Student/Teacher Relationship for Maori & Pasifika Students

Since being grilled by ERO two years ago on my action around my bicultural practice I feel I have done little formal work in this area. Philosophically I centralise creating positive relationships as the key way I address this area, rather than the odd token “kia ora” or other te reo phrase (although these feature).

To address this I went back to the literature and found an article that articulates some reinforcement of my philosophy but also some challenges to go further.  The article is: ‘The importance f the teacher/student relationship for Maori and Pasifika students’ by Kay Hawk, Esther Tumama Cowley, Jan Hill and Sue Sutherland and some thoughts and key ideas are summarised here:

It is our conclusion that the forming of the right kind of relationship is, for these students, a prerequisite for learning to take place

The characteristics of an effective relationship were summarised as being empathy, caring, respect, going the extra mile, passion to enthuse and motivate, patience and perseverance, and belief in their ability. The significant overlap with ‘best practice’ is noteworthy here.

How students assess the relationship?

  • Teachers need to model the behaviour they want from their students
  • Some teacher behaviours have a negative impact on the relationship and therefore on the learning situation
  • Students are very observant of their teacher’s body language
  • Body language plays a very important role in classroom management in classes here the teacher has built a successful relationship with students

The outcomes of a positive relationships include confidence, self-efficacy, reciprocity, loyalty, higher expectations and higher outcomes, better work ethic.

The study concluded that “it is probable that effective teacher/student relationships are conducive to learning for most students from all socio-economic groups.” Interestingly though, there was a difference found in higher decile schools where students would still earn from teachers regardless of the relationship. I feel my school would fit the profile of a lower decile school in this respect as I believe based on informal observations the stronger teachers with stronger outcomes have better relationships.

The article finishes with some questions, two of which I think are particularly pertinent:

  • How can we give student safe ways to provide feedback on their teachers’ performance?
  • What type of professional development will help teachers most?

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