Co-constructing a culturally and linguistically sustaining, Te Tiriti-based Ako framework for socio-emotional wellbeing in education: A collaborative project among teachers, whānau, hapū and iwi to enable a holistic approach to education

Funding year: 
2 years
University of Canterbury
School sector
Project start date: 
January 2019
Project end date: 
March 2021
Principal investigator(s): 
Professor. Letitia Fickel
Research team members: 
Dr. Rachel Martin, Dr. Veronica O’Toole and Dr. Amanda Denston, University of Canterbury
Research partners: 
Simon Scott, Hornby High School;Kate Mclachlan, Hornby Primary School; Liz Brown, Taumutu Rūnanga


This project will develop co-constructed transferable socio-emotional learning (SEL) pedagogies among teachers, students, whānau, iwi, hapū and community. It will enable teachers to develop and integrate SEL pedagogies within their teaching and learning programmes that enhances support for students’ identities, languages, and cultures that are inclusive of the bicultural context of Aotearoa New Zealand. Methodology includes participatory action research aligned with and mutually informed by Kaupapa Māori Research.


The overarching aim of the project is to support young people in Years 5-9 when early adolescents often experience increased social anxiety and stress. The project aims to:

  • Develop an expanded construct of SEL within the Aotearoa New Zealand context that brings together competencies of socio-emotional learning that aligns with Oranga Tamariki’s child wellbeing outcomes, and with Māori conceptions
  • Enhance the socio-emotional well-being of students in Years 5-9, via the co-construction of a linguistically and culturally sustaining Ako framework for socio-emotional learning, which incorporates Māori values and conceptions of wellbeing. This will be implemented in classrooms via the NZ Curriculum, particularly as related to the values and key competencies
  • Co-construct a culturally responsive teaching-learning socio-emotional learning framework incorporating Māori values and conceptions of wellbeing and development for use by schools.

Why is this research important?

National research indicates that many Year 7 and 8 students are failing to experience desired outcomes for student wellbeing. These students also demonstrate lower levels of achievement at this level, as well as, increased rates of being stood down or suspended. Developing knowledge and skills related to socio-emotional well-being can offer positive support for students during this developmental period of transition and identity development, contributing to positive mental health, which in turn supports educational engagement. This research is also important for Māori students who often experience disengagement from school, which undermines their potential educational attainment. Research has observed that as teachers develop their knowledge of and empathy for Māori students’ identity, languages and worldviews, they are more likely to support the SEL and motivation of Māori students.

What we plan to do

The project utilises a community-focused participatory action research methodology guided by Kaupapa Māori research principles that utilises Māori principles, practices, and worldview in constructing the research process, and understanding research outcomes. Action research design will be adopted to facilitate culturally-responsive and evidence-based practices.


During the initial phase data will be collected in the form of wānanga to be held with kaiako, whānau of involved classes, whānau groups of participating schools, as well as, local rūnanga.


Data collected from the wānanga will be synthesised and analysed to identify aspects that align with components of socio-emotional learning and an expanded construct of socio-emotional learning. These will be applied during a review of existing measures related to socio-emotional well-being and student engagement. The focus will be on designing socio-emotional well-being measures for students, whānau, parents, and teachers to be applied during the subsequent phase of the project.

Our partners

Te Taumutu Rūnanga, Hornby High School, Hornby Primary School

Contact details

Professor Letitia Hochstrasser Fickel, Ed.D (Principal Investigator)
Acting Pro-Vice Chancellor||Amorangi Taupua
College of Education, Health & Human Development||Te Rāngai Ako me te Hauora
University of Canterbury||Te Whare Wananga o Waitaha
Phone: 64 3 3695796 Ext 95796