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Review of Culturally Responsive Learning Environments

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 3140 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Focus for the Review

This review will focus on culturally responsive learning environments and relate it to the well-being and the different cultures of the children/families.     


Early childhood teachers need to be culturally responsive when teaching in early childhood services today. Te Whāriki our early childhood curriculum asserts that “Children are more likely to feel home if they regularly see their own culture, language and world views valued in the ECE setting. It is therefore important that whānau feel welcome and able to participate in the day-to-day curriculum and in curriculum decision making” (Ministry of Education, 2017, p.31). New Zealand is a bicultural country and is increasingly becoming more diverse. According to the education council (2017, p.4). It is becoming more important for immigrants that having a “’place to stand’ comes with an expectation that they will live here in a way that respects the commitments of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the position of Māori and tangata whenua.”

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The education review office (2018, p.23). has identified that poor educational “‘the absence’ of educational guidance and thoughtful planning resulted in poor educational practices with low quality interactions between the learners, teachers and parents, and instructors not reflecting on their practice or evolving a culture of perilous investigation.” In relation to this I personally feel that culturally responsive practices need to be reviewed to consider increasingly diverse population. This would allow children and families who are not born in New Zealand to have a sense of belonging and have their well-being be catered for. Regarding early childhood education young children and families, should feel that they have a place that should involve centers that are non-judgmental to ensure that they feel comfortable in the setting.  The early childhood program needs to be respectful and provide care for every child, so that they become confident in their own culture. This would encourage children to “understand and respect other cultures” (Ministry of Education, 2018, p.10). I think this should be a priority topic for the Education Review Office to investigate. Culturally responsive practices fit well with the strands and principles of “Te Whāriki.”

Educators have an important role in children’s lives as “culturally competent: developing increasing proficiency in the use of te reo and tikanga Māori and able to form responsive and reciprocal relationships with tangata whenua” (Ministry of Education, 2017, p.59). This can help build up a significant impact on children’s lives. Grownups working with by means children should have knowledge of Māori definitions of health and well-being and a thoughtful understanding of what the concepts mean on the practices of the centers, that the educators work at. “Located in Aotearoa New Zealand, this vision implies a society that recognizes Māori as tangata whenua, assumes a shared obligation for protecting Māori language and culture, and ensures Māori are able to enjoy educational success as Māori” (Ministry of Education, 2017, p.6).The grown-ups and teachers should have a knowledge of the different cultures, so that they all can share what they do, what they eat, and share as a community so that they can all belong.

The Education Review Office did an article called He Pou Tataki (2013) in which it delivers possessions for both “ERO and services to use during reviews. The information contained within this document reflects ERO’s commitment to the provision of high-quality early childhood education for all children in Aotearoa New Zealand” (Ministry of Education, 2013, p.1). The Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) stays a significant part of our New Zealand and Māori culture to the same extent as it is the foundation in New Zealand, and this is a guide for us as educators in the cultural background. The three p’s in this text states “participation, power and partnership as those three words show what the treaty is all about, for teachers who are learning in New Zealand, or those who have travelled to live in New Zealand and do not know about the Treaty” (Ministry of Education, 2013).

Tataiako is a report that outlines “cultural competencies for teachers of Māori learners is about teachers’ relationships and engagement with Māori learners and with their whānau and iwi” (Tataiako, 2011, p,1). This report shows diagrams and examples of what you as an individual teacher needs to read the standards and need to follow it, for example graduating teachers need to “demonstrate respect for hapu, iwi, and Māori culture in curriculum design and delivery processes” (Tataiako, 2011, p.8). During a guest lecturer presentation, External Evaluation in Early Childhood services at VUW. Collins (2019) talks about how quality teachers need to show respect about the code of conduct, and the evaluations about ERO evaluators. “It requires to be fair, impartial, responsible and trustworthy, as it the case for every professional, ERO evaluators which face ethical issues daily as they engage in practice. The way in which evaluators respond to these ethical challenges is an important influence on ERO’s integrity. The code of conduct mentioned above is under section 57 of the state sector act 1988, these are very important key points to know as we educators need to know how the Education Review Office works and know that what they do is important” (Collins, 2019).


Over past years that I did my teaching in multiple centres that I attended for my teaching experience at. I had many different team members come in and out of the room for different reasons because of the roster and who was on their lunch break, as well as non-contact time, due to so many changes the centres that I have been to. I felt a time I was unsettled due to so many teachers swapping and changing that made me feel all over the place,  where the teachers pointed me to where I needed to go, as well as forgetting that I was a student teacher sometimes and asked if I could go to an area, outside or inside to watch on my own till they realised that I wasn’t allowed. “The rich cultural capital which Māori learners bring to the classroom by providing culturally responsive and engaging contexts for learning” (Ministry of Education, 2011, p.12). Some children may not understand much, English as it may be their second language, but teachers should be seeking ideas from parents to allow this change of environment. We should be allowing parents to give their input, so that they can encourage what they feel and should be able to open up in everyday environments and what needs to be involved to make this happen, so they feel included, respected, honoured and welcome because that fosters all the Te Whāriki strands and principles mentioned above. As the centres I worked at showed that they were following Te Whāriki strands and the principles to allow everyone that attends, even the parents to feel that they belong.    

