Te Kotahitanga: A Case Study of a Repositioning Approach to Teacher Professional Development for Culturally Responsive Pedagogies

Nov. 01, 2011

Source: Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 39, No. 4, November 2011, 339–351.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article presents a case study of professional development programme in New Zealand drawn from the findings of a large-scale evaluation of Te Kotahitanga.
This programme is based on an approach that attempts to reposition the relationship between teachers and their students.

The study was designed to address the following question:
How does a professional development programme that aims to reposition teachers as learners from their minoritised students change teachers’ understandings of teaching?

Context: Te Kotahitanga

The Te Kotahitanga approach links culturally relevant/relationship-based classroom pedagogy with on-site embedded processes for working with teachers in classrooms.

The main purpose of this approach is to help teachers respond directly to the Maori students in their own classrooms by repositioning their relationship with those students.

One hundred and fifty teachers were interviewed across 22 secondary schools that participated in the Te Kotahitanga professional development programme.
In addition, many other school personnel – facilitators, principals, and other school leaders – were also interviewed.


The teachers expressed enthusiasm for improving teaching by building relationships with their students, and by listening to them and valuing their perspectives.
The interviews show that most of the teachers understood that Te Kotahitanga aims to develop their ability to work with such relationships, and facilitator support in their classrooms appears to be crucial.

Many teachers described their learning about Maori culture and Maori language as occurring through positive relationships.
As teachers conveyed their interest in getting to know students better, students shared more in return.

Teachers highlighted the importance of positive relationships and interactions in the classroom/school environment to enhance Maori student achievement.

However, many teachers did express concerns about focusing their efforts on building pedagogical relationships with Maori students, viewing this focus as a form of reverse discrimination.

The authors argue that the Maori worldviews, language, and so forth can be learned better through more traditional approaches to professional development than through relationships with students.
At the same time, teachers should also develop reciprocal relationships with Maori communities where they teach.

Updated: Jan. 16, 2013