20 SES 14, The Role of Families in Intercultural Learning Contexts
New Zealand is projected to be one of the first ‘majority minority’ countries by 2050 (Kaufman, 2018). New Zealand’s own predictions are that 57% of the New Zealand population will identify as Māori or Pacific Islander and 68% will be non-white (Starpath Project Charter, 2005). This projected population change means that the New Zealand education system must implement more effective strategies for engaging with Māori (Indigenous) and Pacific Island (Pasifika) students and their families to create an environment conducive to the equitable pursuit of academic achievement. For most schools and teachers in New Zealand, this cross-cultural engagement will be implemented within educational institutional structures that are derived from a (British) colonial past.
While Europe has had a history of immigration, not least waves of settlements from former colonies, the recent flow of immigrants have challenged education (Haene et al., 2018). The inclusion of 'others' into classrooms bring social tensions and confront teachers with their lack of knowledge of diversity despite their levels of experience in Europe (Acquah et al., 2016) as well as New Zealand.
This paper is drawn from a large twelve year research and development project, The Starpath Project for Tertiary Participation and Success (known as Starpath), carried out in 39 urban and rural, lower socio-economic status, high schools with high numbers of Māori and Pasifika students (see McKinley & Webber, 2018). Major findings from Phase 1 of the project led to the design, implementation and evaluation of an evidence-based school wide intervention aimed at enabling more students from these schools to progress to degree level study. One of the findings identified student-teacher academic mentoring and school-home partnerships as a possible intervention to improve student chances of success. This paper reports on Māori and Pasifika student and parent perceptions of, and engagement with, this academic mentoring intervention.
The objective of this part of the intervention was to engage more effectively with students with respect to their academic pathways at school, aligning their goal setting, subject choice, and career aspirations, and to work more effectively with Māori and Pasifika parents to strengthen the school-home partnership.New Zealand research has shown that academic mentoring is an effective way to build and maintain relationships within, and across, the school community (McKinley et al, 2009; Webber et al, 2016). In this project, academic mentoring is conceptualised as a long-term relationship between teachers and students that has systematically organized academic mentoring and advising, academic supports and family connections (Darling-Hammond, 2010; Irby, 2012).The Starpath Project consequently included in their design the establishment of trusted learning relationships between teachers and students to increase Māori and Pasifika students’ engagement in learning. Starpath also deduced that it would be beneficial if students could build a relationship with at least one significant adult (Darling-Hammond, 2010) whom they recognized as “knowing them” and displaying an ethic of care about them as people and as learners (Webber et al., 2016). In addition, and by implication from research, engagement with Māori and Pasifika parents/families and building further trust between them and the school was also seen as critical.
The project, while using an evidence-based approach to learning, frames engagement with students and parents as a culturally responsive imperative. Previous research drew our attention to the importance of relationships between teachers and students in the classroom, arguing that establishing extended family-like relationships in the classroom and school was central to Māori and Pasifika student engagement (Bishop & Berryman, 2006; Robinson & Timperley, 2004; Rubie-Davies, Webber & Turner, 2018; Gay, 2005). Our aim was to bring an anti-deficit frame of knowing to school engagement with students and families.
The Starpath Project was designed to be a partnership-focused research and development project. The aim was to be a key learning partner in the school improvement process. As a result, a participatory action research (PAR) approach (Reason & Bradbury, 2008) was used as a guiding framework for data collection, reflection, negotiation, and agreement on specific actions and professional development work to be undertaken by the schools and the Starpath team. The PAR design maximized the collaborative aspects of the relationship with each school and built on the schools’ capacity to use data to inform their decision-making and classroom practice, as well as to contribute to evaluation research. We could not require individual schools to follow a single protocol and recognized that because of the differences in context it would have been impossible for them to do so. We needed to be collaborative and responsive to how different schools chose to implement the intervention. For this particular study, the project data were collected from two separate sources using focus group interviews. First, 78 Māori students participated in 12 focus group interviews from 10 schools. Secondly, 96 Pasifika students participated in 14 focus group interviews from 5 schools. All students were aged 16-18 years. Students were invited by their school to participate in the focus group if they self-identified as Māori or Pasifika and had participated in academic mentoring. Each focus group lasted between 30 and 80 minutes and was held in the students’ schools. All students had participated in academic mentoring for between one and three years. Two Starpath researchers were allocated to each focus group and the group interviews were based on a set of semi-structured research questions asking students about their experiences in academic mentoring. The interviews were recorded, after permission was obtained from all participants and their parents. Data were then transcribed and analyzed thematically. Parent data were collected in the form of observations of 82 academic counselling conversations between parents, teachers and students, parent attendance data at Parent-student-Teacher (PST) academic mentoring sessions, and 70 interviews with parents and students.
