New teaching guide helps early years educators embrace cultural differences

23 May 2019

University of Canterbury researchers are leading the way in early years education with a new guidebook focusing on culturally responsive learning and teaching.

  • Hikairo_NWS_block

    Pictured from left to right: Three University of Canterbury academics are among the authors of The Hikairo Schema, Associate Professor Sonja Macfarlane, Early Childhood lecturer Benita Rarere-Briggs and Professor Angus Macfarlane.

University of Canterbury (UC) researchers are leading the way in early years education with a new guidebook focusing on culturally responsive learning and teaching.

The adaptable guide invites kaiako (teachers) to rethink approaches to engaging tamariki (children), re-envisage the teacher/learner dynamic, revise old habits, and reconfigure learning environments to acknowledge and embrace cultural differences.

According to the lead author of The Hikairo Schema, Māori Research Professor Angus Macfarlane, from UC’s College of Education, Health and Human Development, the appetite for cultural ways of knowing and doing is stronger than ever before.

“This impacts on the way that systems are responding to the diverse range of children attending early learning centres, and their whānau (family),” Professor Macfarlane says.

“Working on this book has linked to the ‘what’ of the New Zealand early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki. It has reminded the authors, the research team, and advisors, of the importance of growing awareness of the dynamic and evolving realities of Māori culture, knowledge, and understanding.”

UC Early Childhood lecturer Benita Rarere-Briggs explains: “Throughout the text, the centrality of relationships is embraced as critical to early years education, but the literature, and the data that were presented to us, encouraged a theorisation towards relationships as a methodology.”

In that regard, six co-existing components of a model are introduced, described and explained to support the creation of a Schema; a step-by-step guide for teachers to aid culturally responsive teaching and learning in early childhood education settings. 

Dr Lesley Rameka of Early Childhood New Zealand, who wrote the book’s foreword, says: “The guide helps teachers to plan for and to construct young children’s learning and development in partnership with tamariki and whānau, while providing a Māori lens through which to assess professional practice.”

Professor Macfarlane is grateful to the research team and key contributors, such as the Northland Kindergarten Association (NKA).

“The research team has insisted that the layout of The Hikairo Schema be neatly structured and the vernacular reader-friendly, and I think we have achieved that. NKA opened the door for trialling the Schema and that was a massive advantage for accomplishing something that would contribute to the ‘how’ of culturally responsive teaching – in sensible and appetising ways.”

The book is the start of a series. “The appetite is across the sector, and we are keen to oblige,” Professor Macfarlane says.

The book was launched at the Early Years Hui in Christchurch which was attended by 350 delegates. 

The Hikairo Schema: Culturally responsive teaching and learning in early childhood education settings, written by Angus Macfarlane, Sonja Macfarlane, Sharlene Teirney, JR Kuntz, Benita Rarere-Briggs, Marika Currie, Marie Gibson, Roimata Macfarlane. $40.

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