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Education text bridges gap between Western, Māori knowledge

Education text bridges gap between Western wisdom and Māori knowledge

A book one critic believes should be compulsory reading for every teacher and trainee teacher in New Zealand was launched at the University of Canterbury last week.

Responsive Pedagogy: Engaging Restoratively with Challenging Behaviour, published by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER), is co-edited by University of Canterbury Professor of Māori Research Angus Hikairo Macfarlane (Māori, Social and Cultural Studies) and Dr Valerie Margrain (Massey University).

The book sets out the theory and practice of a range of restorative practices and illustrates, through case studies, how they can work in education settings.

At the book’s launch at Central Library last Friday evening Professor Jan Robertson, an adjunct professor at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia and respected leadership consultant, gave an overview and critique on the book.

Professor Robertson said she felt extremely honoured to be invited by Professor Macfarlane to provide a commentary on the book.

“I want to start by saying this book should be compulsory reading for every teacher and trainee teacher in Aotearoa New Zealand. This kaupapa should be very much at the forefront of teachers’ practice.”

Professor Robertson said the book while an academic text had been brought to practitioners in a very accessible and translated way, with each case study bringing the kaupapa or underlying concepts alive.

“I know teachers and principals, when they read it, will reflect on the young people they have in their classrooms right now,” she said.

Professor Robertson said she is often asked at professional development courses she leads: “What does culturally responsive leadership look like?”

“Well the answers to that are in this book.”

She said the book helped bridge the gap between Western wisdom and Māori knowledge and “models a way of being for Aotearoa New Zealand”.

“I believe we are coming to a sea change in New Zealand education and this book is timely and appropriate.”

Professor Macfarlane said the process of editing a book of this kind “reflects the trends of the times - universities working together on research topics that draw from their respective strengths”.

In addition to the editing duo, contributors to the book included academics from Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Waikato and fellow UC authors in the book are Sonja Macfarlane (Health Sciences Centre) and Jan Daly (College of Education). Richard Matla and Greg Jansen (Restorative Schools) provide professional development courses for schools throughout the country and their chapters highlight the impact when theory is converted into practice, while Dr Tom Cavanagh (Walden University, USA) and consultant Margaret Thorsborne from Brisbane offer an insightful international perspective to the book.

Dr Margrain said restorative practice was a relatively new, but growing, area of interest in schools trying to find better ways to deal with challenging behaviours.

"There has been a lot of work around restorative principles, doing things to set things right, accepting responsibility. Even the youngest of learners in early childhood education can grasp the principles of saying sorry and helping clean up a mess," she said.

"There are no set answers, but this book helps provide information and tools that can work in different situations. At the end of the day, you want a change in behaviour and some accountability.”

Professor Macfarlane reiterated that the 12 chapters offer a set of practical and restorative responses to learning and teaching that cross all types of educational settings, from early childhood through to secondary school.

“Locating the principles of responsive pedagogy within a Māori worldview gives the book particular relevance to New Zealand researchers and practitioners. We would like to think that the content of the book will build on the relationship-based and culturally responsive approaches that are important in the diversity of today’s schools”, he said.

Responsive Pedagogy: Engaging Restoratively with Challenging Behaviour, edited by Valerie Margrain and Angus Hikairo Macfarlane, published by NZCER, October 2011, NZ$44.95, Paperback. ISBN 978-1-927151-15-0.


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