Wananga landing Wananga landing

Medal-winning group creates innovative cultural guides for teachers

28 October 2022

Young Māori learners across Aotearoa New Zealand are benefiting from teachers with better tikanga and cultural skills thanks to an award-winning team of University of Canterbury (UC) education researchers.


A Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha UC School of Teacher Education team, called Te Kāhui-a-Te-Rū-Rangahau, has won a UC Council 2022 Innovation Medal for their ground-breaking mahi.

The medal recognises the way the group – made up of Professor Angus Hikairo Macfarlane (Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Ngāti Whakaue), Dr Matiu Tai Rātima (Te Whakatōhea, Ngāti Pūkeko), Dr Te Hurinui Karaka-Clarke (Te Arawa, Ngāi Tahu), and Jennifer Smith (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi) – has shared knowledge and ideas with the wider community and achieved positive results.

SDG 4 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 - Quality Education

Te Kāhui has led the development of a series of user-friendly guides fostering culturally responsive and inclusive teaching. The books, known as the Hikairo Schema Book Series, provide accessible, practical, and flexible strategies for kaiako (teachers), based on evidence from decades of research and lived experience.

Professor Macfarlane believes it is the first time there has been a Māori winner of the UC Innovation Medal.

“Māori have always been innovative, and they’ve had to be since the beginning of time with their navigational skills, study of the stars, seas, and forests – so innovation is not a foreign concept or something that’s new for Māori.

“Creating this suite of resources is a project that’s rich in terms of mātauranga Māori and it’s a classic example of culture growing out of the past but functioning in the present and bringing tangible benefits for tamariki, whānau, and kaiako.”

He says the impact of the guides is being felt across the education sector, from early childhood through to tertiary teaching, and he is very proud of the core group of researchers receiving the award on behalf of the wider team at UC and beyond who have contributed to its success. 

UC Māori education lecturer Jen Smith, a former primary school teacher, says the series is named after the Te Arawa tupuna (ancestor) Hikairo who was known for being a skilled communicator. “We wanted the teaching sector to understand that we need to be good communicators because that’s a big part of teaching leadership.

“My experience with teachers has been that they recognise the need to increase their understanding of tikanga (customs and values), mātauranga (knowledge), and te reo Māori, and they have an appetite to learn how to put those skills into practice. The Hikairo series is aimed at supporting the vast number of teachers who really want to make a big difference by culturally engaging with their students.”

She says the team has worked together on the project with a common goal – to improve teaching and learning for all students, especially Māori and Pasifika children and young people.

“Angus is someone we all look up to and we have all been mentored by him. All of us in the team are teachers of te reo Māori and mātauranga Māori, and he really wanted us to make a resource that would allow us to give back to the sector and help other teachers. But, outside the four of us, there were heaps of other people who contributed.

“The whakataukī ‘Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini – My success should not be bestowed onto me alone’ is very relevant to this work, as it was not individual success but success of a collective.”

There are five guides, including one each for early childhood, primary, secondary school and tertiary teachers, available online for purchase in digital or hardcopy. The tertiary guide, Ngā hau e whā o Tāwhirimātea, is available free online or for purchase as a hardcopy. They have sold a combined total of over 5000 copies in print and eBook. The version for primary schools was the highest-selling publication for the New Zealand Council for Educational Research NZCER publisher in 2021.

Exercises in the books invite teachers to rethink their relationships (whakawhanaungatanga) with students and whānau. They challenge teachers to reposition themselves as learners (ako), revise old habits, and embrace cultural differences (kotahitanga) as strengths. The books also suggest ways to reconfigure the learning environment to place caring (manaakitanga) at the centre and to balance caring with assertiveness (ihi). The next book in the series will focus on motivation and behaviour.

Smith says the team is regularly invited to speak at education conferences in Aotearoa and internationally, and the positive feedback and enthusiasm they see in their teacher peers shows the guides are having a significant impact.

“The books are successful because they approach this kaupapa through a strengths-based and affirmative lens. When we position teachers as champions, they drive their practice change so the children in their classes can really flourish. That’s something I feel really proud of.”

  • Thank you to kaiako and ākonga from Ilam School, the University of Canterbury Te Kaupeka Oranga/Faculty of Health ākonga, and Pūkenga Tracy Clelland for the footage used in this video.

Members of Te Kāhui-a-Te-Rū-Rangahau

Professor Angus Hikairo Macfarlane (Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Ngāti Whakaue) was foundational

Director of the Māori Research Laboratory – Te Rū Rangahau – at UC. A recipient of the 2013 UC Research Medal and a 2015 Ako Aotearoa National Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award, Professor Macfarlane was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2021 for services to education, psychology and Māori. He has pioneered the creation of several theoretical, culturally responsive frameworks aimed at supporting professionals working across these areas.

Dr Matiu Rātima (Te Whakatōhea, Ngāti Pūkeko) is a senior lecturer in the UC School of Teacher Education. He is a former secondary-school te reo Māori teacher, and his research and teaching interests are in culturally responsive teaching in initial teacher education, in Māori medium education, and in the teaching and learning of te reo Māori as a second language with adult learners.

Dr Te Hurinui Karaka-Clarke (Te Arawa, Ngāi Tahu) is a senior lecturer in the UC School of Teacher Education. His research interest focuses on factors that affect the retention of students in senior te reo Māori programmes in secondary schools and the praxis of successful online teaching and learning through the lens of wairuatanga.

Jennifer Smith (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi,) is a lecturer in Māori education in the UC School of Teacher Education. She is a former primary teacher and a current doctoral student. Her main research interests in the field of Māori education include a sociocultural approach to education, inclusive education, culturally responsive pedagogies and cultural safety, with a focus on wellbeing.

Read more about UC Council’s 2022 medallists here

More information
Visit our media enquiries page to contact UC Media.
What to read next
Privacy Preferences

By clicking "Accept All Cookies", you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.