Cultural components improve Pasifika learning

Staff Reporter – 

Teachers of intermediate-aged Pasifika students should include more cultural components as their teaching method to ensure that young adolescents stay engaged with learning throughout secondary school, an academician has said.

Massey University PhD graduate (Education) Dr Alet van Vuuren, has explored factors facilitating better learning by Pacifica students at intermediate level in her recent study.

Dr Vuuren is a Registered Psychologist at the Education Ministry.

Positive difference

Her study showed the positive difference to student engagement when teachers include critical cultural content into classroom practices.

“Despite considerable effort to improve student engagement, achievement and performance outcomes within the required inclusive educational contexts, a significant number of Pasifika students still leave school without any formal qualifications. Although 80% of Pasifika students stay at school until the age of seventeen, they do not necessarily achieve high enough qualifications to guide them into the workforce or tertiary education,” she said.

Pasifika Education Researcher Associate Professor Bobbie Hunter and Special Education Expert Associate Professor Mandia Mentis (both from Massey’s Institute of Education) supervised the Study.

Assessment Tool

The Study generated a cultural assessment tool called ‘Feeding the Roots Model of Pasifika Student Engagement.’

The objective is to help teachers understand the importance of acknowledging critical cultural components when engaging Pasifika students in learning.

Dr Vuuren interviewed students, staff teacher aides, Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) and parents at a South Auckland intermediate school where 52% of the students were from Pasifika backgrounds.

Her study found that teachers who explicitly integrated cultural references, knowledge, language and learning styles (solving a problem as a group rather than focussing on the individual) achieved higher levels of Pasifika student engagement in learning. Examples include; displaying student work in classroom to enhance a sense of belonging, allowing students to learn from within the context of their cultural experiences and identity, showing personal interest in students and their families, having high expectations of students, and encouraging them to collaborate with peers to problem-solve.

Editor’s Note: The above is an extract of a detailed analysis that appeared in our Web Edition dated May 7, 2017. Dr Alet van Vuuren, graduated with a PhD in Education at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences ceremony in Auckland last fortnight.

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