• iceberg
  • boy with flowers
  • checking water quality
  • planet eclipse
  • solarsystem model
  • rangitoto trees
  • kids with test tubes
  • kids with earth
  • snowy mountains
  • teens in physics class
  • Rainbow Clouds

    Refraction and diffraction of light through ice crystals in the clouds

  • Philippa On The Ice

    Philippa On The Ice Philippa Werry at an Antarctic research camp 2016

New Zealand Science Teacher


Facilitating improved achievement of Maori students in science

Some arguments and evidence – a qualitative research study, by GRAHAM FOSTER.

This article first appeared in New Zealand Science Teacher in 2003 under the title 'Finding a better way to facilitate the improved achievement of Māori students in science'.

The National Administration Guidelines (reviewed)

NAG 1 requires us to:

- develop and implement teaching and learning strategies to address the needs of students and aspects of the curriculum;

- develop and make known to the school's community policies, plans and targets for improving the achievement of Māori students, in consultation with the school's Maori community

- provide appropriate career education and guidance for all students in year 7 and above, with a particular emphasis on specific career guidance for those students who have been identified by the school as being at risk of leaving school unprepared for the transition to the workplace or further education/training.

The new National Educational Priorities also indicate that we need to find ways to improve the achievements of Māori students. 

This is an extremely important issue. While one great benefit of scaffolding may be improved commitment and achievement of Māori students, the effects may also scaffold improvement by NESB students of many ethnicities, and it will also support students that are not NESB simply because the strategies support highly effective teaching and learning by all students. 

Issues facing Māori students

There are a wide variety of issues facing Māori children. These are similar to those faced by non-Māori children, but are compounded by cultural differences and sensitivities. The dominant culture within the education system is European and as such does not always reflect the needs of Māori pupils in general. This is apparent in several areas of the science curriculum, especially those of environment and identification. Other areas of relevance that have had a major impact on the loss of matauranga Māori include ecology, pharmaceutical and medical knowledge, and genetic modification1. The Ministry of Education website recommends that teachers need to make education more appropriate for Māori children through greater use of relevant contexts.

Consultation with Māori is required to ensure that matauranga Māori is being used appropriately2.

Why a particular focus in science?

The reasons why we need more Māori involvement in science have been very clearly summarized by McKinley3.
- There is a growing disparity between Māori demographics in relation the population as a whole and these demographics in scientific institutions at all levels.
- The system is failing to provide students who are scientifically literate.

- There is a need for everyone to contribute positively to the knowledge economy in a positive way if Aotearoa New Zealand is to compete successfully, and science is an essential part of that competition and part of a culturally diverse world.

So how do we improve achievement of Māori students in science? McKinley3 urges us to set up support systems, bring relevance and context, improve our techniques and use appropriate teaching strategies, include the excluded, study the ‘real stories’, include Māori language in relevant contexts, and study science in ‘Māori folk knowledge’, or ‘Māori technology’.  She continues by suggesting that we ‘bridge world views’ and ‘explore the beliefs, methods criteria for validity, and systems of rationality upon which other cultures’ knowledge of the world is built.

Current research suggests that this is a complex issue that requires consideration of two contrasting, distinct ‘knowledge systems’, the need to decide whether ‘assimilation’ or ‘advocacy’ for matauranga Māori is more appropriate, and  the need to consider and implement research findings that provide characteristics of ‘quality teaching for diverse students’.

This paper attempts to consider three perspectives:

1. It explores strategies that apply matauranga Māori’ in the science classroom to enable ‘educational capture’ and ‘engagement’ of Māori students in quality teaching, learning and assessment that have been specifically related to science.

2. It discusses the differences between the two knowledge systems and the implications of these for science teachers so they might weave ‘te kete’ science to legitimise and facilitate the inclusion of matauranga Māori into science. 

3. Finally it summarises the consultative research articles that exist at this time to determine what may be the effective strategies to improve achievement of Māori students in science. These may be related to both science and to a wider teaching context.

Why only Māori students?

The ‘National Education Priorities’ refer specifically to improving the achievement of Māori students. Therefore it would be justifiable to write this paper with complete commitment to only Māori students. However, many aspects of the research are very applicable to scaffolding improvement of achievement for all students. Science (and other) teachers are encouraged to infer that similar findings may be equally valid for many more groups of students.

