Sunday, March 13, 2016

Using Indigenous Knowledge with Respect in Our schools

Mind Lab Post 9/10

The Task:
Create a blog post where you first share your own views on your indigenous knowledge and culturally responsive pedagogy.
Then evaluate how you or your school addresses cultural responsiveness in practice.

I have just seen the new Lee Tamahori directed movie Mahana based around a Māori whānau growing up on the East Coast in the 1960’s.  There are a number of strong messages in the movie- the connectedness and support of whānau, loyalty, hard work, the willingness to speak up when you witness injustice.

I can’t help but ponder on some of my indigenous knowledge and connect this to the movie  and then relate this to pedagogy in the classroom as I am reflecting on the movie.

I have been a strong proponent of significantly multi level classrooms for some time- not just the two years most of us have grown used to- Yr 5 & 6 or Yr 7 & 8 and then completely separate from Year 9 up. 

Sir Ken Robinson is famous for his statements around the conveyor belt of education and putting students on it based on their ‘year of manufacture.’ Instead he suggests putting learners on the learning conveyor belt based on their needs and with multiple entrances and exits. Isn’t this what Māori have always done with learning? There is a lovely scene in the movie of the whole whānau working together to clear scrub from a hill- all interdependent on each other and learning from and with each other- from the youngest child (under 10) to the kuia of the family who is 60, and every age in between.
Why don’t we capitalise on this more in our classrooms? When we put our Year 6-13 learners together in a classroom last year at Te Karaka Area School people thought we were crazy and while there were adjustments for our young people because they were so used to a system that classified them by age, they soon relaxed and all learnt together. There was a keen sense of tuakana-teina, and this wasn't always based on age. Sometimes our 17 year olds were learning from our 10 year olds and vice versa.

There is so much talk about agency in schools today. Agency for learners and agency for teachers. The movie illustrated so well the dilemma we all face between obedience and loyalty and a preparedness to speak up when we witness injustice. Learning to be great orators, to articulate themselves is a strong indigenous skill for out Māori learners and one we need to embrace in our classrooms.

Above all the movie illustrated a sense of whānau. Positive relationships are such an important core to our classrooms as well. If we can get that sense of support, that sense of loyalty into our learning environments they will be so much more enriched. It reminds me of a video taken as a Ka Hikitia illustration of one of our students where she describes the school as “one whole whānau learning together.” To me there was no higher praise or indicator of our success than that.

Wharehuia Hemara summarises some key findings in research about Māori students and the education sector in Māori Pedagogies.Traditional curricula were closely related to the spiritual, intellectual, social and physical wellbeing of the community and individual. Children and adults are at the centre of the educative process. Teaching and learning is a cooperative venture in which everyone involved learns something new. Learning is a gradual process. Learning is a mixture of formal and informal learning. IN a formal setting a small number of students are given instruction at a time. There are other adults on hand to be kaiarahi (guide) and kaitiaki (guardian).

I can’t help but reflect how like the innovative learning environment we have at Te karaka Area School this all is. A focus on te where tapa wha as a graduate profile. Teachers worked wiht students not for them or in charge of them. There were a mixture of small group formal learning workshops with small number son students while others worked on learning they co constructed with teachers, and there were always spare adults for be kaiarahi and kaitiaki. 

Involving whānau in this learning is an ongoing goal for the teachers remaining in this environment this year. I know they have already met with whānau and co-constructed with them appropriate concepts to underpin their learning for the year.


Hemara, Wharehuia. Māori Pedagogies: A View from the Literature. Wellington, N.Z.: New Zealand Council for Educational Research, 2000. Print.


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