanga.

The principles and practices of Te Kotahitanga had provided his school with a framework against which the appropriateness of other potential initiatives could be evaluated in terms of an underlying philosophy and values, and a central core into which these initiatives could be woven.


The consequence is that the whole school’s efforts towards achieving the goal of raising the educational achievement of Māori students, as well as their peers, could be channelled in a carefully planned, coherent and respectful manner with everyone’s involvement.

Schools that fitted into the second category were those who had initially implemented the central dimensions of
Te Kotahitanga (annual induction workshop, observations, feedback, co-construction and shadow-coaching) and who had taken responsibility for changing teacher practice in their schools to include all or most of their staff.

However, without ongoing funding, schools in the second category had allowed parts of the professional development cycle to be deprioritised.

While current staff were exhibiting very clearly their commitment and abilities to maintain the implementation of the Effective Teaching Profile, (Meyer et al, 2010), with the lack of institutionalisation of the central elements of the professional development cycle, there were limited opportunities for the induction of new staff through the process of observations and feedback.

Further, the co-construction meetings and associated shadow-coaching, were not being maintained as regular institutions within these school.

Two of these schools, that fully understood the connection between changes in teachers’ practices and improved Māori student outcomes, were investigating a means of reintroducing these institutions to their schools.

Schools in the third category were those that for some reason or other, experienced considerable implementation and maintenance problems.

These included changes in principal leadership and hence in strategic direction, strong resistance from middle managers, problems with funding, problems with rapid turnover of facilitators, competition between bilingual units and mainstream classes, sporadic implementation of the project and competition for resources from other projects.

These problems meant that the implementation of the Effective Teaching Profile through the professional development cycle was never consistently implemented and/or spread to most or all of the staff in these schools.

While there were pockets of excellence at both individual teacher and subject department levels, in all cases the new leadership in these schools were keen and were seeking a means to reinstate the central institutions of
Te Kotahitanga.


By funding facilitators from their own funds they were expecting to see appropriate school-wide improvements.

The one school in the fourth category had found problems with the implementation of Te Kotahitanga and had sought alternative approaches to improving Māori student achievement.

There is clear evidence from a range of sources including Meyer et al., (2010) that schools in Phase 4 finished in very similar circumstances.

This consistent finding over two phases left us with much to consider. We had observed that when the principal was actively leading the reform from a point of a deep understanding of the practices, the tasks were more likely to be distributed, widely shared and deeply understood, with the result that Māori students were more likely to be engaged and achieving.

Importantly we also saw that when facilitation team members held on to the Te Kotahitanga institutions, others saw this as something they themselves did not need to take responsibility for.

Taken together we learned in Phase 5 that although we needed designated facilitators to disrupt the status quo, the sooner these tasks were distributed to include all others from senior leadership, then through the middle leaders, the more likely the reform would take hold.

After three years, evidence from the classrooms of the teachers and school leaders in Phase 5 of Te Kotahitanga showed that all of the following elements were developing in the project schools―some faster than others. In terms of this GPILSEO model, teachers are:

  • focusing on improving Māori student achievement
  • using the new culturally responsive pedagogy of relations to implement the Effective Teaching Profile (including developing understanding of anti-deficit theorising and agentic positioning)
  • changing the institutional structures in their classrooms and schools
  • distributing leadership through the development of power-sharing relationships
  • spreading the reform to include all students at a classroom level and all others in the school and out into the Māori community
  • formally and informally monitoring and evaluating Māori students’ (and others’) progress to further inform the changing practices


  • above all, taking ownership of the aims and objectives of the project and seeing disparity for their Māori students begin to close.

When we reflect on our experiences of working with Phase 5 we believe that some of these schools exemplified Wenger’s (1998) concept of a community of practice.

While communities of practice will be discussed in greater detail in the next section at this point it is useful to explain that communities of practice comprise of a community of practitioners; a domain of knowledge and a body of shared practices (Wearmouth & Berryman, 2009).

Within a healthy community of practice it is important that we have a means to effectively gather evidence of the shared practices of community members and the impact of these practices on the shared body of knowledge.

One of the ways that we sought to both understand and further accelerate these reform practices has been to provide school leadership at all levels with tools to hold the mirror up to their our own practices.

These tools have helped provide the context for having respectful yet critical conversations aimed at helping to understand both what has been achieved and what is yet to be achieved.

Critical Conversations – a tool focussed on school-wide reform

These Critical Conversation tools provide a range of descriptors focused around each of the elements of GPILSEO.

Its purpose is to provide an opportunity for principals and leadership teams to critically reflect on the impact of their school-wide leadership actions over time using GPILSEO as a lens.

Evidence-based discussion around which of the descriptors most accurately portrays their current situations provides leadership teams with an opportunity to reflect on what has been done, what is currently being done, and what still needs to be done to reform their schools so that the new status quo is Māori students enjoying and achieving educational success as Māori.

Furthermore it provides an opportunity for leaders to share their theorising around their current and historical leadership practices and to consider what changes might be required going forward.


Critical Conversations at all Levels [Download 6]