Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Responsiveness in my Practice

What does a culturally responsive pedagogy looks like in a Modern 21st Classroom?

A culturally responsive teacher will use their students’ cultures as a building block for learning and teaching both in and outside the classroom.  They will understand the importance of culture and how it relates to their student’s sense of connection and well-being (Education Council of New Zealand, n. d.).

An essential element of cultural responsiveness is to facilitate good teacher-student relationships.  Teachers must acknowledge that all students come to the classroom as culturally located individuals.  It is important for teachers to remember that student interactions and learning is defined within the culture the student identifies with.

Therefore, a culturally competent teacher will get to know the culture of their students and work to ensure that the learning environment, learning partnerships and learning discussions acknowledge and respect that student’s culture.

For Māori students’ this will include collaborating and consulting with parents, whānau and iwi to learn and better understand what the Māori community values and wants for their children.   It is important that teachers understand what Māori students need to enjoy education success as Māori.

Māori have identified solutions for addressing student learning that work within a Maori cultural way of knowing (Bishop, Berryman, Cavanagh & Teddy, 2009).  In this video Russell Bishop, who is Professor of Māori Education at the University of Waikato discusses what is good for Maori student learning is good for all students learning.  He also talks about how as teachers improve their pedagogy in relation to Maori achievement evidence shows Maori students achieving at levels equal to other ethnic groups in the classroom.

Russell Bishop challenges teachers to assume agency for addressing disparities in Māori students’ learning.  Agency in this context is defined as a conscious awareness and professional commitment to effect a change in the learning outcomes of Māori students.

This commitment requires the teacher to provide authentic caring.  This goes beyond simple feelings of affection for your students and instead focuses on how teachers can support learning and pedagogy in the classroom (Savage, Hindle, Meyer, Hynds, Penetito, & Sleeter, 2011).

To help teachers achieve changes in Māori students’ educational achievement an effective teacher profile (ETP) was created (Bishop et al., 2009).  The ETP identifies daily teaching practices that can facilitate teacher agency in the classroom.  There are six dimensions to the ETP

  • Manaakitanga (caring for students as culturally located individuals)
  • Mana motuhake (high expectations for learning)
  • Whakapiringatanga (managing the classroom for learning)
  • Wananga (student-student learning interactions)
  • Ako (a wide range of strategies to facilitate learning)
  • Kotahitanga (promote, monitor and reflect on learning outcomes with students).

These Māori words can be interpreted in other ways but the context in this situation comes from the Te Kotahitanga project (Bishop et al., 2009).  Being aware of these six dimensions and implementing them can allow the teacher to have positive relationships with all students in the classroom.  This is beneficial for all, but particularly Māori students.

Using the “Cultural Intelligence Self Review Tool” produced by Te Toi Tupu (n. d.) allowed me to assess my cultural intelligence in relation to my teaching.  My results indicated that my communication methods were done well.  Where I need to focus my pedagogy on is student learning activities.  This is referred to as Ako, one of the six dimensions to the Effective Teacher Profile approach as defined by Te Kotahitanga project.

Some of the key questions I will be exploring in relation to all the students in my class, but particularly Māori students will be


  • What are my individual students’ learning styles?
  • Do they like to learn through touch?
  • Do they like to learn through singing?
  • Do students like to learn through rote learning?
  • Do my students need to learn in an outside setting?
  • Could games outside provide any learning objectives?
  • Am I catering to the students who need to release a lot of energy appropriately?

I found this activity highly rewarding.  My understanding of cultural responsiveness has increased and I have critically reviewed my own teaching and have discovered areas that I will need to improve.

Stewart McKean


Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T., & Teddy, L. (2009). Te kotahitanga: Addressing educational disparities facing Māori students in New Zealand. Teaching and Teacher Education25(5), 734-742.

Cultural Intelligence Self Review Tool. Te Toi Tupu. (n. d.).  Retrieved from


Education Council of New Zealand.  Tātaiako – Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners:  A resource for use with the Graduating Teacher Standards and Practising Teacher Criteria. (n. d.).  Retrieved from


Savage, C., Hindle, R., Meyer, L. H., Hynds, A., Penetito, W., & Sleeter, C. E. (2011). Culturally responsive pedagogies in the classroom: Indigenous student experiences across the curriculum. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education39(3), 183-198.

creative common attribution licence


One thought on “Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Responsiveness in my Practice

Add yours

  1. Great blog post! I too found Bishop interesting and also challenging. I found this topic really useful for challenging the biases and preconceptions that I have subconsciously developed or that society has ingrained in me and like you hope that this will lead to better teaching and learning outcomes for all my students. Thanks for a good read!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: