Te Whatu Kete Matauranga: Weaving Māori and Pasifika infant and toddler theory and practice in early childhood education

Dr Lesley Rameka (Principal Investigator) and Ali Glasgow

Project Dates: 2015 - 2017

Partnerships: Victoria University of Wellington; three Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Early Learning Centres; three EFKS A'oga Amata

Research Aims

This project will create new knowledge about teaching and learning by exploring Māori and Pasifika understandings of care and education for infants and toddlers. We will utilise this culturally grounded rationality as the basis for theoretical statements that include theory development and culturally-embedded practice in Māoi and Pasifika early childhood services. Lastly, we will use the findings from our work with Māori and Pasifika services to create culturally responsive theoretical statements which include theory and practices recommendations for mainstream services. The project will therefore not only to support culturally-embedded infant and toddler provision in Māori and Pasifika early childhood services, but will provide culturally relevant theory and practice for all early childhood teachers and services.

Why is this research important?

Key to educational success for Māori and Pasifika children is the acknowledgement that Māori and Pasifika children are culturally located and the recognition that effective education must embrace culture. This research will explore how early childhood services can better integrate culture into teaching practices by creating culturally responsive, infant and toddler teaching and learning theory, and practice guidelines.

What is the background to the project?

Using a case study approach, the research focuses on six early childhood service providers. In the first phase (2015), each of the services worked with their communities to collect and collate pūrākau /stories about infant and toddler care and education knowledge and practices. These stories were analysed in terms of how they could be reframed in contemporary early childhood services. In the final phase (2016) each service is utilising an action research cycle to answer self-identified question/s, which emerged as a result of analysis from the first phase.

What are the key findings to date?

  • The critical place of ‘Identity and Culture’. Each service is focusing, in  one way or another on these two aspects. For the Māori services these tend to link to iwi connectedness and rohe connectedness.  For the Pasifika services, the importance of their individual Pacific groupings is highlighted in all the research questions,
  • The importance of tuākana/older children to tēina/younger  children learning opportunities,
  • The need to change the lenses teachers utilise to enable them  to view behaviour and learning from a Māori /Pasifika  perspective.

What are the most important facts to take away so far?

  • Each service has identified cultural understandings, values, and artefacts as a means of achieving strong connectedness and relationships with their identity groupings,
  • Tuakana/teina learning is not just a culturally responsive pedagogical approach, it is essential for optimal teina learning in Māori and Pacific early childhood services,
  • A change of focus from an early childhood (teacher training) perspective to Māori/Pasifika ways of seeing the world and children’s learning is critical to the research. Without the change in lens it is difficult to notice, recognise and respond to Māori/Pasifika values.