Pasifika pedagogies in an indigenous tertiary environment


  • Jay Hikuleo Ikiua Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, New Zealand



Social work education, indigenous education, Pasifika peoples, pedagogy


INTRODUCTION: This article examines how culturally appropriate teaching contributes to a positive learning experience for Pasifika students on the Bachelor of Bicultural Social Work degree programme at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa (TWoA), an indigenous tertiary institution in New Zealand dedicated to promoting access to education for Māori and others and delivering an educational experience based on indigenous principles and practice.

APPROACH: Teaching in a social work programme is explored through the lens of the Kaupapa Wānanga framework and Ngā Ūara (values) that form the foundational ideology of TWoA. It draws on the personal experiences of a social services educator using culturally responsive pedagogies that embrace the unique links of Polynesia–Pasifika peoples.  

CONCLUSIONS:Culturally responsive pedagogy is vital for Pasifika students to feel valued and culturally connected. 


Alfred, T., & Corntassel, J. (2005). Politics of identity - ix: Being Indigenous: resurgences against contemporary colonialism. Government and Opposition, 40(4), 597-614. Retrieved from

Allen, P., Robertson. J., & Talafasi, L. (2009). In order to teach you I must know. In the Pasifika initiative: A professional development project for teachers. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 44(2), 47–62.

Anae, M., Burgoyne, L., & Iuli. L. (2006). The Polynesian Panthers: The crucible years, 1972–1974. Birkenhead, New Zealand: Reed Publishing.

Apiata-Vague, T. (2011). Social work and food: A discussion. ANZSW Journals, 23(3), 63–70.

Chu, C. (2014). The development of mentoring relationships for Pacific students in a New Zealand university: Possibilities for leadership. In F. Cram, H. Phillips, P. Sauni, & C. Tuagalu (Eds.), Māori and Pasifika higher education horizons (pp. 221–241), Bingley, UK: Emerald.

Chu, C., Arabella, I., & Paurini, S. (2013). Educational practices that benefit Pacific learners in tertiary education. Retrieved from

Edwards, S. (2014). Mauri in the context of ako Wānanga. UIA Magazine, pp. 21–22.

Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh. T., & Teddy, L. (2007). Te Kōtahitanga Phase 3 whānaungatanga: Establishing a culturally responsive pedagogy of relations in mainstream secondary school classrooms. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education. Retrieved from

Bishop, R., & Berryman, M. (2009). The Te Kotahitanga effective teaching profile. Set: Research information for teachers, 2(2).27-33.

Finau, S. (2014). Collective label of people from the Pacific Ocean proper. In T. Black (Ed.), Enhancing mātauranga Māori and global indigenous knowledge (pp. 166–180). Wellington, NZ: NZQA.

Hawk, K., & Cowley, E., Hill, J., & Sutherland, S. (2002). The importance of the teacher/student relationship for Maori and Pasifika students. Set, Research Information for Teachers, 3, 44–66.

Hill, J., & Hawk, K. (2000). Making a difference in the classrooms. Effective teaching practice in low decile, multicultural schools. Retrieved from

Hill, R. S. (2010). Fitting multiculturalism into biculturalism: Maori-Pasifika Relations in New Zealand from the 1960s. Ethnohistory. 57, 291–319.

Hoani, S. (2012). Kaupapa wānanga: A philosophy for life in Te Wānanga o Aotearoa WIPCE Conference Proceedings, Peru, 2011 (pp. 84–89). Te Awamutu, New Zealand, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

Kawagley, A., & Barnhardt, R. (2018). Education indigenous to place: Western science meets native reality. Retrieved from

Macfarlane, A., Glynn, T., Cavanagh, T., & Bateman, S. (2007). Creating Culturally-Safe Schools for Māori Students. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 36(1), 65-76. doi:10.1017/S1326011100004439

Mayeda, D. T., Keil, M., & Dutton, H. D. (2014). You’ve gotta set a precedent: Māori and Pacific voices on student success in higher education. Retrieved from

McCaffery, J. (2008). Enhancing learning for Pasifika@UOA: A view from the inside. Retrieved from

Madjar, I., & McKinley, E. (2014). From schools in low-income communities to university: Challenges of transition for Māori and Pacific students Māori and Pasifika Higher Education Horizons (Vol. 15, pp. 241-252): Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

McKenzie, R., & Singleton, H. (2009, Oct). Moving from Pasifika immersion to Palangi Primary school. Knowing the learner is precious. Paper presented at the Exploring Effective Transitions Conference, Novotel, Hamilton.