Part 1: Building the framework of kaupapa Māori

There has been the suggestion4 that facilitation of this change should not be in the context of our thinking about “western science”. Rather, it needs to be set in the context of “whanaungatanga” or extended family values. It is asserted that whanaungatanga cannot stand by itself. Part of whanaungatanga involves the application of ‘turangawaewae’ and the inclusion of ‘aroha’. Without ‘whanaungatanga’, ‘turangawaewae’ would not exist, and so in depth ‘whanaungatanaga’ implies the incorporation of in-depth values. These assertions would seem to suggest that we need to start with this sense of kaupapa if we are to make the difference happen.

One very significant SET article, from Bishop and Glynn5, introduces metaphors of Kaupapa Māori  and discusses concepts of pedagogy in this context. They assert that “what is required is a pedagogy incorporating the re-assertion of Māori cultural aspirations, preferences and practices”.  

They continue by indicating that “...through such a pedagogy, structural issues of power and control, initiation, benefits, representation, legitimisation and accountability can be addressed in mainstream classes in ways that will eventually benefit all students.” They maintain that this theory builds on experiences in educational settings and research and focuses on the centrality of an analysis of power. Bishop and Glynn continue by quoting a detailed study of Māori medium primary schooling by Graham Smith6. This study “identified a series of fundamental principles, which are then extended into mainstream educational settings".

1. Tino Rangatiratanga

    Although this literally means ‘chiefly control’, it has Increasingly come to mean ‘self-determination’ and Bruner 19967 suggests that participation on one’s own terms brings commitment. Applebee (1996)indicates that commitment means learning. The implication is that students have the right to be involved in the decision-making processes about curriculum planning to the extent of sharing power over curriculum content and the directions that learning will take. Applebee suggests that this is the process of developing and participating in knowledge-in-action. 

How might it happen in the classroom?

-Ideally students will have some choice about what they want to learn.

- Use of culturally appropriate investigations is important e.g. the colour differences in the varieties of flax and the influence of soil, climate, disease, and pests may be investigated.

- When developing the science investigative skills, students might be given choices about the relationship to be investigated. One example might be a situation where students are discussing an investigation about time taken for yogurt to “go off”. Several alternatives for the independent variable, including temperature, flavor and brand might be given. They make a choice about what they might independent variable they might investigate. For example they may investigate either the effect of increased rain, or the effect of sunlight hours on the growth rate of a kowhai.

- Students may have more influence over the direction of their studies if the strategy of ‘differentiation’ is used. This may require application of the ‘Jigsaw’ strategy, or it may be based on providing several alternatives based on ‘learning styles’ or several alternatives based on ‘multiple intelligences’. For example, students may be grouped using jigsaw to compare the Māori legend and geological explanation of features such as the Moeraki Boulders, or Mt. Taranaki, or Rangitoto or the Southern Alps. If learning styles are to be facilitated then different groups might use aural, or poster, or descriptive presentations.  

- Typically, science teachers may ‘capture and engage’ students through use of strategies such as ‘multiple intelligences’, ‘jigsaw’, ‘3 level guide’ and ‘reading square’, together with other ‘learning through language’ strategies. The ‘0s and Xs’ strategy is an effective strategy. It allows students to choose three different ‘intelligences’ approaches that they prefer.

2. Taonga tuku iho
   (cultural treasures handed down)

Literally this means “treasures handed down”. Bishop and Glynn indicate that it may be taken to metaphorically mean the cultural aspirations that Māori people hold for their children. They regard it to include those messages that guide our relationships and interaction patterns. If it is accepted, then it means that Māori language, knowledge, culture and values are normal, valid and legitimate, and are a useful guide for classroom interactions. This may imply that we need to create contexts where to be Māori is to be normal and where Māori cultural identities are valued and affirmed. 

How might it happen in the classroom?

- When discussing various contexts it is best if at least both Māori and Pakeha names are used
for organisms and objects in as many contexts as possible.

