Tapatoru – The Foundation Learning Professional Standards Framework

Tapatoru - The Foundation Learning Professional Standards Framework

Tapatoru framework for Foundation Learning

This has been a long time coming… However, I’m very pleased to share the new Tapatoru framework with you.

I’ve been working on this for the Tertiary Education Commission and Ako Aotearoa since August 2018.

This framework is for you if you work with learners, workers or clients who need culturally relevant language, literacy and numeracy support.

Official Release

The official release was at the Foundation and Bridging Educators (FABENZ) Conference in Wellington.

There are a couple of supporting documents. You can download them below or on the Ako Aotearoa Website.

If you’re reading this and you’re not from New Zealand, please ask me questions if you’re interested.

Wider applicability

I think there is a wider applicability, especially to other indigenous groups interested in integrating cultural values together with knowledge and practice.

Indigenous Taiwanese whanau I’m looking at you in particular…!

Some background to the Tapatoru

Since 2007, the government in Aotearoa New Zealand has invested seriously in building an infrastructure for embedding literacy and numeracy into vocational education and training.

And as educators and tertiary education organisations we’ve all invested as well. Sometimes this has been our time, but often it’s included our money too.

The infrastructure has included professionalising the workforce as well as a suite of tools and resources for tutors, trainers and adult educators to use.

Thank you for your contribution

If you’ve contributed or participated in some way, whether small or large, you should give yourself a pat on the back. Ka pai e hoa…!

And now, we’re at the stage that we have to look at how to lift our game once more.

We now have a much better idea about what’s working and what’s not

After more than ten years, we all have a much better idea of what is working and what isn’t. And we know that just about everything that we touch – or that touches us – in the sector has evolved.

This includes policy, the needs of educators and organisations, and research not to mention the knowledge base that underpins professional development in the foundation learning sector.

We need to improve professional development and capability building

From here we need to improve the current system of professional development and capability building, be better connected, work more effectively and do all of this with greater coherence.

We know that some of what is offered for tutor professional development is not working as well as it could. At least, we have not seen the deep changes that we want to see in our tutors and education organisations.

That is not to say that we haven’t seen positive change. There is certainly tremendous and ongoing work happening around the country.

But here’s the thing.

Some people are sitting on their hands

Some tutors, trainers and teachers, even despite performing well when they are completing professional development just go back to the way they were after they finish the training.

I’m not saying everyone is like that, of course.

In fact, we all know plenty of tutors who complete a programme like the New Zealand Certificate in Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education (NZCALNE) or New Zealand Certificate in Adult Tertiary Teaching (NZCATT) have a classic lightbulb moment (or two or three).

But some tutors and organisations are just sitting on their hands. Others are stuck. You know who I mean.

And there’s more to it than meets the eye of course… it’s a complex eco-system.

As a small country, we are super fortunate to have a suite of high quality, entry-level professional qualifications as well as resources for our vocational, workplace and foundation learning tutors.

It’s time to lift our game

However, we need to figure out how to take it to the next level.

In other words, we all need to lift our game.

And this means providers and those of us involved in delivering professional development as much as tutors and trainers.

Developing a professional standards framework that describes tutor capability for those working with high needs learners is a big step in this direction.

The intention is that a framework like this would help us do a couple of things.

One is that it would help us identify strengths and needs at both an organisational and individual tutor level.

And the other is that it would help inform coherent professional development pathways and new capability building opportunities moving forward.

Bespoke or broke

What I’m talking about here is having a mechanism to inform bespoke approaches to ongoing capability development in the tertiary sector.

This last part is important if we want to be pragmatic about designing meaningful professional development. This, after all, the age of customisation, of the 3D printer. Not the factory.

We know it intuitively, but we need to recognise explicitly that organisations are not the same. Working in industry as a trainer is not the same as working in a Polytech as a tutor.

Individual experiences and prior knowledge are not the same either.

Māori learners are not the same as Pasifika learners. All Pasifika learners are not the same either.

For some, classes might feel like they’re more representative of the United Nations.

But hopefully, and with your help, a robust framework like the Tapatoru can be one way to bring coherence to how we draw all the threads together.

Capability domains and levels

Here’s some further detail about the kind of structure that we’re using for the Tapatoru.

  • Four capability domains that encompass the professional knowledge, teaching practices, ability to engage with others and cultural capabilities that are relevant to tutors and others involved in foundation-level teaching.
  • Four levels of professional standard. Imagine a poutama or staircase with four steps. The first step describes knowledge about foundation teaching. The second step describes the application of this knowledge. This connects with some of the entry-level qualifications we have including the NZCALNE (Voc) and NZCATT at level 5 on the qualifications framework. Step three describes more extended capability and expertise. And the top tier describes expert tutors providing leadership in different contexts and capacities.

As a sector, we know quite a lot about what kinds of skills, competencies and other outputs we expect from our tutors with regards to the first two steps above.

But what we need to know more about, and where the really exciting work is, relates to our best tutors. And this means the top two tiers of our proposed structure.

For example, how can we describe the capabilities of expert tutors who are more experienced, who can demonstrate extended knowledge and application of foundation teaching skills?

This is where we need to ask a lot of questions. For example:

  • Who are our high-performing and best tutors? And what makes them better? What kinds of evidence can we point to?
  • How can we unpack the skills and capabilities that great tutors already have in a way that helps us inform the design and development of this framework?
  • What about tutors who demonstrate the ability to provide leadership, guidance and mentoring to others? What does that look like in practical terms?
  • What are the findings from current research and best practice about how we should be working with priority learner groups including Maori, Pasifika and youth?

Using the Tapatoru, we’ll be able to describe tutors with a range of skills and abilities when we need to. This includes new tutors, expert tutors, and – yes – tutors who might not be letting their light shine as brightly as it could.

So organisations will be able to highlight their strengths and needs in terms of tutor capabilities.

The second thing is that we’ll have a set of tools to design bespoke approaches to professional development where we do identify gaps and needs. And by we I mean you.

And this should apply at both the level of the organisation as well as with regards to individual tutors.

My vision for this is that it becomes something that empowers tutors to go from good to great. And creates clear pathways for professional and career development.


Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

Leave a Reply