‘Indigenous knowledge and culturally responsive pedagogy’

Culture pertains to your wold views, beliefs, values and language. An individual’s cultural background influences the way they think, their behaviour and their assumptions, (Irvine et al, 2010) and cultural well-being has an impact on society (Ministry for Culture & Heritage):


The impact we have on the cultural well-being of our students extends beyond school and underpins the success of our society. The national population trends for New Zealand predict that ‘New Zealand’s overall diversity will be higher in 2038’ resulting in ‘changing characteristics’ for our society. The highest growing ethnic groups are Māori and Asian, with Māori having a ‘younger age structure’ which ‘provides an inbuilt momentum for growth’. (Stats NZ, 2017). When you consider that currently over 50% of our prison population are Māori, coupled with underachievement in education, (Bishop, 2012) it becomes imperative that we affect positive change. As Irvine et al suggested (2010) this is not about ethnicity though, it is, ‘what people identify with or feel they belong to’, (Stats NZ, 2017). It is cultural perspective and we need to teach through a cultural lens if we are to teach effectively and achieve equity for all our students (Bucher, 2008).

Using the Mauri evaluation tool, I would put our school at the state of being of Mauri Oho, in that it is awake to the importance of being culturally responsive; it has begun to participate, engage and interact through our focus on positive student-teacher relationships, (Potahu, 2011). There is a genuine move towards providing a learning environment in which individuals thrive, (Savage et al, 2011). ‘Kia hono’ or being ‘connected’ is at the heart of it.

The threads that weave this connection together include the Runanga Matua parent group; the inclusion of whanau in mentoring, goal-setting and celebrations; reaching beyond to the wider Māori community for a sense of spiritual and personal development through online forums such as the Tūhono organisation; developing leadership through organisations such as Whenua Iti; in-school groups such as Kapa Haka and Tama Tu Tama, and following the correct protocol for pōwhiri and poroporoaki in consultation with our Kaumātua. Our students, both Māori and non-Māori, achieve above the national average. As Anita Gutschlag (2007) argues when reviewing the Te Kotahintanga Model for teacher positioning, the binary arguments of agentic versus non-agentic teaching are only part of the story in education. As a decile 8 school, the relative socio-economic stability associated with our area is probably a contributing factor to success. But I feel that a major factor is our positive cultural values. Our school vision and core values demonstrate a commitment to developing our indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness. However, to achieve the Mauri Ora state of being actively engaged, there is more we can do to improve the ako, that goes on in our classrooms.

It seems incredible that ‘deficit theorising’ still pertains and it reinforces the need for us all to take on growth mindsets within our classrooms and when planning learning, (Dweck, 2006). In doing so, we will develop the ‘mana motuhake’ (high expectations), ‘wānanga’ (learning interactions) and ‘ako’ (range of strategies for teaching and learning) considered to be essential if we are to have effective teacher profiles (Savage et al, 2011). We need to show a greater awareness of our students’ cultural identity through the development of whanaungatanga – our relationships, shared experiences and collaboration – if we are to allow them to build upon their prior knowledge and make sense of new knowledge by processing it through their cultural lens (Irvine et al, 2010). To achieve equity for all our students, we need to care for them as culturally located individuals.

Tracy Simpson


NZ Government Stats: http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/population/estimates_and_projections/NationalEthnicPopulationProjections_HOTP2013-2038.aspx

Ministry for Culture & Heritage: http://www.mch.govt.nz/files/report1.pdf

Cultural Well-Being and Local Government Report 1: Definitions and contexts of cultural well-being

Jackie Jordan Irvine, Geneva Gay, Kris Gutierrez. (June 2010) Teaching Tolerance (Video file)  Retrieved from  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGTVjJuRaZ8

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.

Bucher, R. (2008). Building Cultural Intelligence (CQ): Nine Megaskills. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.

Dweck, C. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

New York: Random House, 2006.

Edtalks.(2012, September 23). A culturally responsive pedagogy of relations. .Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/49992994

Gutschlag, A. (2007). Some Implications of the Te Kotahitanga Model of Teacher Positioning. New Zealand Journal of Teacher’s Work4(1), 3 – 10.

Potahu, T. W. (2011). Mauri – Rethinking Human Wellbeing. MAI Review, 3, 1-12. Retrieved from http://www.review.mai.ac.nz/index.php/MR/article/v…

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







One thought on “‘Indigenous knowledge and culturally responsive pedagogy’

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  1. Hi Tracy,

    I enjoyed your perspective on the depth and breadth of cultural responsiveness. The world view people possess is strongly influenced by one’s culture. The pervasive nature of cultural assumptions and the behavior they dictate is an evolving process. Todays racism may be yesterdays normal. I agree Waimea College is waking up in terms of it’s cultural responsiveness. It is also showing a hunger to enhance it’s cultural well-being. The future looks bright.


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