- Teachers should acknowledge and actively teach Māori cultural values and include relevant Maori knowledge and ‘beliefs’ related to Science. For example the legend of the mountains on the thermal plateau near Taupo may be discussed alongside the geological history and comparisons made between these two, which helps discriminate the philosophical boundary of each knowledge system.  This might be extended to allowing students to choose any landscape feature and allowing students to compare Maori legend with geological ideas.  Another example is the need to discuss traditional Māori methods of conserving fisheries resources when studying ‘Conservation” issues. MSLW A.O 5.4

- There are many occasions in teaching where taonga tuku iho may be integrated very well into the learning program. Strategies successfully trialed include the use of PowerPoint presentations. These include a presentation about the special nature of our endemic plant life, the plants brought by the Māori that successfully and unsuccessfully made the transition to Aoteoroa, and the comparison between the Māori legend of how thermal activity occurred in Aoteoroa and the geological understanding.

3. Ako (reciprocal learning)

Literally this means ‘to teach and to learn’; metaphorically ‘ako’ emphasizes reciprocal learning. This means that the teacher and student share a partnership is the learning process, rather that the teacher being the source of all knowledge.
Teachers and learners can take turns in storying and re-storying their realities, either individually or in a group. Reciprocal learning and teaching promotes knowledge-in-action, as related to the various cultural elements being taught. One implication is that “active learning approaches are preferred, because in this way, the processes of knowledge in action are put into practice. Students can use the sense-making processes they bring to the relationship and share these with others as of right”.

1. The use of reciprocal learning strategies emphasises that learning is a social activity in all outcomes. 

2. There is some doubt from consultants that this can occur in the mainstream. However, the following examples may assist with effective implementation.

How might it happen in the classroom?

Critically, teachers must use engagement as primary criteria for lesson planning. Students must be actively involved. Examples:
- Instead of the teacher providing five quiz questions at the start of a lesson, ask five students to provide
a question each.- Provide time for students to vocalise their understanding using ‘perception checks’, and through orally based strategies such as ‘think-pair-share’, ‘ jigsaw’, reports on findings from differentiation strategies, ‘reading square’ and oral presentations.

- Confront the students with ‘problem-solving situations that generate higher level thinking e.g. if the wiring of a three-pin plug was incorrect, what might be the dangers?

- Assessment may focus on group outcomes rather than individual efforts. For example, when ‘jigsaw’ is used, it may be preferable to base an assessment on whole group presentation, or on total group score in a post-jigsaw test that might include the oral of sub-topics by members of the group that were not the ‘experts’ of that topic.

- Another effective strategy is the “three level guide” in which students need to read about a science-related issue then answer questions from each of the three levels of ‘cognitive questions’ i.e. Input (simple definitions, names etc),processing (compare,  what features distinguish…., explain what you think…..), and synthesis (what will happen if, discuss, which is best?)levels. This strategy may involve student teams working together to find the answers.

4. Kia piki ake i nga raruraru o te kainga
(mediation of socio-economic and home difficulties)

“When parents are incorporated into the education
of their children, on terms they can understand and approve of, then children do better at school.” The closer the students’ classroom experiences and their home experiences are, the more likely it becomes that students will be able to take part in the educational experiences designed at the school.

One consultant expressed considerable doubts about this and indicated that it may be better to keep home and school quite separate to allow the influences of the home to be minimised.

How might it happen in the classroom?
Māori people have cultural preferences for the way their problems will be dealt with.
- Teachers need to be aware of these preferences.
- Teachers need to develop a strong school/whānau network so that there is easy access to the home by the teacher and easy access to the teacher by the parent. 
- Schools might send representatives as guests at whānau meetings .
- Science faculties might ask for guidance on contexts for topics to be studied.
Through these channels of access, kaupapa and matauranga Maori aspects of science may be enhanced through open discussion, leading to better knowledge and integration.

5. Whānau (Extended family)

Where teachers establish whānau-type relationships in the classroom, a greater commitment to learning and accuracy will develop, and greater responsibility for the learning of others will occur.

Note: This is very important to ensure there is a good match between non-Māori science teachers and large numbers of Māori students. Schools need to ensure a good teacher-student match both culturally and in language.

How might it happen in the classroom?

Teachers need to be very aware of the cultural mix of their class and should try to integrate both cultural and language perspectives into the teaching. 

