Caucusing: Creating a space to confront our fears


  • Rebecca Giles Tutor for the BAppSS (Social Work and Counselling) programme at Wintec, Hamilton, member of ANZASW and a registered social worker.
  • Shirley Rivers Ngai Takoto and Te Waiohua, a BAppSS (Social Work and Counselling), tutor at Wintec.



te tiriti o waitangi, treaty of waitangi, colonialism, new zealand history, social work education, caucusing, m?ori and non-m?ori studentsl


Learning does not occur in a vacuum and this reality challenges all educators to provide for the differing learning needs that exist because of students’ particular relationship to the course material. Teaching Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the colonial history of Aotearoa New Zealand to adult students of social work and counselling in mainstream tertiary education programmes provides particular challenges and opportunities for tutors and students alike. When teaching this topic, it is essential that the nature of the relationships that exist today between the peoples that represent the signatories of the Tiriti / Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 is explored. Yet, at the same time, the learning needs of all students must be met.

The authors have extensive experience in the teaching of Te Tiriti o Waitangi to adult learners. They have found the practice of caucusing helpful in creating a process that affords an opportunity for a transfer of learning to take place. How this process operates is the subject of this research study. In it, the authors identify distinct differences between Maaori and non-Maaori students’ experiences of caucusing. Worthwhile explanations of these differences are provided and linked to literature findings. Excerpts from research relating to the hidden dynamics of white power and domination are provided and assist in increasing an understanding of the intense reactions expressed by students during the transfer of knowledge process. Comments from students are included to highlight the shifts in understanding as the caucusing experience proceeds. The authors suggest that this topic has quite different implications for students within the same classroom, dependent upon whether they are located within the group that has experienced colonisation and domination (Maaori) or the other group, i.e. the colonising group (non-Maaori). They highlight the need to go beyond an intellectual fact-gathering exercise to achieve significant and worthwhile educational outcomes in this topic area. 


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How to Cite

Giles, R., & Rivers, S. (2017). Caucusing: Creating a space to confront our fears. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 21(1), 60–71.