New Zealand has a persistent problem of inequitable educational outcomes between different student groups, which has led to New Zealand being designated a high achievement-low equity country. A key policy lever in the quest to lift educational achievement for priority learners, identified by the Ministry of Education as Māori, Pasifika, students with special learning needs, and students from low socio-economic communities, is improving teacher quality. Hence there has been a renewed policy focus on improving the quality of initial teacher education. The context for this study is an innovative Master of Teaching primary programme that includes an intentional practicum placement in partner schools with a high proportion of priority learners. This paper reports a qualitative study of how this practicum enhanced pre-service teachers' knowledge of teaching, particularly the teaching of priority learners. A general thematic analysis of post-practicum reflective statements written by two cohorts of Master of Teaching students immediately following their practicum (n=41 [25+16]) indicated four major themes'”Difference, Diversity, Differentiation, and Difficulty. A directed thematic analysis of the reflective statements was then carried out. Overall, the findings indicated that the intentional placement in a school with a high proportion of priority learners disrupted the pre-service teachers' prior beliefs about such schools and their expectations of priority learners.Â
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