- Make students feel welcome.
- Meet the needs of each individual through appropriate recognition, analysis, and personal understanding.
- Provide check points in each lesson, and check that learning has occurred.
- Use the Blackboard Configuration including the setting of written objectives that can be checked. For example, use questions as objectives by writing them as “At the end of this lesson can I (list the objectives)? Students can be asked to answer these questions late in the lesson and this allows teachers to check learning. Make sure students know that the teacher is using this as a ‘helping’ strategy.
- Provide a classroom culture that encourages each student to become engaged and to have the confidence to ask questions.
- Overcome social and physical barriers to learning.

- Teachers must provide very effective feedback and allow students to correct ideas they do not immediately understand.  This may require restricting external assessment load.

- At specifically identified points in the Science programme it is possible to integrate programme components, including PowerPoint presentations,and discussions of science related issues that include Maori (and other cultural) perspectives.

6. Kaupapa (collective vision, philosophy)

The experience of the Kura Kaupapa movement shows that students achieve better when there is a close relationship, in terms of language and culture, between home and school. “The collectivist philosophy gives rise to the context which seeks to ensure that all students will benefit from the implementation of common set of goals and principles.”

Again it should be noted that this use of the term ‘kaupapa’ may not be strictly correct, since one source referred to it as “a topic or subject proposed”.

How might it happen in the classroom?

- Teachers need to be involved in student/school/community activities such as sports and cultural events so that Māori students relate to their science teachers in other contexts; this encourages common goals.

Bishop and Glynn assert the following fundamental principles:

- Culture counts!

- Learners can initiate interactions.

- Learners have a right to self-determination over learning styles and sense-making processes as an essential part of the power-sharing process.

- Learning is active, problem-based, integrated and holistic.

- Learning and teaching positions are reciprocal (ako) and knowledge is co-created.

- Collaboration with others is used to validate sense-making processes.

- Teachers and learners need to interchange their roles.

- Motivation is intrinsic to the collaborative achievement of tasks and the construct of meaning.

- Scaffolding needs to be used to build independent learning

- Relevance is very important to provide links between school learning and everyday life so that best understanding occurs.

- Problem-solving, critical thinking and creative analysis are all very important teaching strategies to develop these lifelong skills.

- School and home aspirations are complementary. They develop several ways to make changes including narrative pedagogies, problem-based active methodology and curriculum integration.

These provide some ideas about the strategies we might use to meet the needs of Māori students. However, it is essential that, if we are to use te reo and matauranga Māori then we also recognise the significant differences between western science and indigenous knowledge and how these differences may be used to advantage both Māori and Pakeha students.

In summary there are some Key Strategies for Science teachers: (this list below is not exhaustive.)

- Be interested in them as people and pronounce their name properly. Build trust.

- Apply cultural sensitivity to Māori e.g. stand in the classroom and do not sit on desks as this is insensitive to Māori cultural values.

- Recognise their prior cultural knowledge by sharing ideas about relevant events and life e.g. discuss their traditional foods when discussing ‘balanced  diets’, discuss their weapons and how they used them when discussing ‘force and energy’, and discuss their use of plants as sources of natural healing when discussing health and disease.

- Survey, then place in groups to encourage mutual support and listening to others.

- Clearly signal the intentions of the period’s learning and use feed-forward to define expectations.

- Check understanding of instructions.

- Use effective teaching strategies that provide engagement including the use of problem solving,
student generated questions, and cooperative learning strategies. e.g. apply Jigsaw, think-pair-share, perception checks, and shared feedback.

- Use creative strategies, including flow chart summaries, visualisation and oral discussion of science-related issues.

- Emphasise thinking strategies. Use the Blackboard configuration BBC strategy; use learning through language strategies.

- Provide resources based on ‘multiple intelligences’ with a diary of effort attached as the intra-personal task.

- Help them compile study strategies (e.g. help compile study notes and flash cards) and to programme their expected efforts, actual efforts and finally critique their own learning effort.

- Reinforce literacy by using white-boarding and ask students to write a letter to the teacher.

Part 2.
Recognising the difference between Western science (WS), and indigenous knowledge (IK).

In her paper presented at the Royal Society of New Zealand, Wellington, in 1996, Mere Roberts9 ‘explores some of the epistemological and pedagogical issues raised by the teaching of indigenous knowledge and Western science as distinct but not entirely dissimilar knowledge systems with a single curriculum framework’.

