Friday, June 3, 2016

Indigenous knowledge & Cultural responsiveness (Week 28)

Applied Practice in Context (APC) - Indigenous knowledge & cultural responsiveness

Activity 4: 'Indigenous knowledge & cultural responsiveness in my practice'

Culture is not exclusive to race and/or ethnicity. It also refers the unique features of a community; its demographic makeup, including location, age, gender, language/s spoken, local history, industry and economics.

Understanding the specific cultural characteristics of a community is critical for achieving positive outcomes.

Culturally responsive pedagogy is defined by Gay (2001, p.106) as “using the cultural characteristics, experiences and perspectives as conduits for effective teaching”. It is reflected in five elements including the knowledge about the culture diversity, the culturally integrated content in the curriculum, the development of the learning community, the ability to communicating with culturally diverse students and the culturally responsive delivery of instruction (Gay, 2001). Whereas, Bishop, Berryman, Cavanagh and Teddy (2009) emphasises on the importance of student-teacher relationship in culturally responsive teaching. It is suggested that the learners’ culture needs to considered and integrated their learning activities.

Although it was hard fought, and not fully recognised until the 1970s, Aotearoa New Zealand is now a bicultural nation within which resides a multicultural society. The treaty of Waitangi is significant in policy and the principles of partnership, participation and protection are central features of policy (Findsen, 2012).

My view on culture is that it includes the beliefs and values (where one must be virtuous to a certain degree) of a group of people. It is about adapting a code of ethics which is also a requirement from the education council for certificated teachers.

Learning about culture is important as it is a way of linking people, to bond, to shape behavior and standards. It is my perception that if we treat others with dignity regarding our different cultures, positive relationships will be build on trust.

How does culture apply to my class environment?
I value productive partnerships and attempt to involve all parents, no matter what culture/ethnicity. As Siromani Dhungana so rightly tweeted on 22 Feb 2014, "One World Many Voices". Everyone who plays a role in education should take action and work together. We learn from each other and grow together to the benefit of the students.

Mission, Vision and Values Statements:
Mission: To provide a stimulating and progressive learning environment where students develop the skills and confidence to become actively engaged life-long learners
Vision: ‘Celebrating personal excellence’
Our students will be part of a learning community of creative and critical thinkers who take pride in all areas of their learning. They possess a strong sense of belonging and are valued for the positive contributions they bring to our school & society
Values: Our school actively promotes and models a virtues-based culture

All these statements are further supported by The Guiding Principles of Ka Hikitia (2013), as we know in fact that which is good for Maori is good for all students.

School-wide activities:
Our school uses Te Reo in the classroom and we are also responsive to Māori celebrations. Karakia plays an important part in our daily programme. We attend the yearly Cultural Festival where all of our students participate in Kapa Haka performances.
Our school hosted evening Te Reo classes which all of our teachers embraced, however I feel saddened that not many parents/whānau or members of the community attended this.
We have held hui at school and invited our Māori parents to share their thoughts on how they would like Māori to look, feel and sound at our school.

Does this mean that we are fully engaged with cultural responsive pedagogy? I wonder... or is it like Mike Hogan mentions in his video, we need to "stop doing the surface stuff." 

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.

Findsen, B. (2012). Older adult learning in Aotearoa New Zealand: Structure, trends and issues. Presented at Adult Community Education (ACE) Conference.

Gay, G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(2),106-116.

Hogan, M., (2016).  Culturally responsive practice in a mainstream school EDtalks. Retrieved from

NZ Ministry of Education (2013). Ka Hikitia - Accelerating Success 2013-2017. The Maori Education Strategy. Learning Media. NZ

The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. 

~ "If a curriculum does not respond to a culture, then the culture won't respond to the curriculum." - Unknown ~


  1. Hi Marnel,
    I agree with you where you state culture is about the 'beliefs and values of a group of people', and it is the links between all the cultures that help us learn. We often find ourselves working in schools where there are few Māori but many other cultures. We should celebrate and have high expectations for all the children we teach. Our code of ethics reinforces this, respect the culture and heritage for all ākonga, and the TOW having equal status to pākehā and Māori. I'd like to think that we work to achieve equal status for all the children in our schools. I enjoyed your direct and to the point account. I am finding it hard to be concise. Thanks Lynette

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Lynette! I agree with you that we have to celebrate and have high expectations for ALL the students we teach.

      As Edna Sackson so eloquently writes; “there’s more to culture than the 3 F’s: food, flags and festivals!” (June 2011). In her blog post, Below the Tip of the Iceberg, she gives teachers significant food for thought …

      “Culture is often compared to an iceberg which has both visible and invisible parts. The tip of the iceberg represents the elements of culture which we can see, such as food, language and customs. Those elements which are less obvious, such as values, beliefs and world view, comprise the much larger portion of the iceberg underwater.”

      … By starting with the human qualities, finding what we have in common, we can more easily relate to and connect with people of different cultures.


    2. Kia ora Marnel and Lynette,

      I enjoyed your blog post, and comments, and it has me reflecting on the tokenism that you quote in your comment Marnel re. culture being more than the three F's. It seems that it is all too easy to fall into the gap of celebrating the diversity we have in our classrooms in shallow ways, it's a fine balance to strike. It is important to celebrate and acknowledge the diversity of the people in our communities, to build those caring relationships whereby we share who we are with others, however there is also a need to understand the nuances and depth in different cultures.

