Evaluations of cultural responsiveness in practice

As a multicultural nation, Aotearoa New Zealand is now more diverse than ever before. (The Royal Society of New Zealand, 2013). Honouring our commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi by protecting the rights of our Māori learners whilst embracing the cultural diversity of the modern classroom is providing a worthy challenge for teachers and school communities alike. (Donn & Schick, 1995)

The changing faces of St Josephs School
The changing faces of St Josephs School

 What is cultural responsiveness in practice?

Cultural responsiveness teaching practices acknowledge the diverse cultural backgrounds of the students, parents and whānau that enter our schools on a daily basis.

Consistent with Māori pedagogies and a holistic approach to learning, relationships between students, their teachers and their whānau greatly influence learning in culturally responsive schools. As May (2009) argues, the building of relationships is important to our students’ sense of well being, their sense of belonging and being valued as learners.

According to Cowie et al. (2011), teachers within cultural responsive schools position themselves as learners. Based around the Māori concept of Tuakana Teina, they provide opportunities for their students, their families and whānau, to contribute their expertise and ideas that lead to learning experiences that are targeted to the interests, needs and cultural identities of their communities.

“Parents, whānau and families initially become involved in activities that directly affect their own children but can be drawn into wider school activities”

(Education Review Office 2008, p.5)

Cultural responsiveness schools develop opportunities to involve parents in wider school activities that ultimately lead to involvement in school leadership and governance. They seek diversity within parent organisations such as boards of trustees and parent / teacher associations so that the collective voice of their community is catered for.

Cultural responsiveness at St Josephs Catholic School

Ngā kaitiaki mō ngā tamariki ō Hato Hōhepa – The guardians for the children of St Joseph’s School.

St Joseph’s School is made up of many different cultures. We are proud of this diversity and the gifts it brings our school. To embrace this diversity we have recently established a ‘Kaitiaki’ group.

Cultural Festival 2015

Kaitiaki is a group of parents, whānau, staff and community members that regularly meet together to look at issues relating to the success of our ethnically diverse students. Based around the concept of Rangatiratanga and Wānanga, we aim to raise student achievement through the strengthening of relationships between the parents, families, wider whānau and the school.

We hope to achieve our aim by:

  • being a voice for the parent community at both management level as well as at governance level.
  • providing the expertise, knowledge and connections needed for teaching staff to provide culturally inclusive practices within their learning programmes.
  • developing opportunities for our parent community to become more involved with the school in a partnership that benefits all stakeholders.

Kaitiaki are a hands on group. They drive our parent consultation evenings, our parent development workshops in Literacy, Numeracy and Digital technologies and are the key resource when celebrating the various language weeks within the school.

Māori and Pasifika Mentoring Programme

At St Joseph’s School we consistently identify Māori and Pasifika students, particularly boys, as being at risk of poor educational success. In an attempt to address this issue we developed a Māori and Pasifika mentoring programme.

Māori and Pasifika Mentoring Programme 2014

The aim of the programme is to transform the educational outcomes of our boys who were at risk of under-achieving by providing a mentoring programme, based upon the concept of Tuakana Teina, which builds upon classroom learning through educational activities outside of the classroom.

Whilst our classroom becomes the bush, the monitoring of academic achievement, attendance, behaviour and the establishment of relationships with the parents and whānau also forms a major part of what we do.

St Joseph’s Catholic School has a proud history of catering for the educational, cultural, spiritual, social and emotional needs of the students who choose our school for their primary education. When it comes to cultural responsive practice we are by no means perfect. The culture within our teaching team however, ensures that we are always learning, we are always listening and we are always open to new ideas and opportunities to do the best we can for the various learners we care for.


Cowie, B., Otrel-Cass, K., Glynn, T., & Kara, H., et al.(2011).Culturally responsive pedagogy and assessment in primary science classrooms: Whakamana tamariki. Wellington: Teaching Learning Research Initiative.

Donn, M., & Schick, R. (1995). Promoting Positive Race Relations in New Zealand Schools: Me Mahi Tātou | Education Counts. Retrieved from https://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/schooling/10022

Education Review Office. (2008, May 1). Why is effective parent engagement important? – Education Review Office. Retrieved from http://www.ero.govt.nz/National-Reports/Partners-in-Learning-Schools-Engagement-with-Parents-Whanau-and-Communities-May-2008/Introduction/Why-is-effective-parent-engagement-important

May, S. (2009, August). Hangaia te mātāpuna o te mōhio: learning foundations for Māori. Retrieved from https://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/80898/55461/2

The Royal Society of New Zealand. (2013, March). Languages in Aotearoa New Zealand « 2013 « Papers « Expert Advice « Royal Society of New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/expert-advice/papers/yr2013/languages-in-aotearoa-new-zealand/


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