Week 28: Indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness

Understanding indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness

Prior to reading and viewing this weeks media, I felt that cultural responsiveness was being aware of the different cultural groups in my classroom, and aspects that were important to them.

After watching Edtalk (2012) my thinking was challenged, to be culturally responsive requires challenging what Bishop called the ‘Education Deficit’, and showing students they can succeed. Teaching Tolerance (2010) talks about how being culturally responsive is about building the bridges between the school and home cultures, and ensuring that they aren’t in conflict. Savage, Hindleb, Meyerc, Hyndsa, Penetitob & Sleeterd, (2011) talk about it in terms of making  the learning familiar to the learner. I understand this to mean ensuring the student in front of you can relate to the learning experiences being presented, e.g. Muslim students would not understand learning contexts based around Christmas.

The free dictionary defines indigenous knowledge as traditional knowledge, that which is gained through tradition or anecdote. Many of the students I encounter have traditional values and teachings instilled in them from the day they were born. As such my job is to not make them adapt to the school culture, but embrace and foster their own. (Teaching Tolerance (2010))

I found Bishop’s (Edtalk 2010) 6 points interesting, these are the skills that teachers need to teach 21st Century learners, being able to know a range of strategies to educate the specific learner, and being able to show what the outcome looks like. Interestingly, he points out that this cannot happen at the chalkface alone, schools need to invest time and energy into it, and the government needs to come to the party and fund these initiatives. I feel this is where it breaks down in New Zealand – government funding, teachers are willing, schools are trying but the funds are lacking.

So what do I think my cultural framework would be? An interesting question that needs time to develop as in my role I see over 700 students in a year. It’s hard to get to know each one of them, however paramount is the concept of teaching the learner in front of me, not the culture.

School Wide Activities

In this area I believe my school does well. Students and staff are offered a range of opportunities to be involved in activities that relate to their cultural experiences, and share in those of others. It fits into the Maori Ora part of the Maori Model. Activities include:

  • Day trip to a local marae to learn about Tikanga.
  • A TOD spent visiting Hopuhopu and Turangawaewae marae to discuss the vision and goals for Tainui and their youth.
  • Powhiri for manuhiri.
  • Pasifika Nesian Festival.
  • Samoan language week celebration/performance assembly.
  • Chinese, Spanish, German language on offer to students during elective times.
  • Sharing whakapapa and mihi with peers.
  • Involving whanau in regular hui.
  • Rumaki and bilingual classes.
  • Competitive & mainstream kapa haka


I feel our school goal is a shared approach to cultural responsiveness. Teachers feel they are being culturally responsive, but this looks different in each classroom, as there is no shared goal for the school. As such I find myself struggling when I don’t know the songs being sung, where to get upskilled, what are the protocols for powhiris and whose job it is to teach this.

A goal for myself is to be able to have a non judgemental resource that I could ask questions of, without feeling lacking as a teacher.

The Maori Model

So where do I think I fit, based on the criteria I feel that I’m in the state of Maori Oho as outlined below.

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 20.58.55

I found that most of my thinking was done through the Maori lens, as this is the dominant culture of our school, however I’m sure that in a different school this would change.


Edtalks.(2012, September 23). A culturally responsive pedagogy of relations. .Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/49992994


Savage,C, Hindleb, R., Meyerc,L., Hyndsa,A., Penetitob, W. & Sleeterd, C.(2011) Culturally responsive pedagogies in the classroom: indigenous student experiences across the curriculum .Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 39(3), 183–198: (Available to download from Unitec Library)

Teaching Tolerance.( 2010, Jun 17).Introduction to Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGTVjJuRaZ8

The Maori Model taken from class notes – https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8swBIPJQ1N-RTd1ZUQ0dkp6VlE/view


3 thoughts on “Week 28: Indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness

  1. I was challenged too by the Edtalk’s video too. The education deficit is what we teach students as ‘fixed mindset’ (can’t do this, I’m not good enough), yet teachers may potentially be guiding and leading this deficit thinking! We let our students know where they are at (in regards to standards) – just so they’ll know, but I don’t want them to feel discouraged nor do I want tests to be what tells a child whether they are a failure or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is this where national standards are contributing to deficit thinking though? I am reminded of a child who said they were no good at maths, only because they had been labelled as below standard one year. I encouraged and removed any formal reporting structure, only discussing their successes, and they now think maths is one of their best subjects.
      I agree, deficit thinking is fixed mindset, maybe time for the education system to spend more on developing growth mindsets in students. This could fix many issues in education.


  2. I had very similar thoughts when I saw ‘cultural responsiveness’. I did just regard it as being aware of the different cultural groups in my classroom but my eyes have been opened a little more to help deep it goes.


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