Sophie Nock – Tertiary Teaching Excellence Teaching Profile
Teaching profile from Sophie Nock (Senior Lecturer, Te Pua Wananga Ki te Ao, School of Maori and Pacific Development, The University of Waikato.) – Award for Sustained Excellence Teaching in a Kaupapa Māori Context 2012.
Kāore he mutunga o te ako
There is no ending to learning
It was passion for te reo Māori that first got me into teaching. This passion was gifted to me by my grandparents Ani and Taukiri, descendants of the tribe of Ngāti Kurī, the sub-tribe of Pohotiare, the canoe of Kurahaupō, the harbour of Parengarenga and the marae of Te Mingi and Te Hapua. A passion I had felt keenly as a mokopuna was reignited. I wanted to contribute to the revival and survival of te reo Māori but I had little competence in the language and no background in teaching. At that point, my journey of rediscovery of my language and my development as a teacher began in earnest. More than twenty years later, I am confident in my on-going progress towards excellence in the use of te reo Māori and am making full use of the teaching skills I have developed thus far. I am now working towards further development of these skills.
Teaching te reo Māori and tikanga is, for me, much more than a job, it is my passion and I want my students to experience that passion, the sense of excitement I had as a student (when pursuing my first degree as a mature student), and the sense that each new discovery is a koha or gift.
Over the years, I have come to believe that effective teaching is the outcome of a combination of on-going self-reflection and a range of activities that take place over a long period of time, activities that include detailed research, careful planning and preparation, consultation, feedback and review. I have also come to believe that effective teaching is interactive, participatory and challenging but never overwhelming. Effective teaching involves a wide range of different types of materials and activities. It attempts to draw upon the prior experiences of learners and to accommodate the many different approaches to learning that they exhibit. Good teaching is always a learning experience for the teacher, one in which she or he shares with the students a sense of excitement and discovery. The concept of Ako as described by Rose Pere (1982) best illustrates this approach between the teacher and the learner where the task is not only to teach but to equally learn.
Māori concepts and frameworks
My commitment to making full use of Māori teaching and learning frameworks is demonstrated both in the nature of my research on teaching and learning (in relation to which Māori frameworks are central) and my teaching. Therefore, Kaupapa Māori advancement, mātauranga Māori perspectives and world views, and tikanga and te reo Māori are central to everything I do as an educator, as is a belief that language and culture are inextricably connected and that to teach te reo Māori without any cultural component would render the language lifeless or without spirit. Therefore, I try to replicate a community of learning in which, regardless of where my students come from, they have an opportunity to engage in these concepts and frameworks.
Valuing colleagues and students
In an atmosphere of mutual respect, everyone benefits. I believe that my relationships with colleagues and students are firmly based on respect, honesty and an acceptance of students’ different cultural and personal perspectives regardless of where they are from. I am always cognisant that students and colleagues all come from their own respective communities and bring a myriad of whānau, life experiences and expectations with them. Acknowledging and respecting colleagues, and being willing to learn from them, is as important for me as acknowledging and respecting students. So, I believe that one of a teacher’s duties is to encourage students to perform as well as they possibly can and thus realize their full potential in a supportive environment.
Teaching, design and assessment
As a language teacher I continue to develop, design and create new curriculum, which I believe will ensure the continued sustainability of the teaching of the language. Consistent with my teaching and design is the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach which is both progressive, where students learn in clearly defined stages, (Nock & Crombie, 2009) and student-centred.
In this approach, the teacher does not dominate the lesson; it is the students who do most of the talking (almost always in the target language). CLT is therefore compatible with my belief that language learners must be given, in a supportive environment, every opportunity to use the language they are learning for genuine communicative purposes. Thus, for example, language that is new to the students is always introduced in the context of language with which they are already familiar.
I like to encourage students to use the target language as much as possible and I design tasks to promote communication in the target language that has a purpose over and above the learning of the language itself (Nock et. al). This approach encourages and supports students as they engage actively in a wide range of interactive learning activities (Littlewood, 1981), for example, question/answer, filling in the gaps, requesting information, circle drills, surveys etc. It is important to me that all students have an opportunity to fully participate in lessons, including those who take a little longer than others to process the language to which they are being introduced and/or to gain sufficient confidence to use it in communicative contexts.
Fundamental to my teaching is a ‘core and spiral approach’ (Johnson, 2003 & 2005) in which there are three stages: language acquisition (concept introduction), followed by language practice and finally, language acquisition assessment (concept checking). Thus assessment of learning is built into each phase of each lesson, with the assessment stage clearly reflecting the objectives (intended learning outcomes) for that phase of the lesson.
