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Non-Māori teachers teaching Māori language in English-medium primary schools: We are all in this together - He waka eke noa

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posted on 08.12.2021, 13:53 by Patrick, Alice

This thesis reports the findings of original research examining the role that non-Māori teachers can play teaching te reo Māori in English-medium¹ primary schools, as per the expectation in the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007).  I undertook this research for personal and professional reasons, due to my personal exposure to te ao Māori and Māori education over 57 years. Although non-Māori, I have been fortunate to learn te reo Māori from very generous Māori whānau, language tutors and personal mentors. Professionally, I embarked on the study because of my longstanding work in Māori language education as a teacher, lecturer and adviser in schools.²  My research investigates non-Māori teachers’ beliefs and practices, while uncovering some of the factors that can influence the teaching of te reo Māori in English-medium primary schools. I also explore what Māori language materials the teachers use (or need) to help them implement their Māori language programmes – and their notions of what constitute ‘quality’ Māori language resources.  There are three empirical data sources – an online questionnaire (n=40), classroom observations (n=4), and teacher interviews (n=4). Because of my topic being important to Māori, and worthy of research, I chose to be guided by kaupapa Māori³ values as an ethical base for my research.  The findings show some consistency across four case study teachers – in terms of their stated beliefs and their classroom practices (e.g. ensuring the learning of te reo is enjoyable, incorporating aspects of tikanga⁴, demonstrating good pronunciation and positivity about te reo). However, there are also inconsistencies in terms of the teachers not following through on their beliefs about: the importance of facilitating group work/practice opportunities, using Māori language materials, and drawing on students’ prior knowledge/experiences. It is evident that there are contributing factors that influence teachers’ practice (e.g. lack of quality resources and associated professional development (PD), lack of support from school leaders and parents, and lack of time).  The teachers’ views on what constitute quality Māori language resources for English-medium primary schools (as indicated by the 40 online questionnaire participants) show that their top three priorities are real-life contexts, user-friendliness, and inclusion of tikanga – followed by audio support, English translations/glossaries, visual appeal, multimedia, teachers’ notes, and alignment to the Māori language curriculum guidelines.  In the future, teachers would like to see resources developed that incorporate information technology (e.g. Māori language games/multimedia), help them to use Māori language in the classroom, provide pronunciation support, facilitate shared reading experiences (e.g. big bilingual books), and provide information about their local area.  This research contributes to the literature, as few studies have examined the teaching and learning of Māori language in English-medium primary schools. Furthermore, it contributes to the wider kaupapa of Māori language revitalisation by validating whānau aspirations/expectations around their tamariki/ mokopuna⁵ receiving reo Māori tuition, supported by quality Māori language materials. In addition, the research highlights a relationship between Māori language provision and Māori student achievement. The study also provides an evidence base for the Ministry of Education (and resource developers) regarding the creation of resources for English-medium primary schools – and the need for teachers to receive quality PD.  There are theoretical implications, in that there is scope for other researchers to contribute to the discourse by undertaking culturally responsive studies associated with Māori language education and/or teacher cognition. There is also scope for research that provides empirical data about the relationship between Māori students having access to te reo Māori in their English-medium schooling and them achieving educational success.  There are practical implications for Te Mātāwai, the Māori Language Commission and the Ministry of Education as they implement initiatives that will contribute to government’s goal of making Māori language universally available in schools, with one million New Zealanders speaking basic reo by 2040. There are also implications for the practice of teachers, school leaders, and PD facilitators in English-medium primary school settings – as well as resource developers who work in this space. Likewise, there are implications for NZ primary school students – in terms of recognising the benefits that ensue from learning te reo. In particular, there is a focus on the benefits for Māori students in having their language and culture validated – so they can stand strong and be successful in both te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā. Ko tērā te moemoeā mō āku mokopuna hoki.  ¹ Instruction in these schools is delivered in English. ² The word ‘school(s)’ henceforth refers to English-medium educational settings, whereas the word ‘kura’ is reserved for Māori-medium settings. ³ Pertaining to Māori knowledge, skills, attitudes. ⁴ Culture/customs. ⁵ Children/grandchildren.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Centre for Strategic Studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Seals, Corinne; Kelly, Karena