She maintains “we need to have some understanding of alternative knowledge systems and world views   …by virtue of Treaty of Waitangi obligations".  She says this is very important in New Zealand because of legislative requirements, such as the Environment Act (1986), the Conservation Act (1987) and the Resource Management Act (1991). She notes that Durie10 has stated that “full understanding requires the capacity to learn from quite different systems of knowledge and to appreciate that each has a validity of its own within its own cultural context".

Her approach is to take IK as the ‘known’ and then to compare WS with IK. This raises the question: “Is science indigenous knowledge? If not, why not?”

A caution before we get too far

Perhaps it would be better to rename Roberts’ term “Western science” as “empirical science (ES)” since it is now really a global phenomenon, having being adopted by the Japanese, Chinese, etc.

So, to resume… She determines the “demarcation criteria” of ES by examining similarities and differences.

Existence of an empirical database

Similarities: Stores of accumulated knowledge form ‘empirical databases’ and are common to both IK and ES. The Māori of older times had a very sound knowledge of the natural surroundings and applied it to solve the ‘economic problems’. Understanding about fauna and flora was “of practical interest to them”, satisfied their desire for knowledge for its own sake and enabled better utilisation of resources. This is relatively similar to the quest for scientific knowledge.

Differences: IK was accumulated over a very long time period and is mostly qualitative, though some quantitative ideas are included.  In contrast, ES databases are comparatively short term, primarily quantitative, and supplemented by experimental data gathered under controlled rather than natural conditions.

Ability to construct theories and make predictions

Similarities: “Theoretical constructs are common to both systems, although their relative importance in each is subject to debate”. Roberts discusses the example of the navigational model used by Pasifika people rather than Māori.

Differences: The principle difference occurs in the way ES treats investigations far more rigorously. She particularly stresses the way unexpected, anomalous results may meet considerable resistance, “particularly if the theory is long-standing and well supported. “In contrast, IK systems may resort to ad hoc hypotheses or additional explanations of anomalous observations to maintain the authority and cohesion of the group.


Similarities: Both IK and ES involve repeated practical tests of the database and are based on the “test of time”. The ability of Pasifika people to make repeat voyages is discussed as an example.

Differences: The principle difference is that tests of IK largely involve trial and error, while ES tests are ideally conducted in a laboratory with strict control of variables, or in the field involving pre-selected parameters.

Explanation of cause and effect

Similarities: While both IK and ES involve explanations of cause and effect, the similarities quickly cease.

Differences: ES limits its sources of information to the natural world, while IK includes the supernatural world as a source of information. ES involves demonstration of repeatability and its published explanations invite peer scrutiny and criticism. IK explanations make frequent use of supernatural, religious and other subjective sources of information, such as dreams, and combine these with objective information into an holistic explanation and understanding.

Function of the knowledge system

Similarities: Few similarities exist and “this aspect represents a critical junction at which the two systems clearly diverge.”

Differences: ES claims to be based on objective or neutral information and is therefore ‘value free’.

IK openly includes values since it seeks to combine
all information, values, ethics and other cultural aspects to maintain and stabilize the society structure.

Roberts claims that other key differences between ES and IK include the following:

- Maori have a very close affinity to the land, and this relationship, expressed through whakapapa
or genealogy, as well as through iwi as a form of self identification, defines IK systems as “specific” or “local”. In contrast ES claims to be “global”.

- Since IK includes religious and supernatural information, IK is seen to be a much less restrained knowledge system than ES. However, because of their specificity to place and to culture, the explanation power of IK systems appears to have more limited problem-solving potential.

- In ES scientists go to greater lengths to separate themselves from being advocates or purveyors of society’s morals. They also claim independence from society’s philosophical and religious beliefs.

Their intention is to find out, and/or solve problems. In contrast, IK systems are “value laden” and seek to provide everyday knowledge about the environment, moral rules and ethical guidelines that guide personal and group behaviour towards each other and the environment.

