Saturday, 28 July 2012

Collecting Maori Student Voice

Recently I have been collecting the student voice of Maori students. The purpose of this has was to inform a series of PD sessions for the school staff about how we may provide better meet the needs of our Maori students.

The following is a summary of some of the students responses.

Students want the freedom to put learning into a context that is relevant them

  • As teachers we talk about making choices that make learning relevant to students but students what more power  to tell YOU how the learning is relevant o them
  • Students self-identified themselves as being social learners. We like learning by discussing and collaboration.
  • Difficult to adapt to quiet, individual learning environment
  • Feel most comfortable when talking or there is noise in the background
  • They are aware that other ethnic groups learn differently to them and ‘fit the expected mould’ better – identified Asian and Pakeha students
  • Students are keenly aware of negative stereotyping of Maori but want to be seen as individuals.
  • When asked if it is important to them that their teachers know they are Maori students responded that ‘it depends’ – they feel it is important in their teachers knowing them but fear their teacher may make unfair generalisations about them according to negative Maori stereotyping.
  • Students feel within the Maori community they are allowed to make mistakes but that they don’t define them as they sometimes do outside the classroom. Whare as safe place where they can be themselves, receive support and are more understood
  • Students want to learn WITH their teachers and diffuse the strict teacher-student hierarchy.
  • We want to understand the learning process more. Why do we have to be quiet? Want to use technology in the classroom, “why do I have to write it down when I can just take a picture of it”

My next step was to run a series of PD sessions for staff. Each session was linked to our appraisal document, Principles of the NZC (particularly Treaty of Waitangi and unpacking what it looks like in the curriculum) and Ka Hikitia. Three sessions were developed under the following themes:

#1. Language and Relationships
  • I played a series of video clips of students discussing their feelings that it makes a huge difference when teachers pronounce Maori words correctly. Students highlighted that it’s OK if teachers  get it wrong as long as they are seen to be making an effort to get it right. Students said they were willing to work with teachers to help them get it right and that showing respect for their language indicated to them respect for their culture.
  • One teacher highlighted a strategy he was using to improve Maori language use in his classroom. He labelled Science lab equipment in English and Maori on the student instruction sheets but only in Maori where the equipment was stored thus supporting students in using Maori words when gathering their equipment.
  • We then ran a mini pronunciation session focusing on four commonly used  words. We laminated them and put them up in the staff room for future reference and practiced four or five new words in each of the subsequent PD sessions.
  • In addition to this PD session we offered ‘Help with Te Reo’ sessions at lunchtime led by Maori students in the Whare.

#2 Connecting in the Classroom
  • When collecting student voice students identified they don’t always want to be identified as Maori for fear of negative stereotyping or that they will not meet cultural expectations of students and teachers. Some students expressed that when a teacher calls on them as an expert when viewing Maori content, they feel shame if they don’t know the answer. Strategies for making Maori students feel safe in the classroom were discussed and solutions such as checking with students before you call on them in front of the class identified.
  • One teacher discussed how she had worked alongside a student when helping him write an essay, spending some extra time out of class and scaffolding the learning. This resulted in a change in his behaviour and attitude in the classroom.
  • I also presented some snapshots of visual displays of Maori cultural inclusiveness in the classroom and challenged teachers to reflect on their own classrooms and what material they have/or is absent from the classroom walls, which Maori students could connect with and how students may make assumptions about a teachers’ perception of Maori based on such visual cues.

#3: Connecting to our Community
  • Some very brave parents discussed with the staff their feelings that it is important to them the Maori values they are teaching their children at home are supported in the classroom – and that actions such as not sitting on tables make a big difference. They also expressed that they want their children to value other cultures and want classrooms to be a place where cultural diversity is supported and fostered.

Some notes about collecting student voice: 
  • Students are apprehensive if you single them out or invite them to contribute. 
  • The best responses I got were when students discussed in groups - they felt safer and conversations unfolded naturally 
  • It helps if you have a resource/video or set of questions to start the discussion, get students talking in groups and then scaffold them to more targeted answers - sentence starters are helpful. 
  • Jing has a really useful video editing software

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