Tackling Cultural Responsiveness

Blog post written by: John Leonard

The Ministry’s new approach to funding PLD encourages schools to identify the root causes that are contributing to underachievement and tackle those disparities through interventions based on teacher inquiry. When it comes to supporting school leaders and teachers to investigate their practice and become more culturally responsive, PLD is most likely to be effective when being responsive to culture is at the center of the PLD, woven through its entirety, rather than an add on.  

 An important distinction between traditional models of PLD and school leadership with new, culturally responsive models is the position of whānau. Previously, there was a clear distinction between those inside the school gate, and those outside. Those inside made the important decisions about structures, curriculum, professional development and procedures; and they informed whānau of what those decisions were. Whānau were passive recipients.

 Durie (2006) had a different vision for education stating that, “allowing whānau and students to have a sense of ownership and control over ‘what is learned, how it is learned and when it is learned’ has been shown to be a powerful motivating factor that transforms ‘schooling as an obligatory activity’ to ‘schooling as a sought-after opportunity’.”

 Developing an environment that enables whānau to move from being passive recipients to active participants will take time. Trust and respect is central to this transformation and needs to be rebuilt by an education system that spent many years placing Māori in the margins. The teachers and school leaders in our classrooms today may not have created this situation, but with support, they can change it.

 Ask some questions

 When you are choosing PLD facilitators to work with your school I encourage you to ask yourself some questions: 

  1. Will a deep knowledge of how to connect with Māori learners be woven throughout the PLD?
  2. Will the support provided enable you to connect with and involve Māori whānau?
  3. Will there be a collaborative, team approach that gives access to a range of skills, knowledge and support?
  4. Will a balance of challenge and critique, knowledge and support be provided?


Get in touch

 If you are considering PLD focused on raising Māori achievement we would appreciate the opportunity to discuss how we can support your efforts. The next round of Ministry funded PLD proposals in Canterbury are due May 12th.



 Durie, M. (2006). Whānau, Education and Māori Potential. Paper presented at Hui Taumata, Taupo.





Posted 20 Mar 2017