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Creating an inclusive learning environment in psychology

The essential ingredient for improving student engagement is the creation of a context for learning where students are able to bring their own culturally generated ways of knowing and learning to what Grumet (1995) calls the "conversation that makes sense of the world".

(Bishop and Berryman, Culture Speaks, p. 5)

[Teachers] need to demonstrate that [learning] is worthwhile, relevant, and connected to the students’ life goals and contexts. It is critical for [teachers] to listen to and support students in the classroom, in their decision-making, and in school life. This focus reaffirms the importance of ako (effective and reciprocal teaching and learning), quality teaching and quality relationships in all teaching.

Ka Hikitia–Managing for Success: The Māori Education Strategy 2008–2012 (Ministry of Education, 2008)

For the teacher, ako involves acknowledging, respecting, and valuing who students are and where they come from and, through deliberate and reflective practice, building on what they bring with them to the learning setting. People of all cultures have skills, knowledge, and qualities that can be built on.

Principles of a kaupapa Māori pedagogy

New Zealand’s foundations are bicultural. Tikanga Māori should be at the centre of learning and all teaching should be informed by the kaupapa Māori principles identified by Russell Bishop and Ted Glynn (Culture Counts: Changing Power Relations in Education, 1999, The Dunmore Press, Palmerston North).

Kaupapa Māori principles

  • Tino rangatiratanga – the right to determine one’s own destiny. Parents and children are involved in decision-making processes.
  • Taonga tuku iho – the treasures from the ancestors. These provide a set of principles by which to live our lives.
  • Ako – a mutual teaching and learning relationship. The educator is also learning from the student.
  • Kia piki ake i ngā raruraru o te kāinga – reaching into Māori homes and bringing parents and families into the activities of the school.
  • Whānau – developing connections with the community to support learning.
  • Kaupapa – acknowledging and valuing the language and culture in the classroom and chosen contexts.

Learn more:

Value diversity

It is important to model and discuss respecting and accepting the viewpoints of others, a central principle of psychology.

Actively seek students’ cultural knowledge and incorporate it into your lessons.

Identify and explore any biases embedded in psychological theories and practices (for example, individual differences).

Acknowledge that the ideas of a dominant culture can deeply influence psychological research and practice.

Read about psychological and multicultural perspectives.

Encourage reflective thought and action

To encourage reflective thought and action you could:

  • teach the skills of critical thinking and evaluation (ask students to evaluate psychological perspectives, methodologies, and research, and to explore issues such as bias and prejudice)
  • use and encourage questioning (for example, suggest a range of hypotheses, independent variables, and interpretations of a situation)
  • encourage students to relate their experiences to the theories and concepts of psychology
  • use self- and peer-assessment (for example, through learning logs and e-portfolios).

See also:

Enhance the relevance of new learning

To enhance the relevance of new learning:

  • make explicit links to your own life, students’ experiences and knowledge, and other areas of the curriculum
  • be aware and sensitive to the potential impact of theories and research on students who may have personal links to the content being discussed (for example, in teaching genetic links to schizophrenia consider family history and ensure alternative explanations in this research)
  • involve the students in choosing readings, creating research questions, and selecting contexts
  • examine the interaction between psychological practices and society
  • make sure that students know the learning outcomes for any activity and the indicators that will show they have been met.

Co-construct learning

To facilitate co-construction of learning:

  • work and discuss ideas in pairs, in small groups, and as a whole class
  • encourage conversations with family/whānau members at home
  • invite guest speakers from the community
  • use peer assessment.

Provide sufficient opportunities to learn

To provide sufficient opportunities to learn:

  • use a range of classroom activities that let students engage with and use new knowledge in different ways and in different contexts
  • make sure that activities are relevant, manageable, well sequenced, and linked to the important ideas of psychology.

Last updated February 17, 2017