Sunday, May 29, 2016

Indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness

For this MindLab assignment, rather than just focusing on the school I currently teach in I am using a compilation of schools I have taught in over the past few years.

When discussing a culturally responsive pedagogy of relations Russell Bishop refers to how the educational disparities experienced by Māori people in New Zealand is something they have in common with indigenous people around the world, due to the impact of colonialism/post-colonialism. As a result, there is a large portion of the population who are not achieving to the extent that they should be.

As a country, we are obliged to correct this disparity as recognised by our responsibilities under Article 3 of the Treaty of Waitangi. Relationship based pedagogy that is responsive to the child and their culture and is based on knowing students and caring that all students learn is the key to creating a caring learning relationship.

Culturally responsive pedagogy of relations

Firstly I shall address how cultural responsiveness is addressed with regard to the vision, mission and core values of schools. It is important to note that this reflection is from my own experience. Exploring the vision, mission and core values of these schools I ask myself do they truly represent a bi-cultural New Zealand, or have they taken very 'British' values and ideals and just translated these as best as they can (or not translated as the case may be) into Māori? This begs the question that even in what may be a very English or European community to what extent should the vision, mission and values encompass New Zealand as a bi-cultural nation and include indigenous values and beliefs. There is no doubt they should because regardless of the cultural makeup of different communities across New Zealand, New Zealand is a bi-cultural nation and is becoming more and more a diverse multi-cultural society and it is essential this is expressed in school vision, mission and values to create an inclusive and culturally responsive environment.  With a wealth of visionary and value statements encompassed in whakataukī these could be useful to explore when revisiting school vision, mission and values alongside consultation with the community and understanding of the wider bicultural nature of New Zealand.

With regard to school wide practices this is often an aspect where indigenous knowledge and cultural practices are included with the result that many of the school-wide events and formal occasions are enriched by the recognition that New Zealand is a bicultural nation with a multicultural society.

How do schools ensure these activities though move beyond tokenism and are legitimate expressions of New Zealand as a bi-cultural nation? Even though Cowie, Otrel-Cass, Glynn, Kara, Anderson, Doyle, Parkinson & Te Kiri (2011) are referring to the science curriculum they make a point that is also valid with regard to school-wide activities and that is the importance of valuing the diversity in the community, acknowledging, accessing and affirming the expertise in the community and ensuring that people from all the cultures that make up the school community have their culture recognised as part of the culture that makes up a school. As said by Jimmy Carter "we become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic..."

There is no doubt that this is a process that cannot be rushed and cannot be forced as developing understanding of culture different from our own, and ones we may not experience on a daily basis, takes time and a willingness to listen, connect, communicate and have the openness necessary to be able to celebrate the diversity of practice, values, beliefs and understandings present in our communities.


Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T. & TEddy, L. (2009). Te Kotahitanga: Addressing educational disparities facing Māori students in New Zealand. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(5), 734-742.

Cowie B., Otrel-Cass, K. Glynn, T., Kara, H., Anderson, M., Doyle J., Parkinson A. & Te Kiri, C. (2011). Culturally responsive pedagogy and assessment in primary science classrooms: Whakamana tamariki. Wellington: Teaching and Learning Research Initiative.  Retrieved 28 May from

Maori Proverbs, Whakataukī. Retrieved 26 May from

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