Roberts’ discussion indicates that, when starting to write the paper the idea of assimilation was favoured, but this was soon rejected to be replaced by the “non-interventionalist pedagogy based on the notion that ‘there are different ways of seeing and understanding the natural world around us, each of which is equally valid in terms of its own social context’11.”  She quotes McKinley who suggests that “science knowledge is designed specifically to marginalise other knowledge, indigenous or not. Roberts suggests that this leaves matauranga Māori (Māori science) in a ‘no-win’ situation, as science gets to define science.

Roberts explains in papers prepared for MoRST, that traditional Māori knowledge (matuaranga) was more specifically defined as “Māori research, science and technology”. This in turn stimulated heated debate in academic circles about whether traditional Māori knowledge is ‘science’.  Durie11 (1996) has argued that “matauaranga Maori is different from science and should not be confused with it. In a later paper Roberts agrees with this view by saying that for too often and for too long Māori have sought equity with Pakeha by giving themselves and their taonga Pakeha names. She argues that matauranga Māori can and should stand on its own epistemological feet and should not seek to validate itself by calling itself ‘science’. 

The implications for science teachers

Perhaps the model set by Roberts in her paper is the one that should be followed by science teachers too. That is, that we do not try to assimilate mataraunga Maori into our science teaching, but that we provide strong advocacy for it as a part of the culture of Aotearoa New Zealand and recognise it as a valid and legitimate knowledge system. By introducing te reo into environmental perspectives (names of fauna and flora, kainga, and the concept of rahui, etc.), we are recognising that both knowledge systems are valid and hold a place in the education system of Aotearoa New Zealand. However, equally we need to emphasise the differences between ES and IK. Indeed, this comparison should provide a challenging focus for both students and teachers.

Perhaps this strategy may provide the initial fuel to ignite teachers trying differentiation and active learning strategies (ako), that encourage the view that Māori language, knowledge and culture may be legitimised in the science classroom (taonga tuku iho) and therefore allow some choice of curriculum content by students (tino rangitiratanga). Further, the discussion of IK and its comparison with ES may provide a very thought-provoking extension for students with special abilities.

Part 3.

Some more generic considerations

It is also important that we return to the studies of Bishop and Glynn, who suggest that teachers shall make a significant difference if they facilitate:
- more effective home-school relationship that helps parents and students to value their education.
- reduced influence of societal values that label Māori students as failures before they start learning.
- genuine and sincere efforts to be welcoming, present themselves as real people, and discuss problems quietly, rather than yelling at students.
- learning through use of a variety of interesting and engaging strategies. These might include storytelling and reciprocal learning.
- structural strategies such as allowing students to sit with friends, being well prepared for lessons, setting up and maintaining secure class routines, and use of group work in more mixed ability classes.

The Ministry of Education web site2 provides the report '
Toward making Achieving Cool (AIMHI)' which:

- suggests use the of Ipsative assessment practices in which achievement is measured against previous personal achievement levels, rather than against those of other students.
- identifies barriers to achievement such as family, relative maturation age, language development, and the need to model high achievement.
- Identifies the need to assist students to make long term plans, discourage the occurrence of ‘put-downs’ and ridicule.

- encourages teachers to create a climate of achievement in the school, while trying to minimize the effects of the different ‘worlds’ of the student.
- encourages teachers to give emphasis to literacy and numeracy.

Making A Difference in the Classroom” by Hill and Hawk (2000)15 identifies the factors that are most important to making a difference with Māori and Pasifika students:

- Teacher attitudes and philosophy

- Importance of the group.

- Teacher/student relationship (and this is pivotal if the student is vulnerable to lower attainment)

- Pedagogical knowledge and skills (effective preparation, structuring lessons, differentiated learning, and effective formative assessment).

- Behaviour management that includes effective routines, high expectations, avoids confrontation, and personal responsibility.

- Classroom environment that is clean, organised, includes stimulating displays and good seating.

- The need to educate for life including integrated learning, being aware of the teachable moment and effective examination preparation.

- Increasing the locus of control to mutually negotiate the transfer of the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student.

Kay Hawk maintains that modelling by teachers is perhaps the most important factor to support improved engagement and motivation.

These are useful ideas that apply to not only Māori students, but to all students.

Quality teaching for diverse students in schooling - best evidence synthesis

After all this discussion we must also consider the most recent research from the Ministry of Education.

