Māori Pedagogies

This is quite an old book, but I find they are always a significant part of the story (and, at times, mythology) surrounding the education of various people(s), so…

Summarising the key findings of her review (of traditional and contemporary Māori pedagogies as evidenced in a range of records and publications), Wharehuia Hemara writes: “The research reveals that many traditional practices still resonate within New Zealand’s contemporary education system.” (p.3) “The literature researched for this report reveals that when Māori made first landfall in Aotearoa/New Zealand they already practised a range of pedagogies and curricula. Some of these were:

  • students and teachers were at the centre of the educative process
  • life-long intergenerational learning was normal
  • students undertook gradual learning from a familiar starting point
  • curricula were mixed and complementary
  • giftedness was recognised and encouraged
  • learning and teaching were conducted out of students’ strengths
  • small student numbers were normal
  • one-on-one interaction was important.

Māori contact with the Western European education system has been characterised by tension between European teaching methods and Māori perceptions and performance. The encounters of two different world views and ways of operating were sometimes contradictory.

The relationship had some distinctive characteristics:

  • Māori appreciation of literacy helped achieve new ways of communication and information gathering
  • the Western European educational practices that were introduced to small, tribally-based communities were products of large, industrialised, metropolitan societies
  • Pākehā  (and some Māori) considered Māori failure within the European system to be the fault of Māori opposition, indifference, wilfulness and limited capacities
  • Māori (and some Pākehā) suspected that European education was a tool of the colonial enterprise and that the education on offer was irrelevant and inadequately delivered
  • Pākehā disapproved of Māori child-rearing and educational practices
  • Māori disapproved of the type of discipline meted out by Pākehā  teachers.” (p.5)

Also interesting to me is the way Hemara defines pedagogy:

“The definitions of pedagogy include:

…the art, practice, or profession of teaching… the systematized learning or instruction concerning principles and methods of teaching and of student control and guidance… (Good & Merkel, 1973, p.142)


…[the] Process by which knowledge, attitudes or skills are deliberately conveyed – includes the total instructional process from planning and implementation to evaluation and feedback. (Millar, E & Findlay M, 1996, p.307)

For the purpose of this review the definitions have been modified to include Māori teaching styles within traditional contexts. These encapsulare a variety of media/curricula, such as:

  • whakapapa (genealogy)
  • waiata (song/poetry)
  • whakatauākī (proverbs)
  • kōrero tawhito (histories)
  • whaikōrero (speech making).” (p.6)

He elaborates later under the subheading, Whakapapa as curriculum:

“Māori pedagogies and, by association, assessment practices are characterised by inter-relationships between various curricula. For [-p.33] example, whakapapa, waiata, kōrero tawhito and whakatauākī do not exist in isolation. Each depends on the others for its origins and its existence. While informint each other, each one can also extend its boundaries of inquiry, both individually and collectively.

‘Whakapapa’ distinguishes Māori from any other race, nationality or community. It is a proclamation of individuals’ and communities’ origins. Whakapapa can be used as a vehicle for scientific enquiry as well as a social agent that describes a full range of co-generational and inter-generational relationships.

In this regard, Eco’s rhizome metaphor (1984) partly explains Māori teaching, learning and assessment practices. He proposes that the way rhizomes are constructed, i.e. that every node or point is connected to every other, allows for infinite potential.

Whakapapa illustrates something similar. It was incumbent on all iwi/hapū members to know where they were positioned in relationship to others. Historical relationships with outsiders or non-members were also important. Those relationships could encapsulate past, present and potential rivalries or alliances.

Eco (1984) goes on to explain that there are no discrete units that give meaning but rather that each node informs the whole. For Māori, individuals hold positions on a whakapapa continuum. They are intimately connected to everyone else. These links are part of an ever-widening cycle of relationships where information is continually being transmitted and received.

An attempt to describe the concept of whakapapa follows. [Hemara goes on to describe the Māori creation cycle, and how it is interpreted, etc.]” (pp.32-33)

In his conclusion, Hemara points out that: “The current focus on gaps between Māori and non-Māori performance is perceived in the context of what the dominant community deems is, and is not, important. Perhaps focusing on gaps between Māori aspirations and achievements would be more appropriate.” (p.80)

He also notes that “the way [traditional] Māori educated themselves and their young appears to be applicable today.” (p.81)

Ref: Wharehuia Hemara (2000) Māori Pedagogies: a view from the literature. NZCER: Wellington
NB The author identifies as Ngāti Maniapoto/Ngāpuhi


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
This entry was posted in Maori learners and education and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Māori Pedagogies

  1. Corinne Young says:

    Hi Just thought I would let you know Wharehuia Hemara is a bloke, not a woman.

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