      I have been reading Walking the Space Between - Identity and Māori/Pākehā, by Melinda Webber and she discusses the notion that singular identities are no longer enough to define culture or identity. That in fact people are more culturally hybrid and that "the existence of multiple realities of human experience because of ethnic diversity cannot be disregarded. The stories and life experiences of hybrid people must be heard and acknowledged in order to better understand their ethnic identity and development" (p.31). This makes me think about Edna Sackson's views of the iceberg and the visible and invisible, as there may now be a hybrid iceberg with seen and unseen components of multiple cultures to enable us to learn about and connect with others.


    3. Thank you for sharing your views, Camilla! I am always on the lookout to find out what I don’t know, by inquiring and reading to extend myself, so I will definitely look into the book 'Walking the Space Between - Identity and Māori/Pākehā'.

      I don’t think we should lose sight of what is really important – our students. Therefore I believe it is in our interest to not being shallow in celebrating diversity in our classrooms, but to also back strong educational outcomes for ALL our students as an investment in New Zealand’s future... and to strengthen Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique identity in the world.

  2. Kia ora Marnel,

    I love how you asked the question of whether you are fully engaged with culturally responsive pedagogy or if you are 'just doing the surface stuff'. It's an excellent question that many teachers I have met are too afraid to ask. I can see what policy is trying to achieve, for example our RTCs covering bi-cultural relationships etc. but I feel that many are 'ticking the boxes' and are still inherently racist (although of course not intentionally). I'm glad we are de-colonising education and I really enjoyed your frank post.

    Mauri ora!

    1. Thank you for your comment Whaea Griffa.

      I not only think it is vital to understand the different cultures in our New Zealand context, but I also want to stress the importance of encouraging our students (and teachers) to relate to each other and to realise that they actually share more things than what makes us different.

      As we are about to celebrate Matariki (which is about whanaungatanga) it is an opportunity for everyone to reflect where we are up to on our commitment to a bi-cultural partnership in New Zealand.

      Ngā mihi

  3. Hey Marnel, I was interested in reading your thinking around ‘Indigenous knowledge & cultural responsiveness in my practice'. I applaud your course writers for bringing in this important perspective to what we do as educators. I applaud you for creating an amazing window for us to glimpse into your thinking and for allowing this important dialogue between educators to continue using the response part of blogging.
    Going back over history, I was delighted to track down a storify you created for the Global Classroom Chat I co-hosted with Julia Skinner, @TheHeadsOffice. Here is a link to that storify for your readers.
    The questions that can be seen were devised by Michael Graffin who oversees Global Classroom.

    I wrote a definition of culture after that chat that can be read here.
    You might be interested in tracking back to see how your own perspective has evolved since that time. Like you I love the idea of, under the iceberg is where we can find the commonalities to us as human or the humaines of who we are as people. That piece of Edna’s, that you quoted, was absolutely magnificent. I believe that global chat was instrumental in clarifying my own thinking around culture and set out on a journey to understand whanaungatanga. Even this year whanaungatanga just bubbles below in my thinking as I continuously make links to events and everyday occurrences to whanaungatanga. That global chat event reminded me about ensuring hearing all voices which resulted in my drive to search out our own Te Reo Voices on social media. This resulted in having a part of everything I do visible to ensure I can hear the voices of Tangata Whenua in my work. Again the outcome can be seen in the national teachers book I have put out for the past two years as part of Connected Educators month , or the edbooknz project last year that was underpinned by Tataiako .

    1. Hi Sonya!

      Thank you for sharing your expertise as well as links from the Global Classroom Chat that we both were involved in.

      I absolutely love how you set out your definition of culture in your blog post! "Culture is an iceberg. Above the water we can see national costumes, physical appearances, tattoos and body adornments, food and hairstyles. We can hear language and music. We can smell scents such as spices, food smells and nature smells including the different flower scents. We can taste foods that are sweet, spicy, salty, hard and soft. Below the surface we can feel joy, sadness, excitement, love and respect.
      Above the surface is the difference between us all. Below the surface is what joins us together as part of the human race. Our feelings is what makes us human. It is our treatment of the differences above the surface. Culture is our way of living. It is the beliefs and values of a group of people. It is the beliefs, values and traditions that we practise and celebrate in our daily lives. It is the core values that we all have in common such as respect, trust. beliefs, kindness and love. I think as families and individuals we evolve our own cultural practice to reflect how we are validated or what we learn. Learning about culture is important to accept the reality. “One world, Many voices.” It is about treating those differences that above the iceberg with actions of dignity and respect. It is about communication and being transparent with communication." Sonya van Schaijik (2014).

      This definitely sums it up for me!


  4. Wow! Great blog post and comments. I love the iceberg analogy too, and will extend it to add on my thoughts here if that is ok? I think I have found a gap in the literature on cultural development (although let's be honest, I am so focused on so many things right now that I haven't really had time to explore this fully...). I've noticed that it talks about marginalisation, and assimilation, but it doesn't really address the needs and issues of those who for one reason or another have become significantly disconnected from their cultural background/schema. Like an iceberg set adrift, one that has just been dumped into the ocean, having sheared off a cliff. In my experience, kids with very transient backgrounds can feel this - a sort of cultural isolation, if their families are unable to maintain connections. Also, for those who have difficult family circumstances, this can be an issue, especially when their heritage is not shared with them. I think that the loss of a sense of who they are has a massive impact on the students and this is where the relationship that the teacher has with such students is crucial. In a sense, the school becomes the marae, and the teacher provides a classroom culture that the student can connect to... but then they move on and if they do not 'connect' to the next teacher or go with the friends they have, then a sense of belonging and value, can be elusive. I believe I am seeing this more and more, and sometimes it seems to permeate an entire family. Certainly, refugees must initially feel a sense of this when they move to a new country and are expected to adjust. In families who are just trying to survive or have dysfunctional interactions, this must exacerbate their isolation.