Friday, 30 September 2016

Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Responsiveness in My Practice

In this post I have been asked to consider indigenous knowledge and culturally responsive pedagogy, both from my own perspective and how it looks within the context of my school.  Within a New Zealand context, the impact of these on Māori learners and their whanau is a core focus, supported by such initiatives as Ka Hikitia; however, on a wider scale, it is also worth considering the implications when engaging with learners from other ethnicities, particularly in a school like mine where we have a very ethnically diverse student community.
Photo Credit: K Anderson-McGhie Creative Commons License

My Understanding

Having completed the survey using the Self Review Tool in Cultural Intelligence, it reinforced for me that in general I have developed a good understanding of different cultural beliefs and practices, and I make every effort to acknowledge different cultural perspectives within my classroom. I enjoy having opportunities to engage with and participate in different cultural practices, and take every opportunity to ask questions, try new things and grow my understanding of different cultures. Having completed my teacher training at the University of Waikato, and later on having the opportunity to teach in schools in both West Auckland and Levin, I have had many opportunities to explore the richness of Te Reo and Tikanga in particular, as well as Pasifika and Chinese cultures. According to the Ministry of Education document Ka Hikitia - Accelerating Success 2013 - 2017 Ako is a two way process where the teacher both teaches and learns from the student and the student is also both learner and teacher and during my 5 years in Levin in particular, I had regular opportunities to develop and refine my understanding of culturally responsive practices. One aspect that I identified on the survey tool as being an area of continued growth for me is that of the less visible hidden psychological features of culture, such as beliefs and values, among other aspects.

My School's Practice

Communication Methods: Cowie, B., Otrel-Cass, K., Glynn, T., & Kara, H., et al.(2011) state that "New Zealand primary classes increasingly include students with diverse cultural, linguistic and experiential backgrounds.” (p2) This is certainly the case at our school, with some of our more dominant cultural groups being those of South African, Chinese and South Korean descent. In fact, Māori and Pasifika students make up less than 5% of our school population.
What we have done as a school to support communication is employing Mandarin speaking staff of Chinese decent on both our teaching and office staff, we also have a Korean teacher aide and a number of South African teachers (including some who speak Afrikans). This enables us to more easily facilitate home/school communication, and means we can translate signage and newsletters as appropriate. It also means we have staff available to act as interpreters for meetings between parents and teachers.
We also liaise closely with members of our Māori parent community, who share their expertise with us in matters of protocol and in supporting our Kapa Haka group. Children are able to share their learning with their parents in face to face meetings, but also through platforms such as blogging and SeeSaw where they can post various digital artefacts including video and audio recordings. Children are encouraged to use their home language to support their learning and understanding as well.

Learning Activities: Our principal has certainly been a driving force behind lifting the profile of Māori language and culture within our school, and ensuring that teachers have the necessary skills and knowledge to include them in our classroom programmes. An example of this being that all teachers are currently completing PD in Te Reo and Tikanga through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. The idea being that this is then taken through into our classroom programmes to upskill our learners, and acknowledge our Māori students. It is very much in it's early days and is happening with varying degrees of regularity across the school.


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.

Ministry of Education. (2013). Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013-2017 Wellington, New Zealand: Author.


  1. Hi Kirsten. I enjoyed reading your post. It is really interesting upon reflection just how much teachers do to actively engage all cultures within the classroom. Moving to Auckland definitely made me more aware of just how multicultural New Zealand really is. Like you I have had experience with Maori, Pasifika, Chinese and also Korean students. I am constantly learning new things from my students as a result of including learning activities which allow students to share different aspects of their culture and beliefs. Recently one of my Chinese students asked me not to write her name in red pen as in her culture this implies that a person is dead. Needless to say I have definitely revised my use of red pen when marking students work! Like you I feel as though a more thorough understanding of cultural values and beliefs would be beneficial to my teaching. Often we are taught the basic do's/don't for Maori - i.e Don't sit on the desks, do form relationships, know your student, group work is best....but a deeper understanding of Kaupapa Maori principles would be hugely beneficial. This can be said for a number of cultures. I would really like to know more about Pasifika, Chinese and Korean cultures. Mainly as these are the most common ethnicities I interact with on a daily basis. Coming from the deep South (of the South Island) I really didn't have much exposure to anything other than kiwi/pakeha culture. Having a better understanding of each others cultures and beliefs can only lead to better student/teacher relationships and a more tolerant country as a whole.

  2. Hi Julie,
    thank you for your feedback. Auckland certainly is a very culturally diverse city, and I have come to know more about many, many different cultures in my time here. As you say, most of these are at a very surface level, but I do what I can to acknowledge and include aspects of each culture when I can. It is interesting that even with being born in Rotorua and growing up in New Zealand, I still have a very surface level understanding of Ti kanga in particular. It has only been since I became a teacher that my understanding has grown and developed, but I still feel a need to go much deeper with this. I agree whole-heartedly with your closing comment, and believe that it is one of the greatest strengths of the ethnic diversity present in Auckland schools.

  3. We too, at my School have been making a greater effort to be as bi-lingual using both English and Maaori within direction, conversations, visual displays, notices and labels. I, as a practitioner try use both languages and will translate for those students with less knowledge of either language. my area of development is the syntax of Te Reo Maaori, as a mentor I want to share the correct way of how to link my thinking verbally and I do share the mantel of how to do this with my more confident speakers aloud in the class but also allow time for my less outspoken students to share in a less public forum such as groups or individual conversations so we are all learning and developing. The side and unexpected bonus of these learning discussions have opened several of my more resistent learners a platform to shine, or be a leader. These conversations tend to be less inline with the formal structure my more resistant students rebuke against (Lozenski 2016). It has inspired me to try a more Lozenski (2016) curriculum and teaching practice next year.
    Bringing Cultural Context and Self-Identity into Education: Brian Lozenski at TEDxUMN. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 1 October 2016, from