Cultural Responsiveness in my practice

The process by which change occurs in a classroom is first by being aware then changing the classroom behavior to promote new outcomes. This is the model of  research informed teaching. In order to be culturally responsive  a teacher needs to be aware of indigenous knowledge.  This view is also proposed by Bucher (2008) who listed 9 mega-skills to improve cultural intelligence. His step 1, understanding cultural identity is the platform to develop cultural responsiveness.

The interweaving of cultural perspectives into educational opportunities is important and affirming. An example of this for me was at the United Nations in New York last year. New Zealand “tukutuku” panels were on show in one of the corridors leading to the General Assembly Hall. The recognition of our culture in another environment was a small example of step 3, to have a global consciousness where the world is viewed from multiple views which really is the mandate of the United Nations. The tukutuku panel example highlights the importance of Maori knowledge being included in course content and programmes in our educative environment and not as a one-off add-on.

The Health Education curriculum incorporates four underlying concepts that guide our content. The concept of Hauora and the model by Mason Durie is an integral part of our learning at all levels. 


Normalising the frequent use of this Maori concept into wider learning context also legitimises the inclusive status of a multicultural education approach. The relationship focus of Health education at personal, interpersonal and societal levels also adds to the cultural validation and depth of understanding of all students.  The agency of Health teachers is to empower students to be proactive and responsible for their own well-being, positively influences others and promote health in society.

Teachers having a leadership role in the classroom need to model good behavior. The continual use of Maori terminology (eg taha: Wairua, tinana, whanau & hinengaro) which is an example of Matauranga of the Poutama model, ( Unitech). The familiarity of this concept and use of Te Reo to describe them is affirming to Maori students and promotes inclusiveness for all students.

spirituality            The Maori and Pacifica students were identified by Waimea College as priority leaners as-well as individuals deserving special attention by the Waimea COL. The NZCER national survey of primary and intermediate schools in 2016 also acknowledged Maori & Pacific students as a population where the effects of connection is essential. This is backed up by Russell Bishop where relationship centered education is vitally important to lift achievement levels.


NZCER Survey 2016

As the science example from Cowie et al, 2012 research project showed students and whanau when invited to share their experiences enriched the learning task. The Resiliency topic had parents emailing in in significant numbers, assignments being submitted early and clarifications sought to make sure the work produced was of a high quality. The students were asked to keep personal journal, interview their parents (see screenshot on Resiliency) and construct a presentation that the community would view. In this way, the Health Education assessments and communication involved families from a variety of cultures and experience to open the educational pathway into real-life experiences and achievement.



resil1Our department mission is to empower students to make informed choices that enhance their own well-being and that of others. The core values that support diversity, acceptance and equality all bland together to welcome the richness of diverse cultures being valued in our community. The improvements available via digital technology enhance the potential for better communication (relationships) with whanau and the wider community. These developments are now explicitly welcome openness and demonstrate culturally responsive pedagogy of relations.

by Marcus Swain


Bishop, R (2012).

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

NZCER Survey 2016.

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


Unitec. (n.d). Learning and Teaching at Unitec Institute of Technology. Retrieved from Booklet.

Poutama Model from Unitec




One thought on “Cultural Responsiveness in my practice

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  1. I have always been a fan of how health embeds the Maori perspective of Hauora into it’s curriculum and the way that it underlies everything. The essence of being healthy as a whole, the sum of it’s parts rather than just focusing on one factor is something that we can take from Maori culture and apply across all students regardless of background. I find the model by Mason Durie a positive way to picture the concept as a whare where all dimensions support one another. To be honest I am a little envious that as a curriculum area you have such a solid foundation upon which to build culturally responsive pegagogy!


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