Culturally responsive pedagogy and assessment in primary science classrooms: Whakamana tamariki

Funding year: 
2 years
University of Waikato
School sector
Project start date: 
January 2009
Project end date: 
January 2011
Principal investigator(s): 
Dr. Bronwen Cowie
Research team members: 
Dr Kathrin Otrel-Cass, Ted Glynn, and Helena Kara, University of Waikato
Research partners: 
Marion Anderson and Asri Parkinson, Vardon School, Hamilton; Jude Doyle, Arataki Primary School, Tauranga; Asri Parkinson and Christine Te Kiri, Peachgrove Intermediate School, Hamilton

Project Description

In this project four teachers addressed their diverse students’ need for a range of different opportunities to develop more sophisticated expertise in science. They achieved this by drawing on the principles and practices of culturally responsive pedagogy and assessment for learning. Interviews and classroom observations indicated that students, and their families, took greater ownership and responsibility for science learning when teachers incorporated and built on the funds of knowledge and lived experience that all students bring from their homes and communities.

The major implications as a result of the key findings outlined in the Summary report are:

  • Teaching and learning science will be enriched if teachers build bridges and create opportunities to connect the classroom curriculum with children’s and communities’ lived experiences beyond school.
  • Teachers and students need to create an inclusive and respectful classroom culture that welcomes and responds to outside expertise to contribute to collective sense making in science.
  • Learning and assessment in science need to provide and privilege diverse ways for children to express, develop and gain feedback on their growing knowledge and expertise.

Project Outputs



​Parkinson, A, Doyle, J, Cowie, B, Otrel-Cass, K, Glynn, T. (2011) Engaging whānau with children's science learning. Set: Research Information for Educational Research. v1, NZCER Press, p.3-9.

Cowie, B, Otrel-Cass, K. (2011) Exploring the value of 'horizontal' learning in early years science classrooms. Early Years. v_online, Taylor & Francis Group, DOI:10.1080/09575146.2011.609157, p.1-11.

Presentations, conferences and workshops

​Cowie, B, Otrel-Cass, K, Glynn, T, Kara, H. (2011) Fostering parent and whanau engagement with children's learning: A strategy to enhance children's science learning. 2011 NARST Annual International Conference. Caribe Royale, Orlando, Florida; 3-6 April.



​Cowie, B, Jones, A, Otrel-Cass, K. (2010) Re-engaging students in science issues of assessment, funds of knowledge and sites for learning. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education. v9, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2010. p.347-366.

Presentations, conferences and workshops

Cowie, B, Otrel-Cass, K, Glynn, T, Kara, H. Culturally responsive pedagogies assessment of/for learning in primary science classrooms. American Educational Research Association 2010 Annual Meeting: Understanding Complex Ecologies in a Changing World. Denver, Colorado, United States; 30 April-4 May,1-21.

Cowie, B, Otrel-Cass, K. (2010)Finding out about fossils in an early years classroom: A context for developing a 'practical explanatory theory'. The Graham Nuthall Classroom Research Trust International Symposium 2010. University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand; 16-18 August, p.1-9.