Learning styles and strategies in the Maori language classroom

“Helping teachers to understand their students better as a means of achieving successful teaching and learning outcomes is an integral part of teacher education and professional development” (Taiapa, 2011).

The following article SPA: Dont force Te Reo on teachers – National – NZ Herald News raises more issues about compulsory te reo Māori in the education system; however, I was more intrigued and focused on only one specific aspect of the article as indicated in the following quote rather than on te reo being compulsory…

“In education the Councils focus is on supporting teachers to understand Maori students better” (Dr Pita Sharpels, 2011).

My interest is ‘how are teachers currently addressing this issue’, what literature have or are they currently consulting that addresses this issues or is there any research and/or literature that addresses this issue specifically speaking to a Māori audience, in particularly the Maori student in a secondary school context’ and how is the Maori Youth Council (MYC) addressing this issue. Although MYC was formed in September, 2010, I do admire their desire and determination and I would like to see them develop into a strong entity for many years to come and not become a one hit wonder to be forgotten within a year. Access the full Maori Youth Council Report here.

I believe that part of the issue for teachers to know and understand their students better is to know a range of ‘learning styles and strategies’ that they can apply to their students, in this case, Māori students as indicated in the context of the previous quote. Such an undertaking ideally would require teachers to have a degree of cultural background knowledge within the greater theme of Maori epistemology as a vehicle to inform and help them to understand their Maori students better. For, it seems that knowing your students better can help teachers, teach better.

Nevertheless I would also ask what would teachers need to know/learn in order to reach a sufficient understanding that would make some significant educational difference with their Maori students, who would determine that and how much would be too much or too little. These are obvious question to consider throughout the planning and implementation stages; however, I won’t provide any answers here due to the complexity and shear volume of pages that such an undertaking would require.

Nevertheless, I will briefly mention that there is a range of literature that addresses issues about learning styles and strategies for different groups (age not ethnicity) of learners that can be helpful for understanding students, for example, Principle of Language Learning and Teaching (Brown, 2000). However, the problem is that this model speaks to a Western audience in a very general and universal sense, and although some of the theories can be applied to students whether Maori or otherwise, they can not accommodate or fully account for a Maori oriented psyche. This would need to be done by New Zealand researchers, teachers and academics by building up, developing and contributing to the literature in this area in order to advance pedagogy and learning from a Maori perspective.

For teachers in general, but Maori language teachers in particular knowing students’ learning styles and strategies is critical for the teachers’ knowledge base, consequently facilitating successful teaching and learning experiences in the classroom. However, teachers should plan to use a variety of teaching methodologies to cover the broad range of diverse learning styles and strategies that students will bring to the classroom.

I have chosen to talk about this important topic, without elaborating on te reo Maori as a compulsory subject. That’s another subject that I’ll leave for later.

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