I believe in testing what students are taught, and that the design of assessments is directly related to the learning objectives of the paper. I use a wide range of approaches to the assessment of student learning to create learning opportunities, motivation and a platform to give feedback as well as grading. These include oral presentations for example, conducting research on a particular aspect of life in Aotearoa and using that research to prepare oral presentations in te reo Māori, which outlines the findings. Use of the Māori language in a communicative way to speak about genealogy and family relationships, extended family, iwi affiliation, and pepeha. Written tests, written assignments, self-directed studies and research-based activities of many types are all part of the assessment process.
Self-reflection & evaluation
I believe that on-going evaluation of my effectiveness as a teacher is of real importance and I use a number of approaches to that evaluation, including reflecting on each lesson, encouraging students to critique my teaching and seeking the input of colleagues. It is my practice to get their feedback while the current cohort is still with me, so that I can strengthen and improve my teaching in ways that work well for THEM, rather than waiting until the paper has ended.
In conclusion, my passion for my language is also shared with my passion for teaching and researching, and the University of Waikato has been pivotal in providing me with an opportunity to fulfil a dream of becoming a proficient speaker, an effective teacher of te reo Māori and a confident researcher. I value each of those roles and could not possibly continue to grow without each of these strands as they are intricately intertwined.
Students who attend university generally want to be there to learn and gain a respected degree, and this makes our job easier. Each year brings a different cohort of students, each with their own history, experience, and family. This is what makes the teaching so exciting, as no year is ever the same. I’d like my students to leave my class at least with a passion and love for the language and for learning, but also with an understanding that it is incumbent upon us all to ensure the survival of te reo Māori, a language cannot survive in a vacuum - it needs to be spoken.
Peer and student comments
Sophie is constantly thinking of ways to develop her own skills and knowledge. Thus, through doctoral studies, she is engaged in research surrounding the teaching of te reo Māori. This is certainly reflected in her personal teaching styles and methods.
Rangihurihia McDonald, sessional assistant, Sept 2011
From the perspective of a non-indigenous learner, Ms. Nock is also highly skilled in showing the connection between Māori language and culture. Thus, fundamental topics of tapu and noa, whakapapa, and whānaungatanga are nicely interwoven with the increasing growth of proficiency in the language. A particular highlight in this respect is the visit to the university marae during which every student has a chance to experience a traditional powhiri and to contribute to the proceedings by reciting their own whakapapa. This is truly an invaluable experience for every learner, particularly for those people who have not yet had the opportunity to take part in Māori cultural events.
Dr. Alexander Onysko, University of Innsbruck, Austria, SMPD visiting scholar & student, Sept 2011
Great personality, relates well with all types of personalities, has a great sense of humour.
I really enjoyed having Sophie as our kaiako. I find her teaching style and technique enjoyable and a credit to her teaching abilities.
Very beautiful āhua, very effective and an excellent role model.
Encouraging attitude, purpurseful direction, high standards yet easy manner.
Being appraocahable at all times, understanding students weaknesses, strengths & teaching them effectively.
Feedback from various students, 2006
Sophie relates with ease to students, both young and old. She is friendly and approachable while maintaining her professional integrity as a teacher at all times. The classroom environment that she creates is one in which students feel comfortable to participate, regardless of their level of knowledge
Hineiti Greensill, colleague, 2011
Sophie is an extraordinary teacher and her expertise comes through in all subject areas in this School but particularly in teaching of te reo Māori. She has been the convenor of the Te Tohu Paetahi programme for a number of years, which is a unique total immersion programme requiring excellence in delivery. One certainly needs to be on top of their game to spend day in and day out with a group of students hungry for te reo Māori. Sophie also shows in her teaching the competencies of awhi and manaaki and tautoko and is a very popular teacher. She is most deserving
Nominator E, 2011
Sophie is an excellent lecturer with a high level of dedication to her students, inspiring a positive attitude towards learning and encouraging pleasing results.
Nominator I, 2011
Sophie is the best colleague you could hope for. She is always there for all of us, staff and students alike, with practical help, sound advice and a willingness to listen. Because she genuinely cares for other people and is always willing to do much more than is strictly required, she is highly respected as a teacher and a professional
Associate Professor Winifred Crombie, colleague and PhD supervisor, 2007-2011