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The Development of Te Kotahitanga

Ngaruawahia Barney Wharakura 01

The overall aim of this project has been to investigate how to improve the educational achievement of Māori students in mainstream secondary school classrooms. From the theoretical position of Kaupapa Māori research1, and an examination of appropriate Māori cultural metaphors, we suggested that this will be accomplished when educators create learning contexts within their classroom; where power is shared between self-determining individuals within non-dominating relations of interdependence; where culture counts; where learning is interactive, dialogic and spirals; where participants are connected to one another through the establishment of a common vision for what constitutes excellence in educational outcomes. We termed this pedagogy a Culturally Responsive Pedagogy of Relations.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy of Relations

To examine what this pedagogy might look like in practice, in 2001 we developed an Effective Teaching Profile (ETP), the design guided and shaped by experiences of Māori students, their whānau, principals and teachers. Fundamental to the ETP is teachers’ understanding the need to explicitly reject deficit theorising as a means of explaining Māori students’ educational achievement levels, and their taking an agentic position in their theorising about their practice. That is, practitioners expressing their professional commitment and responsibility to bringing about change in Māori students’ educational achievement by accepting professional responsibility for the learning of their students. These two central understandings are then manifested in these teachers’ classrooms where the teachers demonstrate on a daily basis: that they care for the students as culturally located individuals; they have high expectations of the learning for students; they are able to manage their classrooms so as to promote learning; they are able to engage in a range of discursive learning interactions with students or facilitate students to engage with others in these ways; they know a range of strategies that can facilitate learning interactions; they promote, monitor and reflect upon learning outcomes that in turn lead to improvements in Māori student achievement and they share this knowledge with the students.


  1. Kaupapa Māori is a discourse of proactive theory and practice that emerged from within the wider revitalization of Māori communities that developed in New Zealand following the rapid Māori urbanization in the 1950s and 1960s. This movement grew further in the 1970s and by the late 1980s had developed as a political consciousness among Māori people that promoted the revitalization of Māori cultural aspirations, preferences and practices as a philosophical and productive educational stance and resistance to the hegemony of the dominant discourse.

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