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Create a supportive and inclusive learning environment

If history is an ‘argument without end’, the history classroom should operate as a scholarly environment that allows debate to flourish and encourages diverse views. Students need to feel that it is safe to discuss and engage with contentious areas of the past as well as to make links with present pressure points.

Some strategies for creating a supportive learning environment

  • Negotiate classroom expectations.
  • Encourage discussion by developing protocols that value students’ opinions. Provide opportunities for the students to introduce and debate diverse ideas and cultural perspectives with consideration and respect.
  • Model teaching and learning as an inclusive process by encouraging dialogue, valuing student contribution, and acknowledging and drawing on community knowledge and expertise.
  • Invite student participation in planning the history programme and selecting contexts, for example, by giving students the opportunity to suggest contexts for study.
  • Be flexible in adapting teaching programmes to respond to students’ expressions of interest, for example, by replacing study of the Gallenic system of medicine with a detailed investigation of the Black Death of 1345, or by replacing the study of missionary activity with the Māori response to colonisation.
  • Discuss the options for alternative assessment methods with students, for example, essay writing, video presentation, or presenting perspectives in character (Te Whiti, Elizabeth I, Martin Luther King, Jr.).
  • Explore and evaluate alternative modes of presenting assessments with students, for example, through gathering formal and informal feedback and discussion.


Students are more likely to achieve in history when they see themselves and their culture positively reflected in the subject matter and learning contexts. Integrating an understanding of cultural identity into learning contexts reflects the concept of ako, a teaching and learning relationship in which the educator is also learning from the student. The teacher acknowledges, respects, and values who students are and where they come from and (through deliberate and reflective practice) builds on what the students bring with them to the learning setting. All cultures have skills and qualities that can be built on.

New Zealand is a bicultural society, therefore tikanga Māori must be at the centre of learning. Inclusion must incorporate contexts that reflect kaupapa Māori pedagogy, based on the principles below, identified by Russell Bishop and Ted Glynn (2000).


  • Tino rangitiratanga – the right to determine one’s own destiny, ensuring parents and children are involved in decision making
  • Taonga tuku iho – the treasures from the ancestors, providing a set of principles by which to live our lives
  • Ako – a mutual teaching and learning relationship in which the educator also learns from the student
  • Kia piki ake I ngā raruraru o te kāinga – reaching into Maori 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 the chosen contexts

Contexts and approaches that could draw upon these principles include:

  • Local history units and research projects, involving kaumatua and local iwi
  • Oral histories, including studies into family history and whakapapa
  • Field trips to sites of significance, for example, Huriawa, Purakanui, Ruapekapeka, Ohaewai
  • Marae visits
  • Local museum visits and studies
  • Biographical studies of local and national Māori leaders and rangitira
  • Meetings with family and whānau to outlay courses of study and to discuss ways of supporting students in their learning
  • Upskilling of teachers with correct pronunciation and growing familiarity with the concepts that underlie Māoritanga.

A year’s programme should include significant Māori content.

The principles and contexts listed above are also provided as a PDF table:

Last updated July 22, 2010