A Māori Modern Learning Environment: Ko te Akā Pūkaea kia ita, ko te Akā Pūkaea kia eke!

Funding year: 
2 years
Whatua tū aka
Project start date: 
March 2021
Project end date: 
March 2023
Principal investigator(s): 
Professor. Jenny Lee-Morgan and Dr Jen Martin
Research team members: 
Dr Jo Mane, Jo Gallagher (Project Admin Support) and Mihi Te Rina Williams (Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga, Matariki InternRuia Aperehama

Intro / Project description 

This kaupapa Māori project investigates the ways that two Māori-medium pathways (bilingual and immersion) work together in a newly built Flexible Learning Space (FLS) to progress Te Reo Māori and the aspirations of whānau. This study explores the notion of the Māori Modern Learning Environment (MMLE), and explores how this ‘space’ is understood and utilised by Maori teachers, students and whanau of the two Māori-medium pathways, and within the wider English-medium primary school context. This pūrākau (case-study style project) takes a strengths-based approach, and is based on the experiences, pedagogies and the potential of Te Akā Pūkaea, Newton Central School. 


This research will be guided by the following key question:
How does a MMLE successfully facilitate dual Māori-medium (immersion and bilingual) pathways that respond to learner and whānau aspirations in an English-medium primary school? 

Adhering to a kaupapa Māori approach, the teachers, whānau and kura have been engaged in the development of this proposal. The following three objectives were collectively agreed upon and supported:
1. To provide an in-depth pūrākau (case-study) of Te Akā Pūkaea as a MMLE that facilitates dual Māori-medium pathways. 

2. To develop success indicators of a MMLE in relation to Māori-medium education, including key Māori pedagogies that enhance Māori language and educational development for all learners (in both pathways).
3. To better understand Māori concepts of ‘space’, and the way this is practiced in a MMLE context, and its impact in the wider English-medium school (spatial bi-culturalism). 

Why is this research important? 

Given the lack of research in this area, and the need to contribute to the two broad drivers that contextualise this project (Māori language learning and MLEs), this kaupapa Māori study is primarily concerned with understanding and contributing to the theories and pedagogies that have developed in this MMLE to support Māori-medium pathways (this is new knowledge). This project will both capture the specificities of the pūrākau case-study in context, as well as provide success indicators that will be relevant to other schools with MLEs who are looking to be more culturally-responsive to Māori. Furthermore, this work will contribute to the call from Stewart and Benade (2020) to ‘spatial biculturalism’ as we theorise space from a kaupapa Māori lens (from the inside out). 

What we plan to do 

In this project, a pūrākau method (Lee, 2008; Lee-Morgan, 2019) will be employed. The pūrākau method is a kaupapa Māori approach to narrative inquiry that foregrounds the pedagogical intent of stories, while supporting Māori cultural norms and worldviews. While Te Akā Pūkaea constitutes the ‘case’ (Stake, 2005), a pūrākau methodology acknowledges the multiplicity of stories amongst the various groups involved in Te Akā Pūkaea, as well as the diversity of stories within the groups themselves. Within a pūrākau approach, these stories represent the range of experiences and lived realities of our contemporary Māori lives, and a much richer and real case from which to understand the success and potential of a MMLE. The pūrākau, like a case-study, will reveal the greater socio-historical and political schooling context in which Te Akā Pūkaea is located, as well as the way in which it operates and is experienced by teachers, learners and their whānau, and the broader school community of Te Akā Pūkaea today. At its heart, this pūrākau gives voice to Māori learner, teacher and whānau experiences, as well as their respective ideas and aspirations - in culturally relevant and responsive ways. 

The pūrākau which will document and analyse the stories of Te Akā Pūkaea as a MMLE, is intended to  resonate with Māori learners, whānau and community. This project will include; literature review; interviews (n=40); and wānanga (n=5). A kura advisory group and research advisory group has been formed that will meet regularly throughout the life of the project to engage in a reciprocal relationship that keeps our respective communities of practice informed and updated about progress in our respective spaces.  


Name: Prof Jenny Lee-Morgan
Email: jleemorgan@unitec.ac.nz
Address: Ngā Wai a te Tui Māori and Indigenous Research Centre, Unitec. 139 Carrington Road, Mt Albert, Auckland, 1025 

Left to right: Jo Gallagher (Project Admin Support), Ruia Aperehama (teacher-researcher), Prof Jenny Lee-Morgan and Dr Jo Mane. Absent: Dr Jen Martin and Mihi Te Rina Williams (Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga, Matariki Intern)