Culturally Responsive Practice

Continuing on from the concept of “teu le va” is an emerging and related approach that is becoming more and more popular around the world when engaging with indigenous communities, especially students or learners in an education setting. In this section, education will be the main focus, but the principles across all disciplines and sectors. Please keep your own context in mind when going through the content.

“Culturally responsive practice” and “relationship-based learning” is a student-centred approach to teaching in which the students’ unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement, and a positive sense of wellbeing about the students’ cultural place in the world.

Culturally responsive practice and relationship-based learning encompasses three functional dimensions which are critical to its successful implementation: the institutional dimension, the personal dimension and the instructional dimension. 

Put simply, all of these dimensions must recognise and reflect the fact that CULTURE COUNTS.

Therefore, in order for a teacher to be culturally responsive, they must learn (or at least be curious) about the cultures of their students, recognises their own cultural biases and adapt them where needed, and then teach the curriculum in a way that is responsive to the cultures, narratives, strengths and imaginations of their students. Importantly, they must teach within a school that has culturally responsive policies, frameworks and leadership!

In New Zealand, educators with high numbers of Maori and Pasifika students are increasingly adopting these approaches to teaching and learning, using kaupapa Maori, or Maori principles. Furthermore, they are taking into consideration other holistic factors such as place, space and the spiritual.

Teokotai Tarai, HOD Languages, Teacher of Cook Island Maori Language, explains how Pasifika students come to the classroom with a wealth of knowledge and experiences. She explains how this provides a platform for better student engagement and success.

Emeritus Professor Russell Bishop ONZM from the University of Waikato is a thought leader in this space in New Zealand, and provides these tips for leaders of learning who wish to impact Indigenous and marginalised students’ educational outcomes.

Bishop’s profile of a relationships-based leader of learning are below, and the principles are not restricted to the education sector only – applying across all sectors:

Create a family-like context for learning by

  • Rejecting deficit explanations for learners’ learning
  • Caring for and nurturing the learner, including their language and culture
  • Voicing and demonstrating high expectations
  • Ensuring that all learners can learn in a well-managed environment so as to
  • promote learning
  • Knowing what learners need to learn

Interact within this family-like context in ways we know promotes learning by;

  • Drawing on learners’ prior learning
  • Using Formative assessment: Feedback
  • Using Formative assessment: Feed-forward
  • Using Co-construction processes
  • Using Power-sharing strategies

Monitor learners’ progress and the impact of the processes of learning by assessing how well learners are able to: (Using the GPILSEO model)

  • Set goals for their learning [Goals]
  • Articulate how they prefer to learn [Pedagogy]
  • Explain how they prefer to organise/be organised in their learning/learning relationships and Interactions [Institutions]
  • Participate in leadership roles and functions [Leadership]
  • Include others in the learning context and interactions [Spread]
  • Provide evidence of how well they are progressing and what progress they are making [Evidence]
  • Take ownership of their own learning. [Ownership]

Whether you are working in health, community, justice, mental health or any other field, the principles above will provide guidance to fostering relationships with Pasifika peoples that are conducive to partnering for positive outcomes!

For more on relationship-based learning, watch this video of Prof Russell Bishop discussing “Culture Counts: A deeper look at the significance of relationships” here

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