The June 2003 research paper12 published by the Ministry of Education, is “intended to contribute to the development of evidence-based and evolving dialogue about pedagogy amongst policy makers, educators and researchers that can inform development and optimize outcomes for students in New Zealand schooling.” It seems that evidence reveals that up to 59% of variance in student performance is attributable to differences between teachers and classes, while up to almost 21%, but generally less, is attributable to school level variables.

The 'Best Evidence Synthesis' has produced 10 characteristics of quality teaching derived from a synthesis of research findings of evidence linked to student outcomes.

Evidence shows that teaching that is responsive to student diversity can have very positive impacts on low and high achievers at the same time. The 10 characteristics are interdependent and draw upon evidence-based approaches that assist teachers to meet this challenge.

The 10 characteristics:

1. Quality teaching is focused on student achievement (including social outcomes) and facilitates high standards of student outcomes for heterogeneous groups of students.

2. Pedagogical practices enable classes and other learning groupings to work as caring, inclusive and cohesive learning communities.

 3. Effective links are created between school and other cultural contexts in which students are socialised to facilitate learning.

4. Quality teaching is responsive to student learning processes.

5. Opportunity to learn is effective and sufficient.

6. Multiple task contexts support learning cycles.

7. Curriculum goals, resources including ICT usage, task design, teaching and school practices are effectively aligned.

8. Pedagogy scaffolds and provides appropriate feedback on students’ task engagement.

9. Pedagogy promotes learning orientation, student self-regulation, metacognitive strategies and thoughtful student discourse.

10. Teachers and students engage constructively in goal-oriented assessment.

The CBA Resource14 suggests many simple but effective strategies to improve the achievement of Māori (and other) students. These include:

- effective consultation with Māori groups
- providing special involvement of iwi kaumatua in welcome of Year 9 students and new staff
- having a staff waiata.

In science (and other subjects) these ideas extend to: 
- providing study support for students
- giving encouragement and feedback to students
- not accepting mediocrity
- publishing student work as recognition

- provision for student voice in decision-making.

Rather than discuss these fully, it may be sufficient to refer science teachers to these documents and suggest that science programmes need to focus on excellent teaching and learning. Structured literacy and numeracy programs are essential. Teaching and assessment practices need to be supportive and provide positive feedback that scaffolds improved achievement. Teachers must use methods to identify best strategies and should respond to learning difficulties identified by assessment.

In several parts of this paper it has been identified that the most effective way to improve Māori (and other students’) achievement in science is to provide effective and responsive teaching that is engaging, supportive and develops student understandings about themselves and the way they learn. Pauline Waiti of NZCER confirmed this during the consultation process for this paper. She firmly believes effective teaching matters most.

Conclusion for science educators

These findings still leave teachers with quite a large challenge to understand the scope of the National Education Priority to “increase the achievement of Maori students.” It requires: 
- reconsideration of Māori values and fundamental principles so that teaching and learning provides best experience learning contexts and integration of cultural perspectives 
- the translation of these values and principles into the educational context and practice to make the learning inclusive of these cultural values
- comparisons between indigenous knowledge and empirical science so that students may see the true nature of science while noticing the extent of similarity  
- the possible implication that we do not try to assimilate mataraunga Māori into our science teaching, but that we provide strong advocacy for it as a part of the culture of Aotearoa New Zealand and recognize it as a valid and legitimate knowledge system
- consideration of school values and social expectations in and beyond the school
- implementation of quality teaching and learning through excellent pedagogy and genuine efforts by teachers to make a difference through strategies that recognise student learning styles rather than the teacher’s preferred teaching style 
- implementation of effective strategies that engage and scaffold learning and provide feedback
- teachers need to very clearly and continuously express that they will not accept mediocrity from any student, no matter what their ethnic origin might be.

Conclusions for science education and assessment

A broad, culturally inclusive science programme should be developed to include a wide range of learning and assessment procedures. 

If the achievement level of Māori (and other) students is to be improved then teachers must be encouraged to use a variety of teaching strategies that encourage engagement; teachers need to provide strong advocacy for matauranga Maori and to show that this is accepted as a legitimate knowledge system. Teachers should put aside their preferred teaching strategy to recognise student needs and learning styles; they need to implement strategies that provide attention to and recognition of individual students; strategies of feed forward are practiced; there is a greater emphasis on co-construction, metacognitive strategies and formative assessment.

