Indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness in my practice

In 2007 I was given a copy of this book to read as part of a new PLD program my school was running called He Kakano:

culture speaks.jpg

Bishop, R., & Berryman, M. (2006). Culture speaks: Cultural relationships and classroom learning. Huia Publishers.

Culture speaks was a key document that arose from the Te Kotahitanga program.   For me it was the student voice in this book that resonated.  Two groups of Maori students were spoken to and asked about their experience of secondary schooling in NZ.  One group were referred to as ‘Engaged’ and the other as ‘Non-Engaged’.  The korero was bot shocking and fascinating to me and it began a 10 year immersion in this work through He Kakano and into its successor program Kia Eke Panuku and into it’s present form Poutama Pounamu (https://poutamapounamu.org.nz/).  In 2015 I read the following paper and this quote I feel encapsulates what a culturally responsive classroom should be:

In responsive contexts, rather than merely acting as experts, correctors or evaluators, the teachers, practitioners or researchers can act as a responsive audience, thus ensuring that the prior knowledge and cultural experiences of all learners or participants have validity. When pedagogies or methodologies are more interactive and dialogic, learners/participants can be more self-determining about their learning and the construction of knowledge can be more actively promoted.”  Berryman, M. (2015). Culturally responsive pedagogies as transformative praxis. Waikato Journal of Education18(2).

Encouraging self-determining learners in a classroom allows for students to drive the contexts for learning.  Thus, they can incorporate their own beliefs, interests and cultures.  Traditional transmissive pedagogies do not allow this.  In my classroom, where possible students now choose their own contexts for learning.  Lessons should be discursive with both the teacher and the student sharing the role of lead educator.  Student agency is paramount as I am not the font of all knowledge but rather the facilitator of a series of collaborative learning conversations.  In Social Studies or Geography this often means rathe than teaching a single particular case study; students choose a place or society to study and I then facilitate their own knowledge construction.

Being culturally appropriate in a NZ/Aotearoa classroom is less difficult but I have recently encountered a problem in my Geography teaching.

The Treaty of Waitangi asks for a bi-cultural New Zealand and it is fair to say that Geographic Visualisation does not necessarily meet this obligation.  A basic premise of Geography is the study of maps.  But if we wish to study a map of New Zealand – digital or otherwise — we are not looking at a Maori document.  Stokes E (1987) states

“Hong Kay Yoon (1980, 1986) analysed the distribution of Maori and European place names and concluded that distribution of Maori names was closely related to Pre-European distribution of Maori population and Maori propensity to name places in detail.  European names were given and retained in places that were significant in colonial society, including higher order settlements” Stokes, E. (1987). Maori geography or geography of Maoris. New Zealand Geographer43(3), 118-123.

Our map was drawn by Pakeha and many of the names on it bear no relation to a Maori view of our collective geography.  In 2015 a Waitangi tribunal settlement between the Crown and Marlborough Iwi agreed to return the names of over 30 prominent geographical locations to their Te Reo Maori names.  But if we look for these features on Google maps we see many of them listed with their Pakeha name instead.  Examples include Tokumaru which is still listed as ‘Mount Robertson’ and the Opaoa River that is still listed as Opawa. The use of open source maps and visuals in a NZ classroom has the propensity to cross cultural boundaries and drag the class back to a colonial past that has been unfairly dominant for too long.

Google are in the process of looking into this and working with Maori to find solutions.  For now I will endeavour to correct maps where possible in my lessons.

Resource List

  • Berryman, M. (2015). Culturally responsive pedagogies as transformative praxis. Waikato Journal of Education18(2).
  • Bishop, R., & Berryman, M. (2006). Culture speaks: Cultural relationships and classroom learning. Huia Publishers. Stokes, E. (1987). Maori geography or geography of Maoris. New Zealand Geographer43(3), 118-123.
  • Stokes, E. (1987). Maori geography or geography of Maoris. New Zealand Geographer43(3), 118-123.
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