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Culturally responsive e-learning pedagogy

Māori pedagogical frameworks & relationship with technology tools

This post is an excerpt from a project I have been working on lately, if you'd like to have a browse through the full resource have a look at this site.  The overall findings confirm that the approach to inclusive and culturally responsive pedagogy starts with relationships, and getting to know the learners - this is applicable in all teaching and learning situations and not uniquely with Māori ākonga - eLearning can be used in a way to collaborate with community and connect learners to their past, present and future places in society.

While there is no specific pedagogical model to support eLearning and no pedagogical model specifically for Māori it is possible to interweave many of the unique components of both to support successful outcomes (figure 1.1). A large amount of research has been completed to identify the unique components of kaupapa Māori for successful learning and eLearning. This post identifies some of the main elements of kaupapa Māori for learning and eLearning.

Figure 1.1. Designing eLearning for Māori in the digital age. Adapted from Mishra & Koehler (2006)

Importance of cultural identity in eLearning

Firstly it is important to be clear about the current understandings around different approaches to education for Māori, and then look at the potential enhancements applicable when integrating an eLearning approach.

"New Zealand has a commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi and recognition of Māori as tangata whenua. Achievement results show that schools do not currently engage Māori learners, or meet their needs to the same extent as non-Māori, and Māori achievement will only improve through targeted efforts". (Educational Review Office, Introduction section, para, 3. 2008).

So then how do we ensure Māori learners are engaged?  Kearsley & Shneiderman (1999) consider the links between engagement and motivation considering how students are intrinsically motivated by the meaningful nature of the learning environment and activities.  For Māori learning there then needs to be learning environments and activities that are meaningful to them as Māori.  Neal and Collier (2006, para. 5) state that working within a culturally appropriate framework acknowledges the value and importance of Māori kaupapa.  There is also frequent comment in the literature of 'being Māori' in learning.  In the Ministry of Education [MOE] 2013-2017 Māori Education Strategy- Ka Hikitia, there is clear focus on Māori being Māori in their learning:

"This vision means ensuring that all Māori students, their parents and their whanau participate in and contribute to an engaging and enjoyable educational journey that recognises and celebrates their unique identity, language and culture" (MOE, 2013, p.13).

This opinion is supported in much of the literature and reports that have been commissioned by the Ministry of Education.

"We know that Māori do much better when education reflects and values their identity, language and culture ..." (MOE, 2013,p.6).

This vision in Ka Hikitia identifies five principles of a Māori approach to learning: the significance of the Treaty of Waitangi, incorporation of identity, language and culture, ako, a two way teaching and learning process, and productive partnerships acknowledging the connection of students to whanau.

Collaborative approaches and the importance of relationships have also been identified in the literature (Greenwood and Te Aika, 2008, p.6) including the concept of visibility ‘kanohi kitea’ (Ferguson, 2008, p.2) Thus we start to see how Māori culture and identity (kaupapa) can be incorporated into education, part of which will be eLearning. Both eLearning and the incorporation of kaupapa Māori into eLearnng are relatively new fields of education (Tiakiwai and Tiakiwai, 2010, p.6). 

Responsive elements of e-learning and cultural identity

The following section reviews some of the elements of kaupapa Māori and their relationships to learning and eLearning, these components are inextricably linked and rarely exist in isolation, many of the elements support each other in a symbiotic approach to Maori and eLearning.

Ako has been identified as an important educational pedagogy when working with akonga Māori and is described as a two way learning process between the teacher and student, both learning from one another (MOE, 2013, p.16; Ferguson, 2008, p.2 ). There is significant work by the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand (2004) regarding how eLearning is relevant and effective for Māori learners. A two-day hui involving 28 participants from differing educational backgrounds used workshops to discuss what eLearning should look like for Māori. The groups established that ‘e-ako’ incorporates both teaching and learning and is a conceptual framework for using eLearning as a tool. Figure 1.2 highlights the main aspects involved with ‘e-ako’ pedagogy; collaboration and relationships are principles that underpin the framework. A relationship between ako and constructivist learning models has been identified (ITPNZ, n.d., p.17).  Creating new knowledge through constructivism, and then harassing the power of e-learning to allow authentic connections with other people, communities and cultures - therefore leading to connectivism (Siemens, 2005), suggests eLearning can be used as a vehicle that can enable a more culturally responsive pedagogy.  An example of this in context could be the use of an online social media network to connect with other learners, or professionals to further experience and knowledge in a particular field.

Figure 1.2. Diagram of e-ako pedagogy (Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand, 2004)

Collaborative approaches to learning are reliant on interaction, relationships with the teacher and other students are important. The MOE (2008, Responding to Diversity: What Does This Mean in Practice: Māori section, para. 3) indicates a need to plan course interaction including face to face and online communication, social and task orientated activities.  eLearning has also opened up opportunities to network with others from around the country (Porima, n.d., p.9).   Collaboration provides support with learning and in turn whanaungatanga (figure 1.3).  eLearning courses that offer limited interaction online create feelings of isolation and threaten student engagement.  This support then requires the teacher's visibility online as described by Ferguson (2008, p.2) as ‘kanohi kitea’ – someone who is seen as ‘ahi kaa’ or keeping the home fires burning, creating a sense of belonging for learners – not only beneficial for Māori but all students.  The importance of relationships signals blended learning (,a combination of face to face and online learning) approaches as preferable for akonga Māori (Waiti, 2005, cited in Tiakiwai and Tiakiwai, 2010, p.9).

