From a kaupapa Māori perspective, professional development for teachers on the topic “cultural responsiveness and relational pedagogy” is about mauri ora.
When the mauri (inner spirit or life force) of the child is alight, the child is flourishing at school – with an alert and inquiring mind, a healthy body, and mutually beneficial relationships.
Therese Ford, former primary teacher and now a teacher at the University of Waikato, PhD student, and professional development provider, says the mauri ora model, as explained by Sir Mason Durie, is a useful way of explaining her work.
“I’m a fan of Mason Durie’s theorising around mauri ora. His thinking challenges us as educators to consider how we can create a context for learning that facilitates mauri ora, as opposed to mauri noho,” she says.
Mauri noho, the opposite of mauri ora, means that the inner spirit is dormant or languishing, and is associated with a loss of hope, a clouded mind, a tortured body and relationships that are disempowering and humiliating.
Some of the keys to supporting the mauri of the tamaiti – and this works for children of other ethnicities as well – are: more personal engagement between teachers and students, valuing the lived experiences of children, and affirming their cultural identity. Relationships between teachers and whānau are also recognized as important. Professional development to support teachers to better understand this pedagogical approach has recently been made available to primary schools, as well as secondary schools which have not had the opportunity to access this support before.
Research on how to support teachers to understand “cultural responsiveness and relational pedagogy” began at Waikato University in 2001, resulting in the Te Kotahitanga programme which involved funding to support facilitators in schools to upskill teachers by observing, giving feedback and providing shadow-coaching and support.
But funding such an intensive programme became an issue, and the Ministry decided that Te Kotahitanga and a number of other PLD programmes be merged at the end of 2013. The other programmes included He Kakano (which was delivered by University of Waikato in association with Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi), Starpath, Secondary Numeracy and Secondary Literacy (which was delivered through the University of Auckland). The Ministry wanted these institutions to work together to combined the findings about what had been effective from each of the programmes and form the basis of one programme that would build on what had been successful. Consequently, Kia Eke ki Panuku; Building on Success (involving the University of Waikato, University of Auckland, and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi) was developed and implemented across 95 secondary schools across the country between 2014-2016.
Senior and middle leaders in schools, as well as classroom teachers, were supported by professional development facilitators to form Strategic Change Management Teams to grow the capacity of teachers implement culturally responsive and relational pedagogy in order to accelerate Māori student achievement.
“In the development of a new approach we had to really consider whose responsibility is it in a school to support teachers and ensure that they are practising well, and implementing Effective Teaching Practice? It’s actually the responsibility of the middle leaders and the senior leaders. So to work in a strategic way with those people was really beneficial,” says Ford. “What we found was that people saw sense in that model.
“When you’ve got a team of committed teachers, they can do wonderful things. But when senior leaders and middle leaders are also involved in the reform and also involved in supporting the learning of teachers, we moved faster and more coherently. These leaders were better positioned to be self-sustaining.”
Since 2014 another change has occurred. The Government has worked with the education sector to develop new teacher and leadership roles within Communities of Learning (COLs), or Kahui Ako, which involve collaboration across several schools in a district to lift student achievement. The first CoLs were formed in 2015.
The new Kahui Ako/CoLs currently include mostly primary, intermediate and secondary schools, but one of the changes the NZEI Te Riu Roa advocated for was that they should include Early Childhood Centres. It is within this changed educational environment of Kahui Ako/ CoLs, that Ford and her professional learning and development team, Poutama Pounamu, led by director Mere Berryman are now working.
Berryman previously managed the Professional Development team for Te Kotahitanga, and was the Director of Kia Eke Panuku, Building for Success. As a result of the recent restructuring led by Government, she now leads the Poutama Pounamu team at the University of Waikato. Poutama Pounamu has a kaupapa Māori and critical theory base.
Ford: “Our point of difference in terms of PLD and what we offer is that we are really unapologetic about working from a kaupapa Māori theoretical basis and from critical theory. We’re building on the work and learning of people like Linda Smith, Graham Smith.
“Using the foundational principles of teaching and learning that Graham Smith talks about, that we know work really well, like in kura kaupapa Māori such as ako, whanau, wananga and kaupapa – if we take those same principles and use them as a basis for relationships for interacting, engaging and learning in mainstream, what would it look like, what could it look like? That’s what we support educators to better understand.”
She is convinced of the effectiveness of these principles. “We know, because we saw from Te Kotahitanga when we used the principles as the basis for teaching and learning, Māori achievement lifted, disparities started to reduce and we started to see greater levels of equity. And that’s huge for us. We are about working towards equity and excellence in our education system through a real bi-cultural partnership approach.”
How do you improve engagement with whānau? – “The traditional discourse is, they don’t engage because they don’t come in, and they’re not interested. But actually the way those terms of engagement are presented are determined from the school and represent one world view or one way of engaging that might work well for Pakeha European treaty partners, but this does not always work for Māori members of the community.
“Look at Māori metaphors and ways of engagement that work more effectively for Māori. When we draw ideas about developing and maintaining relationships from another world view we might find that we need to change our practices, change our mainstream ways of thinking and being, so that we’re engaging in ways that enable everyone to participate.”
And how is working within this educational context of Kahui Ako/CoLs going so far? “We’ve just started, but things look very positive, we’re very optimistic. People are delighted to have the opportunity to learn about and implement cultural relationships and responsive pedagogy, because by and large, teachers in New Zealand whether they’re Pakeha, British, Asian or South African, they want to do a good job. They want to lift and improve Māori achievement, and to have some dedicated support to help them do that, they’re really happy about.
“What drives us, and it’s really hard challenging the fabric of New Zealand society, but what I want is for my kids and my mokopuna to have a different experience from what I endured as a Māori student in mainstream education. I want them to live in a country that’s more bi-cultural, where their Māori, language, culture and identity are strengthened and they’re proud. I want that for other Māori children and their whānau too.
“And for Mere, for her now it’s from the perspective of the grandmother, with mokopuna entering the mainstream system. We don’t want them to suffer what we had to, basically assimilate into the white mainstream. That was the only option we had, and Māori aren’t prepared to tolerate that any more.”
Alongside her work in professional development with teachers, Ford is doing a PhD thesis that explores “how mainstream schools can develop educationally powerful connections with Māori whānau and communities”.
Poutama Pounamu is an all-women bicultural team and includes Mere Berryman and Therese Ford, Their kaupapa is: Equity, Excellence and Belonging, building strong foundations for the future.
“We know what works for Māori students and we know there are many in our schools and communities looking for ways to effect change. Poutama Pounamu is dedicated to delivering ways to create contexts for change where equity, excellence and belonging can be realised.”
(Therese Ford began her teaching career at Te Puke Intermediate, where she became a senior teacher. She has also been a senior leader at Aquinas College, Tauranga and Arataki Primary School, Mt Maunganui.)
 Mason Durie, Healing Our Spirit Worldwide, the 7th gathering, 15-19 Nov, 2015. Kirikiriroa, Hamilton.