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Ako involves reciprocal shared learning in the classroom and beyond.

Effective teaching and learning depends on the relationship between teacher and student and the active engagement and motivation of the students by the teacher.

Ka Hikitia (Ministry of Education, p 22) describes the concept of ako as the teaching and learning relationship where the teacher is also learning from the student and where teachers’ practices are informed by the latest research and are both deliberate and reflective. Ako is grounded in the principle of reciprocity and also recognises that the learner and whānau cannot be separated.

Ki te kore te iwi, e kore koe i kīa – he tangata.

Without the people, you are diminished, you are nobody.

Ako incorporates two aspects:

  • language – identity and culture matter – knowing, respecting, and valuing who students are, where they come from, and building on what they bring with them
  • productive partnerships – Māori students, whānau, hapū, iwi, and educators sharing knowledge and expertise with each other to produce better mutual outcomes.

Learn more:

Example: Dance

Find and maximise opportunities for students to learn from each other in small-group activities.

For example, use expert groups (a jigsaw method).

Students are assigned to a group, for example, to look at different features of a particular dance style.

Each member splits off to find out about a specific aspect of this shared topic.

Each member then returns to the home group to report his or her discoveries. This is an ideal learning exercise for nurturing ako.

Alternatively, set up a range of dance-making activities where students can work collaboratively. For example, they could create original dance sequences (with teacher direction) by playing with formations, weight-bearing exercises, and counter balancing.

Example: Music – sound arts

Teacher and students can learn together and reciprocate knowledge and experiences.

Students often know more than the teacher on the subject of musical genres they are passionate about.

Allowing students to teach us when we lack knowledge opens the door to the students reciprocating when the roles are reversed.

  • Listen to, discuss, analyse, evaluate, and research music works from a wide range of genres, contexts, historical times, and places to share and develop understandings of the global importance of music in peoples’ lives.
  • Let students choose their own groups (when appropriate) for working in the classroom or rehearsal spaces.
  • Get students to do peer evaluations and reviews of each other’s performances and compositions.
  • Let students prepare and run some aspects of the classroom routine and manage rehearsal and performance spaces and equipment.
  • Encourage improvisation between students and teacher, allowing space and granting permission for regular “jamming”.
  • Compose as individuals and collaboratively in groups and workshop these developing works/ideas for feedback and feedforward.
  • Allow students to interact with online music activities and virtual music-making tools.
  • Collaborate with community musicians, peers, staff, and whānau to make music and grow learning opportunities beyond the classroom.
  • Allow a student to co-manage a performance group or event, or support them in setting up a new group of their own.

Example: Visual arts

Seek opportunities to invite members of the community to share their knowledge and skills. This could include inviting local artists to work with your students.

Invite members of your students’ whānau and community to share relevant cultural practices (for example, tivaevae, harakeke, weaving, knitting, crochet, carving, tattooing, calligraphy, stencilling, moving image, video poster).

Use students’ current means of communicating and interacting with their world as a context for learning, so that the starting point for learning is located within the students’ expertise.

For example, could an art work be created collaboratively through using mobile phones only? (The students can use text and imaging.)

The role of the teacher is to ask questions of the work throughout the process in relation to some agreed-upon outcomes. This interaction should also be digital.

Example: Art history

Locate contexts for learning around and with the students.

For example, students select art works from a range of possible environments such as home, galleries, church, wharenui, street, digital spaces, and so on.

Students then share with the class why this art work has value in relation to its context or purpose or intended target audience. The teacher also does this with a selected piece of art work.

The discussion then broadens to look at who determines what is valued art. How does the cultural context influence that notion of value?

Design active tasks that embody action and reflection by students. Encourage reflective discourse, thought, and action in the art history classroom through learning tasks that develop creative and critical thinking.

This could include students working in teams to debate speculative 'What if?' questions or evaluative 'Which is more important?' questions.

Explain how skills and learning translate between subjects.

Analysis, critical and original thinking, and other academic skills are common in different disciplines or fields.

Encourage students from different subject areas to share their particular subject knowledge in art history.

Physics, classics, history, media studies, drama, music, mathematics, and English all cover areas of knowledge within the context of art history.

Enjoy having a student explain aspects of the theory of relativity or Baroque music – they build confidence and art history becomes a little more connected.

The art history class is a shared learning community when teachers and students connect and learn together.

In the classroom, the walls come alive with changing displays of art images, quotes, and reflective questions as well as course structures and assessments.

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Last updated September 28, 2018