The introduction of NCEA should provide greater opportunity to develop, implement and apply strategies that lead to engagement providing teachers and school policies limit the amount of assessment required and allow for the development and use of several forms of assessment. Whether Maori students need to have the scaffolding of assessment at every level is yet to be determined. Perhaps more emphasis on formative assessment and feed-forward may result in a gain of time for more effective teaching and learning, leading to improved achievement. Teachers should try to use a variety of assessment modes rather than only external examination mode Achievement Standards. This will require development of skills to ensure valid, fair assessment.

It challenges the Ministry of Education and NZQA to provide more assessment modes in Science Achievement Standards. Professional development programmes similar to those provided for NCEA may be needed to address issues of metacognition, effectiveness and responsive teaching and assessment.

The National Education Priority to “improve attainment of Māori students” has brought major issues of effective teaching, learning and assessment that all science teachers need to work through. It is extremely important that the Ministry of Education and NZQA recognise these issues. There need to be sufficient and satisfactory professional development opportunities for teachers to process the issues, together with the hard copy resources required for scaffolding the implementation of this priority.


My thanks to Kay Hawk, Margaret Bendall of EGGS, Pauline Waiti of NZCER and John Buckeridge of Auckland University of Technology for their time and consultative advice. Special thanks to Mere Roberts of the University of Auckland who was a wonderful mentor for development of ideas.

It is interesting to note that all the recent educational research simply reinforces the statement made by McKinley in 1997.

Final comment:
As a Pakeha New Zealander, it has been a challenge to come to terms with many of these issues. I hope that this paper has generated ideas that are useful to support other teachers in their pathway to consider and understand the issue. The list of strategies has been taken from experience; it has taken considerable time to take this journey. I hope that the ideas will provide enrichment and a way forward for science teachers in our efforts to support and extend the attainment of Maori and Pasifika students – indeed, all students.


1.   Watson, L   “Test Tube and the Kete: Science and matauranga Maori in the  Wai 262 Claim “
Paper presented to “Science, Culture and Fear” conference 22 November 2002 at Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington.

2.  www.minedu.govt.nz  New Zealand Ministry of Education web site 2003.

3. McKinley, Elizabeth    “Maori and Science Education”  in “Developing the Science Curriculum in Aoteoroa New Zealand” edited by Beverley Bell and Robyn Baker, Longman  1997.

4. Tauroa, Hiwi “Maoritanga in Practice”, Office of the Race Relations Conciliator.

5. Bishop, R and Glynn, T “Kaupapa messages for the mainstream”, School of Education, University of Waikato SET No 1, 2000.

6. Graham Smith “Kaupapa Maori as transformative praxis” Unpublished Ph.D thesis, Dept. of Education, University of Auckland, 1997.

7. “The Culture of Education”, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997.

8. Applebee, A “Curriculum as Conversation”, Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 1996.

9. Roberts, Mere “Indigenous knowledge and Western science: perspectives from the Pacific”, Science + Technology Education + Ethnicity- an Aotearoa perspective, The Royal Society of New Zealand, Miscellaneous Series 50.

10. M.H. Durie “Maori Science and Maori Development”, Address to the Faculty of Science, Massey University 18 July 1996.

11. Roberts, M “Can and how should disparate knowledge systems be worked together? A case study from Aotearoa/New Zealand”, in Turnbull D and Watson-Verran, H “Working disparate knowledge systems together” Sciences in Society Working Paper, pg 15, Geelong: Deakin University Press, 1994.

12. Durie, M.H. “Matauranga Maori: Iwi and the Crown” A discussion paper presented to a hui at the Sir James Henare Maori Research Centre, University of Auckland, 26 September 1996.

13. “Quality Teaching for diverse students in schooling: best evidence synthesis”, Ministry of Education, June 2003.

14. “A resource to improve Maori student achievement”, CBA Education, Hamilton, New Zealand.

15. Hawk, K, Tumana Cowley, E, Hill, J, and Sutherland, S “The importance of the teacher/student relationship for Maori and Pasifika students” IPDER Masset University, SET 3 2002


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