A major pattern to emerge from this analysis was that perceptions of effectiveness were dependent on the quality of relationships and school cultures, and the degree to which the academic mentoring and PST meetings were learner-centered and truly celebrated student diversity. A common response was that relationships had improved, particularly between students, families, and academic mentors. Teachers were viewed as more responsive to students and families. Māori data indicated it was important to build enduring achievement-focused relationships with teachers premised on three factors - collective vision, collective efficacy, and collective action (Webber et al., 2016). This is about being inclusive in all ways with the learning of each student – to be engaged in the learning conversation, for schools to be cognisant that Māori students can be academically successful while maintaining their Māori cultural values, and that all significant peoples have an identified role in actively supporting Māori student achievement. The Pasifika student data was very clear about the nature of the relationship they wanted with the school and it mainly centred on an ‘ethic of care’ and what that looked like. Furthermore, a ‘good relationship’ with the teacher mentor could be trusted to broach topics in Pasifika families that were difficult to mention by the students alone. Family are seen as a critical lever in the educational wellbeing of Pacific Island students in education. Therefore, teachers must ensure that Pacific Island students’ engagement and educational success is an integrated, school-wide and family-informed activity. While parent observation and interview data is not fully analysed yet we do have school records of family attendance at mentoring conferences. Analysis of school-reported data, including analyses of family surveys, indicated significant improvements in family engagement and attendance over time.
Acquah, E., Tandon, M. & Lempinen, S. (2016) Teacher diversity awareness in the context of changing demographics. European Educational Research Journal 15(2), 218-235. Bishop, R., & Berryman, M. (2006). Culture speaks: Cultural relationships and classroom learning. Wellington, NZ: Huia Publishers. Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). What we can learn from Finland’s successful school reform. National Education Association. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/home/40991.htm Gay, G. (2005). Educational equality for students of color. In J. A. Banks & C. A. McGee Banks (Eds.), Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives (5th ed., pp. 211–241). New Jersey: Wiley. de Haene, L., Neumann, E. & Pataki, G. (2018) Refugees in Europe: Educational policies and practices as spaces of hospitality? European Educational Research Journal 17(2), 211-218. Irby, B. (2012). Editors Overview: Mentoring, Tutoring, and Coaching. Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 20(3), 297-301. Kaufman, E. (2018) Whiteshift: Populism, immigration and the future of white majorities. Milton Keynes, UK: Allen Lane. McKinley, E., Madjar, I., Van der Merwe, A., Smith, S., Sutherland, S., & Yuan, J. (2009). Targets and talk: Evaluation of an evidence-based academic counseling programme. Auckland, NZ: Starpath Project, University of Auckland. McKinley, E. & Webber, M. (2018) Whāia te Ara Whetu: Navigating change in mainstream secondary schooling for Indigenous students. In E. A. McKinley, L. T. Smith (eds.), Handbook of Indigenous Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-1839-8_65-1 Reason P, Bradbury H (2008) The Sage handbook of action research: participative inquiry and practice, 2nd edn. Sage, London, UK Rubie-Davies, C. M., Webber, M., & Turner, H. (2018). Māori students flourishing in education: teacher expectations, motivation and sociocultural factors. In G. Lief and D. McInerney (Eds). Big theories revisited (Vol 2). Research on sociocultural influences on motivation and learning series. (pp. 213-236). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. Timperley, H. S., & Robinson, V. M. (2004). O le tala ia Lita—Lita’s story: The challenge of reporting achievement to parents. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 39(1), 91-112. Webber, M., McKinley, E., & Rubie-Davies, C. (2016). Making it personal: Academic counseling with Maori students and their families. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 47, 51-60. 10.1016/j.cedpsych.2016.03.001 URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/31782
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