“When I was a Principal, I wish that I had had an NZCER Education Advisor talk me through how standardised data worked and how I could get it to work better for me and the school,” confessed Kaitohu Mātauranga | Education Advisor Cathie Johnson.
Cathie knows her stuff and is one of the two Education Advisors at NZCER, along with Julie Roberts. Combined, they have nearly 25 years of experience as advisors, as well as being former teachers and, in Cathie’s case as a principal also. Often busy supporting one of the schools that they work with, it’s not often you can pin them down together.
Information on the NZCER website states that Education Advisors are accredited facilitators that offer a range of professional learning and development workshops to help schools with effective analysis of NZCER’s assessments. The advisors customise all professional learning workshops (in person or online) to meet the needs of schools or Kāhui ako/clusters.
When I ask the advisors about their role, Cathie says “at the heart of our role we really help schools to interrogate the data from their point of view.” Julie adds that a big part of the role is listening to the school’s story and understanding what’s important to the school, and what’s not, and evaluating each school one on one “and then we know what kind of angle the data needs to follow.”
They also both agree that it is a privilege to be able to help schools with their data, because the schools are trusting them with their story. “That level of data can be exposing, can be confronting but it can also be incredibly affirming. We are their guides on the side” says Cathie.
As well as connections with schools, the pair explain that one of the key purposes of their role is to make sector connections. “We work with agencies and organisations that work in schools and we train them in the best use of our tools and surveys” says Julie. In addition, the Education Advisors are there to build assessment capability across the sector through the use of the NZCER tools.
When we talk about challenges, the pair mention that one of the challenges for schools is that they only use the tools once or twice a year. So, the Education Advisor’s work with schools is ongoing throughout the year, as schools check in and out with their assessment questions and the team continue to develop their capability.
As we conclude our kōrero I asked about something she likes about the role and Cathie immediately says “one of the great thrills is when schools know they have engaged with the integrity of the tools. It’s a great feeling to walk out knowing you have helped to build their capability and you have left them in a better place.”
Perhaps one of the best ways to sum up what our Education Advisors do, is not in our own words but those of a Learning Support Coordinator who recently wrote “…Your voice, expertise, advice and PD have helped to bring about school change here, at every level. Staff are genuinely excited about collecting data. They see the purpose. It has brought the teachers together to collaborate for the benefit of our students...”
We are currently advertising for a Kaitohu Mātauranga | Education Advisor. If you have expertise in growing assessment capability in the education sector we would love to hear from you. Find out more here:Kaitohu Mātauranga – Education Advisor role