David trained as a teacher. He became a primary school principal, an academic, a researcher, education centre director and the author of several books. He initiated and developed the Te Ariki Project a professional development programme for school principals pulling together the many threads of his previous work. The gift David gave educators was the desire to take up an intellectual challenge and make sense of complex issues; to see education as an intellectual activity where original ideas can still be created.
As an educator he helped leaders build in their schools a culture like the one he developed with them, empowering them to take his work and bring it alive in their own schools and with the teachers they worked with. This was the essence of his Te Ariki project. The underlying assumption was that teachers enjoy working together and interacting with one another so, by providing a context and a set of protocols supported by appropriate resources, a higher quality of thinking would apply to the work that teachers do.
David was absolutely true to his beliefs about education. In his view school and principal development had to be achieved through liberal and democratic means. You could not be in David’s presence without experiencing a sense that ‘all’s right with the world’, and while there may be challenges they are not insurmountable.
(From the eulogy by Kay Tester, principal St Brigid’s School and Te Ariki Project regional Director)
David left an enduring legacy to quality public education in New Zealand. He helped us make changes to the way principals and teachers thought about their work and their roles.
In the 1960s his seminal work, in partnership with Tom Prebble at Massey University, continued his work on traditional and transformative learning. This led to Quality Learning Circles where the classroom teacher rather than the person who came to visit was seen as the expert. It was the classroom teacher who, through reflective work with colleagues, was able to change practice. Later his work with Ruth Mansell at the Wellington College of Education focused on the reflective principal as the professional leader of their school. This led to his work on Principals’ Professional Leadership, Mentoring, Digital Portfolios, Professional Performance Management and the Te Ariki Project.
Community was at the heart of David’s work. Through this we learned to see a community existing as a group of individual members with a variety of roles within that group. Sometimes they can be leaders and other times learners. Teachers learn from each other and collaborate: both in leading and learning.
When writing in 1997 about designing a process of appraisal for professional teaching David said … it will be necessary to step beyond the current obsession with measuring short term inputs and outputs and attempting to decide whether individual teachers meet some mythical standard which is so difficult to express. Instead we need to address teaching as a form of intellectual endeavour as opposed to a collection of definable tasks, and devise methodologies which both increase teachers’ intellectual fluency and provide time, space and incentive for all staff to engage in critical reflection of their work”.
(Sandra Aikin, Senior Leader Professional NZEI Te Riu Roa 2013)
30 October 1933 – 19 January 2015