Overview of Research

With a focus on alternative ways of fostering this aspect of well-being “Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a foundation document of Aotearoa New Zealand and guides education with regards to participation, power and partnership for Māori as tangata whenua and non-Māori as signature of the treaty. The treaty provides a driving force for revitalisation of Māori language and culture” (Education Review Office, 2013, p.7). Education Review Office has mentioned that we need to “better serve an increasingly diverse population, leaders and teachers need to have general sociocultural knowledge, know about second-language acquisition, and the ways in which socioeconomic issues shape educational achievement, as well as specific knowledge about the languages, cultures, and circumstances of particular learners” (Education Review Office, 2018 p.18). The Early Childhood Education environment is crucial in shaping the learning futures of children, particularly for those children who come from poorer backgrounds, because unfortunately in New Zealand, Māori are highly represented in a lot of negative statistics, for example, education, justice, and health to name a few. Therefore, early childhood education teachers have the power to positively change lives if they can engage with whānau, even if they come from quite different backgrounds themselves. Early childhood education environment is crucial in shaping the learning futures of children, particularly for those children who come from poorer backgrounds, because unfortunately in New Zealand, “Leaders and teachers respectfully validate te ao Māori, and create opportunities for whānau Māori to voice their views” (Education Review Office, 2013, p.30). “Therefore, Early Childhood Education teachers have the power to positively change lives if they can engage with whānau, even if they come from quite different backgrounds themselves” (Ministry of Education, 1996, p.28).

When I was looking back at one of the documents, I have read last year which I found helpful was about the “Iceberg” that has been shown visually which is an outline for unpacking the hidden assumptions about culture that are more difficult to access. “They do this by identifying three issues common to all cultures: relationships with people, relationships with time and relationships with nature” (Terreni & McCallum, Considering Culture, p.2). Teachers are likely to find concrete examples of cultures and use art as an expressive way to be culturally respectful. There are many other exciting things which can also be done. Some of these things are those such as facial expressions and types of language we use can be different. When we investigate what the next generation of teachers would look like and, what they must provide and have with them as the way of learning they need. “Te Whāriki, the early childhood education curriculum, which is an expression of biculturalism and provides a strong basis for teachers and leaders to promote aspects of Māori language and culture in early learning environment. Te Whāriki must be embedded within all services” (Ministry of Education, 2013, p.33).

my topic I have picked for this research is cultural respectful learning environment for New Zealand. What can we as teachers as well as the parents can learn from and do to allow this research to take place? The early child curriculum of NZ emphasizes the “critical role of socially and culturally mediated learning and of reciprocal and responsive relationships for children with people, places, and things. Children learn through collaboration with adults and peers, through guided participation and observation of others, as well as through individual exploration and reflection” (Ministry of Education, 1996, p.9).We can all start from what we have gained to make it go forth from the data we are wanting to collect. How could we support the documents that we are using to help us with the research and how we can find the information for culture and its impact on the wellbeing of children in our centres, and how we as teachers can make sure that we are providing a culturally respectful learning environment, for every child’s well-being and drive to learn about what will be fostered when the culture and identity is embraced.

“These concepts were embraced by the wider early learning sector and continue to frame our thinking today. The trust has also made a strong contribution to this revision, expanding earlier text to become Te Whāriki a te kohanga reo” (Ministry of Education, 2017, p.2)


This review is to be undertaken in early childhood centres across New Zealand that will cater for 15-30 children, aged 2-5 years. The focus of this review is such a broad yet important topic to discuss. This shows to see and allow changes, and to work towards the indicators. Many indicators can be found within Te Whāriki which include what we see in the children’s learning. But as educators doing this review, is that we need and want to see, in order to know that we have done well in implementing change, and that the future improves for ourselves and others that is crucial. The Teaching Standards and Tataiako are going to be key indicators for this review. “Designed for teachers in early childhood education (ECE) services and in primary and secondary schools, it will support your work to personalise learning for and with Māori learners, to ensure they enjoy education success as Māori” (Ministry of Education, 2011, p.4).

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The period to surround for this review will need to be argued and decide upon the surrounded teaching team and parents. The review will have been successful when the experts are able to show that they have developed their skills and put into action for the new techniques and ideas and have overall made a more culturally respective learning environment.


In summary we will first prepare our review by asking the questions which are available to us in Nga Arohaehae Whai Hua/self-review Guidelines for Early Childhood Education (Ministry of Education, 2006, p. 65). We will regulate our focus and the key indicators of our achievement, and the time frame of when we will be starting this review process. We should plan out the resources we may use in addition to the facts we aim to accumulate by the way of the converse template for our review documentation (Ministry of Education, 2006).

In the gathering stage we will draw on relevant literature, such as Te Whāriki, Titiako, observations and whānau voice. The whānau voice will come from formal and informal conversations, comments of learning stories that centres make available and surveys for the families to fill out. The professionals should make sure they were/are providing a culturally responsive learning environment. The heart of teachers can make sure that we are providing a humble learning environment. Similarly, we will gather the voice of the children through documentation of our observations and interactions (Boyd, 2019).

The third stage of our review is to collate and build a sense of the data and knowledge we have collected, throughout our research so that we can have a conversation as a group which will allow us to understand what the issues are from our data. (Boyd, 2019).

The closing stage is to plan on what we will do to implement our conversation, monitoring our changes for an episode, in which we should be able to do an instant discovery of our findings of our review and will be more of a culturally responsive environment for children in the early childhood education subdivision (Ministry of Education, 2006).



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