Ethics as manaakitanga II: Ethics in the classroom

A few weeks ago I wrote this blogpost about ethics as an expression of manaakitanga. It is more pertinent to those conducting reasonably formal research in an education setting. So that got me thinking: What might ethics as manaakitanga look like for teachers at the ‘chalkface’?

Just as with research, we talk about data in teaching. We can mean a myriad of things by this word ‘data’. It could be test results, the oral or written feedback teachers offer on a piece of work, pastoral care notes, the stories we hear as we learn more about the young people in our care. Because teaching does deal with data – both in its quantitative and qualitative forms – I think we should engage in thinking carefully about how we collect this data, what we do with it, and, significantly, whether our young people are informed about these processes, as ultimately the data is theirs.

Image source: Eco Warrior Princess, CC0

Let’s start by thinking about collecting data. As teachers, how do we collect data, and what do we do with it? For example (and I have been guilty of this one myself, which is why I include it): at the conclusion of the weekly spelling test, going down the roll and asking students to call out their result. This is an efficient way of collecting this small amount of regular data. But now I wonder how this upholds the mana of the ākonga who hasn’t done as well as they might have hoped. Publicly announcing their number isn’t going to make them feel great, and no longer feels to me like a respectful or responsible way of collecting data.

Thinking further about data collection principles, I wonder whether our ākonga and their whānau know what data teachers collect, and what we do with the data once it’s been collected? Is the data for teachers to support them to reflect on their teaching practices? To support teachers and learners to identify next learning steps or goals? To help teachers to generate report grades?

Now let’s think about sharing data: whose data is it, and how do teachers use it as an individual classroom teacher, and / or collectively as a teaching team or as a whole school? For example, I have been into a number of secondary schools’ staffrooms and noticed a list of young people at risk of not achieving Level 1, 2, or 3 NCEA on a central board. I agree that this can generate a sense of collective responsibility for the success of these ākonga. But I also wonder if these ākonga and their whānau know that their data is being used in this way. Have they consented to this? How might they feel if they learned about it?

Outside of these uses of data as teachers, I’m also thinking about the place of data collection in Teaching as Inquiry practices. There is currently a spotlight on inquiry and appraisal in New Zealand, so perhaps this offers us a good opportunity to think about these processes. For example, if we are inquiring into our practices to support the success of a group of ‘target’ learners, how do we select these young people? How do we ensure our selection is as free from bias as possible? How might we invite the participation of these young people, and should we? Indeed, do ākonga have the right to know of our teaching as inquiry foci, and to be invited to be involved? Where might the work of the Children’s Commission support us in thinking about these issues?

If we value manaakitanga by looking after our young people; upholding their mana and right to self-determination, then I think we should be engaging in thinking carefully about how we are ethical in our practices and processes, for example, around data.


One thought on “Ethics as manaakitanga II: Ethics in the classroom

  1. Emma McFadyen August 28, 2019 / 10:22 pm

    These are quite good thoughts, Philippa! It got me thinking about the practices I’ve been involved in regarding data collection and analysis. When comparing classroom practice to what researchers have to do for their study… these would be good conversations to have. I think we (educators) can do better.

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