Indigenous and Cultural Responsiveness in my practice (school)

“In order to teach me you must know me”   Dr Chris Edmin – Columbia University, NY.

If you do not view a student as having the ability to be academically successful, they will not be able to realise their full potential.  If you view a student through a deficit lens, they will never be fully actualised.  (Alby Fitisemanu – MIT Lecturer)

Indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness is about acknowledging who people are in terms of ‘culture and belonging’, and educators can respond to this in an inclusive and caring way.  In terms of educational practice, indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness is about ‘learning among learners’ (Bishop, 2009),  rejecting deficit theorising (Bishop 2005) and instead growing and empowering individuals to stand tall and be proud of who they are, knowing their identity and their culture.  As educators our role is to foster relationship based learning so that success can be achieved by all. In fact it is much more than that, it is about being agents of change, for example, helping Maori students learn as Maori, having high expectations and caring that Maori students are learning.

Acknowledging indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness in my school has just begun. We are on a journey of cultural responsiveness, ‘awareness and discovery’ and have the initial steps planned, with the support of an academic mentor, to weave indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness through our special character belief:  Faith is our Compass – Ko te whakapono ko to tatou piriti. 

We have formed a ‘lead group’ and through 2017 have been working on a whole staff plan, which will begin in term 4 and continue through 2018.  The group have acknowledged the need for change and have reviewed ways of becoming more inclusive through the school’s strategic and action plans.  Based on Tataiako which provides a guide into the development of cultural competence for teachers, developed to guide teachers in ways of thinking about what it takes to successfully teach Maori learners.  For our Pasifika learners the PEP Pasifika Education Plan (2003-2017), is the focus for our school.  We have a Maori population of 3.93% and Pasifika of 10.8%, with the two next highest percentages being NZ European of 30.4% and Filipino of 22%.  Our Asian and SE Asian students total 18.2%.  There are 23 ethnicity groups in our college.  Overall, results show positive trends across all ethnicity groups in line with national standards and like schools.  The college closely monitors at risk students, so effort is put into ensuring success for all our students from the start of the year.

In critiquing indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness based on the Mauri Model, I would place our school at the Te Taunga o te Mauri Moe state, being of Mauri Oho stage, where actions and expressions are proactive having been awoken (kua oho), with participation and engagement beginning (kua maranga). There is also some interaction beginning (kua whakawiti) with senior and middle leaders particularly in planning our direction ahead.

The school has in the past implemented ‘cultural’ initiatives, including Maori and Pasifika student leaders who have worked with, and mentored other Maori and Pasifika students in the college.  Meetings with the Principal every month for discussion of needs of Maori and Pacifika students, with the agenda directed by the student leaders themselves.  Kapahaka involvement, which welcomes all ethnicity groups and inclusion for all.  Having a dedicated mentor teacher, who is one of several agentic teachers at the college, and who shares an awareness of and responds well to students of other cultures has had its benefits.

One of the areas that the school needs to review is that of strategies and activities to guide teachers, remembering that teachers themselves need to think about what influences their practice as a teacher in the Aotearoa, New Zealand setting, and ways that high expectations can be maintained for Maori learners to succeed as Maori, and in fact,  for all students.  The final aspect I feel needs to be considered is that of developing respectful relationships not only with Maori (and Pacifika) learners, but also with whanau, hapu and iwi.  It is about the student’s past, where they have come from, what they know and having an understanding of their present, so that their future can become one of many successes.



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

Edtalks. (2012, September 23). A culturally responsive pedagogy of relations. .Retrieved from

Potahu, T. W. (2011). Mauri – Rethinking Human Wellbeing. MAI Review, 3, 1-12. Retrieved from…

Click to access Tataiako.pdf




4 thoughts on “Indigenous and Cultural Responsiveness in my practice (school)”

  1. I have enjoyed reading your blog post. It is an honest view of where your school is at on it’s journey to Mauri Ora (the state of being actively engaged). Although I would also describe my school as at the Mauri Oho stage, I think you are further on in your journey than we are at present. I also agree that once management have recognised the need to critically anaylse and address their level of cultural responsiveness, it then becomes the task of “waking up” the individual teachers across the school to their level of competency and areas for growth, so we can all move together towards Mauri Ora.


  2. Tena koe Prue.
    First of all, I would like to acknowledge the ‘steps’ you and your colleagues are taking in an effort to address ‘deficit theorising’ to bring around reform with regards to cultural responsiveness and indigenous knowledge.
    I totally ‘tautoko’ Bishop’s thoughts about ‘learning among learners’ and it is a view that is necessary for a lot of teachers who do not have the knowledge, skills (reo) to teach Maori to be Maori. I love that your school has the necessary skilled mentors in which teachers can look to for assistance, growth and understanding.
    Your schools journey is certainly an interesting one with lots of positives surfacing as a product of the changes that are occurring.
    Similar to your school, we were once a bicultural school with European and Maori pupils dating back to 1890. They were our representatives on stage in ‘Delamare Cup’ – our prestigious town’s interschool Kapahaka Competitions. Today, when our pupils perform, it is a multicultural kapahaka roopu. We have a multitude of ethnicity – Kenyans, Chinese, Thai and Indian all on the stage at once and loving it.
    Last of all, I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts about involving whanau, hapu and iwi. Maori being Maori means embracing all aspects of a Maori person. Whanau is only a small part of a Maori. One needs to also embrace, their marae, their extended whanau, their hapu as well as other hapu in their iwi. Once teachers can acknowledge all of these aspects of a person, then this person will know who they truly are and what it is to be Maori. I am no expert on this but only remember the important things my nanny passed on to me.
    Na Rawinia Gabolinscy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kia ora Rawinia. As a newbie to this blog thing I have been a bit slow on the checking online but am pleased I did today because I discovered a few comments which I had been unaware of. I wholeheartedly agree with your words and thank you also for acknowledging our school’s journey and your own experiences. We know it will be a slow road ahead but together the school and its community will be able to make a difference for our tamariki. We are being guided by Edith Chaney with whom I have worked with on the He Kakano pilot. It taught us a lot about growing the seed of knowledge and spreading it from its roots upwards to be enlightened to create growth and spread within our school communities from leadership through to the various layers of staff, students, whanau and the wider group. We are hoping to all join together on this current journey to becoming more culturally responsive to all of our 21st century akonga. Nga mihi nui


  3. Hi,
    Thank you so much for your post, I really reasonate with your reflections around relationships being paramount in establishing and maintaing culturally responsive practices within a school.
    The idea of bringing whanau, iwi and community groups in and really valuing what learners past and present brings to the table of learning is an important one that we need to continue to enhance in our schoos. I would love to hear more about eh He Kakano pilot- I thought the vision encompasses such a vision that should be in all schools. Seeds of knowledge and spreading it from the roots upwards and outwards to the light and community. It truely values the partnership and underpins the work from documents such as Ka Hikitia.


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