Learning to Learn with restorative practices

APRIL 19, 2017 / Articles


The successful development of the Self-Directed Learner demands the shift in the position of the teacher - from the front, to the side. As teachers, we work with students, rather than telling them what to do.

It’s a fundamental change in the relationship between teacher and learner, and the principles of Restorative Practice are hugely valuable, according to Regional Principal Phil Muir. “To build and maintain relationships with students is part of what it means to be collaborative as a teacher.”

Restorative Practice has come into schools in recent years, and is based on Restorative Justice, which is long-established in our social system. It provides mechanisms to build, maintain, repair and sustain relationships, before and after issues occur.

Consultant Greg Jansen and his business partner Richard Matla, of Restorative Schools, lead the integration of restorative practices in New Zealand schools with a programme developed in partnership with the Ministry of Education. It fits within the Positive Behaviour For Learning (PB4L) suite, and is only available to schools that are attached to the framework.

Greg says the key challenge to embedding restorative practices in schools are to involve all of the school’s stakeholders in the change, and to ensure the practices align with the school’s values foundation – what he calls “the why”. In Westmount’s case, it links to our Learning to Learn vision, and our values of:

  • Integrity
  • Care & Compassion
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Commitment

“If Restorative Practice doesn’t connect to the values of the school, then it is not worth doing. Some schools have taken it up as a ‘what’ – like a Christmas tree decoration. But it is only sustainable when it is connected to the ‘why’.”

Westmount is one of 200 schools that Greg and Richard are working with to build sustainability of Restorative Practices.

He says the key first step is in a change process is to ensure the leadership team within a school is fully on board. The process then steps through an analysis of the practices already in place that align.

“The key question is how do we strengthen and modify what we are doing to make it relational, rather than positional?” says Greg.

The approach is underpinned by academic research including Glaser’s Social Discipline Model, in which:

  • A high-structure, low-support model is often quite punitive
  • A low-structure, low-support model is neglectful.
  • A model of high structure and high support is relational.

(Refer page 8 of the Restorative Practice Kete)

At its heart is a Maori philosophy:

Manaakitia te tangata, ahakoa ko wai, ahakoa no hea.

Treat them respectfully, irrespective of who they are and where they come from.



Simon Sinek: Start With Why TED Talk

Margaret Thorsborne TED-X Talk (who led the introduction of Restorative Practices in Australian schools)