Māori underachievement in New Zealand’s education system demonstrates the Crown’s failure to honour the “rights and privileges” Māori were guaranteed in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Bishop (2012) believes this institutionalised trend of inequity that has accrued over generations is tantamount to a significant societal debt. We must collectively recognise and take responsibility for educational inequity in order to provide a system that is responsive to the needs of all learners, especially Māori. In New Zealand, culturally responsive pedagogy is an educational practice that seeks to address the disparities faced by generations of Māori in our education system.
Bishop (2012) iterated that culturally responsive pedagogy is where the teacher is focused on cultivating relationships that promote learning. Some characteristics he outlined are:
- Communicating high expectations.
- Teachers facilitate learning.
- Reciprocity (i.e. Ako / tuakana-teina principles where students teach and teachers learn).
- Student-centred learning.
- Identity and culture is celebrated and fostered through meaningful learning contexts.
- Knowledge and expertise that learners bring are used to enhance learning.
Culturally responsive pedagogy means shifting from the traditional western model of education that is mainly academically focused, to a model that is human-centred. I see a culturally responsive teacher as one who weaves the above characteristics into their practice to create an organic learning environment.
The following examples of culturally responsive practice are evaluated using the Mauri model (Pohatu, 2011).
For one evening a month the whanau of the Māori community can come into school and discuss anything school related. The meetings aim to establish a relationship between school and whanau to support Māori learners – to create Mauri Ora. Sadly, hardly anyone attends. Especially teachers. This initiative is at risk of reinforcing “negative elements of neglect, hurt, and sorrow” (Potahu, 2011) that define the darker, inactive side of Mauri Moe. Māori community members who attend might feel a lack of warmth and value due to the non-attendance of many teachers. Cowie et al. (2011) state that, “A person who is visible in the community is more likely to be respected as having a commitment.” Yet, getting staff to attend Whanau Hui in more numbers is challenging. If they had time, teachers would attend. Alternatively, the school could incentivise teachers to attend these meetings.
We introduced a subject in 2017 called, Ako. It is inquiry-based. Students pursue their own curiosities individually and collaboratively. This subject features at various levels of the Mauri Model from being Mauri Moe (dead) right through to Mauri Ora (actively engaging). This is because some teachers are embracing the pedagogical shift that requires power-sharing, while other teachers feel inquiry learning is a waste of time and struggle to abdicate the power years of teacher-centric practice has entrenched.
My Ako classroom is mainly on the Mauri Oho level. While I provide some cultural responsiveness, I have not woven all the characteristics in. I find it difficult to tap into the “funds of knowledge” students and whanau can bring to the classroom. Cowie et al. (2011) showed some effective strategies, such as, home learning books to “initiate home based conversations” about current learning, which provided ideas on how to build this aspect into my practice in future.
Cowie, B., Otrel-Cass, K., Glynn, T., & Kara, H., et al. (2011). Culturally responsive pedagogy and assessment in primary science classrooms: Whakamana tamariki. Wellington: Teaching Learning Research Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.tlri.org.nz/sites/default/files/projects/9268_cowie-summaryreport.pdf
Edtalks. (2012, September 23). A culturally responsive pedagogy of relations. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/49992994
Potahu, T. (2011). Mauri – Rethinking Human Wellbeing. MAI Review, 3, 1-12. Retrieved from http://www.review.mai.ac.nz/index.php/MR/article/v…