McRae, L. (2008). Tihei Kaupapa Wānanga – What is the unique contribution made by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa? In R. Hunia (Ed.), Tokoa-te-nukuroa. Volume III, Reflections from within. (pp. 197–207), Te Awamutu, NZ: Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

Meade, A., Puhipuhi, H., & Foster-Cohen, S., & Anne Meade Associates. (2003). Pacific early childhood education priorities for Pasifika early childhood education research. Wellington, New Zealand. Retrieved from

Mila-Schaaf, K., & Robinson, E. (2010). Polycultural capital and educational achievement among NZ-born Pacific peoples. MAI Review, 1, 1–18.

Milne, A. (2007). Where am I in our schools “white spaces?” Social justice for the learners we marginalise. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 36, 1

Ministry of Education. (2013). Pasifika education plan. Wellington, New Zealand: Author.

Mira, D. (2014). Samoan women in tertiary education. In F. Cram, H. Phillips, P. Sauni, & C. Tuagalu (Eds.), Māori and Pasifika higher education horizons (pp. 271–290), Bingley, UK: Emerald.

Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3). doi/10.3102/0013189X12441244

Penetito, W. (2009). Place-based education: Catering for curriculum, culture and community. New Zealand Annual Review of Education, 18, 5–29. Retrieved from

Podmore, J., Tapusoa, E., & Taouma, J. (2006). Samoan language and cultural continuity at an early childhood centre of innovation. Waikato Journal of Education, 12, 73–85.

Pohatu, T. and H (2002). Mauri-rethinking human wellbeing. Retrieved from

Porter-Samuels, T. (2013). Raising Pasifika achievement: Teacher cultural-responsiveness. Kairaranga, 14(2). Retrieved from

Ruwhiu, L. (2018). Kaupapa wānanga [Presentation]. Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Porirua.

Sam, M. (2011). An indigenous knowledges perspective on valid meaning making: A commentary on research with the EDI and Aboriginal communities. Social Indicators Research. 103, (2) 315-325.

Samu, T. W. (2006). The “Pasifika umbrella” and quality teaching: Understanding and responding to the diverse realities within. Waikato Journal of Education, 12, 35–49.

Sauni, P. (2014). My sixth sense tells me. In F. Cram, H. Phillips, P. Sauni, & C. Tuagalu (Eds.), Māori and Pasifika higher education horizons (pp. 135–146), Bingley, UK: Emerald.

Savage, C., Hindle, R., Meyer, L. H., Hynds, A., Penetito, W., & Sleeter, C. E. (2011). Culturally responsive pedagogies in the classroom: indigenous student experiences across the curriculum. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 39(3), 183-198. doi:10.1080/1359866X.2011.588311

Sleeter, C. E. (2012). Confronting the marginalisation of cultural responsive pedagogy. Retrived from

Sommerville, A. (2012). Once were Pacific Māori connections to Oceania. Minnesota, USA: University of Minnesota Press.

So’o, J. (2017). Pasifika tertiary students understanding of success (Unpublished Master’s thesis), Whitireia Polytechnic, Porirua, New Zealand.

Spiller, L. T. (2013). Teachers’ misunderstandings that affect the learning of their Pasifika students (Unpublished Master’s thesis), Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand.

Taouma, J; Tapusoa, E. and Podmore, VN. (2013). Nurturing positive identity in children: Action research with infants and young children at the A'oga Fa'a Samoa, an early childhood Centre of Innovation [online]. Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice, 28, 1, 50-59.

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. (2017). Kaupapa Wānanga. Te Manu. Retrieved from C:/Users/8277/Downloads/TeManu-StudentHandbook2017%20(7).pdf

Thaman, K. H. (2003). Decolonialisation Pacific Studies: Indigenous perspectives, knowledge, and wisdom in higher education. The Contemporary Pacific, 151, Spring, 1–17.

Tomlins-Janke, H. (2007). The place of cultural standards. Presented at American Education Research Association Annual Conference. Chicago, IL.

Vaioleti, T. (2006). Talanoa research methodology: A developing position on Pacific research. Waikato Journal of Education, 12, 21–35.

Watene, D. (2018). Pasifika enrolments at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa [unpublished raw data].




How to Cite

Ikiua, J. H. (2019). Pasifika pedagogies in an indigenous tertiary environment. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 30(4), 28–39.



Original Articles