Productive partnerships and the importance of the students' connection to whanau requires acknowledgement and involvement of whanau in student learning (MOE, 2013,p.18). Condie & Munro also found that there were clear benefits from integrating ICT to enhance home-school links:

"Research into ICT-facilitated home–school links has found that they can foster the development of effective relationships between schools and parents, through email communication, for example, resulting in greater parental involvement in their children’s education in general." (2007, p. 72)

Condie & Munro (2007) review several attempts at collaborating between home-school using ICT; one of the issues that was raised in their observations was the potential inequality of access to the internet.  However, since then the Maniakalani Trust in Auckland has set out to provide equitable access and engaging eLearning opportunities for low socio-economic areas of Auckland.  Maniakalani also recognises that this home-school link is extremely important and has set up provision of internet access throughout the homes of many low-income families within the catchment areas of the original 7 pilot schools.  The approach has been researched rigorously and the findings show above average improvements in e-asstlle scores as well as other non-traditional measurements of achievement such as digital literacy, digital citizenship and community engagement (Jesson & McNaughton, 2014).  This has been seen as a successful model and has nationwide attention, it is in demand for much of New Zealand, however this is not an approach that can be replicated in every part of the country as there are many complex factors involved which were described in the issues and challenges section.

As stated the concepts of kaupapa Māori in learning and eLearnng do not sit separately, the model in figure 1.3 demonstrates relationships or 'interweaving' between them. The model allows the collaborative aspect of eLearning to amplify many of the beneficial elements of this summary of a Māori pedagogy, enhancing the socio-constructivist approach (Stucki, 2012).  However, one essential re-occurring theme was mentioned in much of the literature reviewed around Māori pedagogy - collaboration which leads into whanaungatanga and high quality relationships (as highlighted in Macfarlane's (2004) 'Educultural wheel').  Emphasising that relationships within teaching reflect a relational Māori ontology which reaches beyond learning theories and is fundamental to who they are socially, politically, spiritually and culturally (Stucki p.9).  Through building good links with family the teacher or school can then develop Kotahitanga - a sense of belonging, manaakitanga - an ethic of caring, which will both in turn affect the overall rangatiratanga.  A simple example of this through using eLearning is to share the e-portfolio of the student with whanau members so they can comment and reinforce positive work done within the school walls.  

Figure 1.3

In support of this Mead (2003) also agrees that Māori values and principles (tikanga) such as whakawhanaungatanga (establishing relationships), and manaakitanga should be embraced and upheld respectfully. Through the consistency in the literature reviews of these outstanding factors we can only assume that Māori learners do not come into education with an empty school bag but instead they bring with them their kete of knowledge, aroha (love), and tautoko (support) of their whānau, whereby integrating their home-life with their school-life - this must be fostered in the learning environment.

Concepts of collaboration and communal good (Greenwood and Te Aika, p.6) are similar to the collectivism cultural learning styles described by Hofstede (2001) which differ from more individualistic learning styles of students who prefer to work on their own. The student centered and personalised learning approaches which tend to be flagship phrases in the contemporary eLearning landscape, may need to be re-considered in the culturally responsive context.  These phrases indicate that the learner is operating on their own and away from the influence of any other learners - as the literature has emphasised, the process of whanaungatanga is the fundamental aspect of engaging learners - leading to positive educational outcomes.  It is essential that the learners develop a sense of personal agency which also shows consideration of others in their learning journeys.


Education Review Office. (n.d). Dimension 1: Student learning - engagement, progress and achievement.Retrieved from Education Review office website: The-Evaluative-Questions-Prompts-and-Indicators/Dimension-1-Student-Learning-Engagement-Progress-and-Achievement)

Condie, R., & Munro, B. (2007). The impact of ICT in schools: Landscape review, (January). Retrieved from

Ferguson, S. L. (2008). Key elements for a Maori e-Learning framework. MAI Review, 3(3). Retrieved from

Greenwood, J., & Te Aika, L. (2008). Hei tauira: Teaching and learning for success fro Maori in tertiary settings. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education

Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture's consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications

Jesson, R., & McNaughton, S. (2014). Manaiakalani Evaluation Programme (pp. 1–75). Auckland.

Kearsley, G & Shneiderman, B. (1999). Engagement theory: A framework for technology based teaching and learning. Retrieved from:

Macfarlane, A. (2004) Kia hiwa ra! Listen to Culture - Māori students’ plea to educators. Wellington: NZCER.

Mead, H. M. (2003). Tikanga Maori: Living by Maori values. Wellington: Huia.

Ministry of Education. (2008). Designing for diversity. Retrieved from the Ako Aotearoa website:

Ministry of Education. (2013). Me Korero - Let’s Talk! Ka Hikitia - Accelerating Success 2013-2017 (p. 30). Wellington.

Neal, Terry, & Collier, Hohaia. (2006). Weaving kaupapa Māori and e-Learning. He Puna Korero: Journal of Maori and Pacific Development, 7(2), 68–73.

Porima, L. (n.d.). Understanding the needs of Maori learners for the effective use of eLearnng. Wellington, New Zealand: ITPNZ. Retrieved July 15th from

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3–10. doi:

Stucki, P. (2012). A Maori Pedagogy: Weaving the Strands Together. Kairaranga, 13(1), 7–15. Retrieved from

Tiakiwai, S., & Tiakiwai, H. (2010). A literature review based on virtual learning environments (VLEs) and e-Learning in the context of te reo Maori and kaupapa Maori education. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.


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