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Source: University of Otago

A new set of innovative strengths-based child behaviour measurement tools that are grounded in a Māori worldview and link to improved outcomes throughout life have been published at the University of Otago.
The work is based on a collaborative research programme between Te Pou Tiringa, a Taranaki Māori community organisation, and the University’s National Centre for Lifecourse Research (NCLR).
Aroaro Tamati
PhD graduand Aroaro Tamati was awarded a PhD with Distinction in October with the thesis titled He Piki Raukura, culminating in three academic articles.
The first article from Tamati’s PhD was published in the June edition of the MAI Journal: A New Zealand Journal of Indigenous Scholarship. It describes the development of four Māori strengths-based child behaviour constructs: tuakiri (secure local Māori identity); whānauranga (acting as a member of a whānau); manawaroa (persisting despite difficulty); and piripono (having integrity, commitment and responsibility).
The two other articles from Tamati’s PhD, published in the most recent edition of the New Zealand Journal of Psychology, document the creation, testing and validation of the new child behaviour measures among tamariki Māori, then map positive change in the constructs across five time points during the course of a school year. The study found there were significant positive increases in each of the constructs in tamariki, even when accounting for age.
The research is the first to articulate ao Māori child behaviour constructs and measures for young children and provides much-needed tools to support researchers and practitioners to work in meaningful and culturally safe ways with tamariki Māori.
For Tamati, the opportunity to contribute to meaningful change for tamariki within early childhood education is a passion she has held since helping establish Te Kōpae Piripono, a New Plymouth-based kaupapa Māori immersion early years centre, in 1994. Aroaro has been director of the Centre for more than 25 years. During that time Te Kōpae Piripono was named as a Centre of Innovation by the Ministry of Education. In 2012, Tamati became the first Māori-medium teacher to be a recipient of a leadership award at the National Excellence in Teaching Awards.
She says this current research is a starting point to exploring how kaupapa Māori models of early years education can have positive impacts for tamariki Māori throughout their lives.
“This is a new frontier, of really understanding Māori child behaviour from within a Māori worldview. It also allows us to look at the early years setting tamariki are in, and understand approaches or strategies that foster skills or attributes in tamariki that they can fill their kete and positively influence their whole lives.”
Tamati says the research firmly illustrates that ao Māori constructs are able to be used in assessing and understanding young Māori children’s behaviour and development, and measuring the impact of kaupapa Māori early learning provision.
“We knew just through experience that kaupapa Māori early years education approaches make a difference. But this study provided rigorous quantitative and qualitative evidence of that.”
Following the recent completion of her PhD, Tamati has been awarded a Hōhua Tutengaehe Māori Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship by the Health Research Council of New Zealand. She will work on the longitudinal research programme Te Kura Mai i Tawhiti (TKMT) with her Te Pou Tiringa and NCLR colleagues.
The research, supported by the Health Research Council, the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, and the Toi Foundation, will look to generate comprehensive evidence around assessment of young Māori children in wider early years settings including kōhanga reo, puna reo (Māori immersion early years settings) and mainstream centres.
Tamati says the TKMT research programme is an excellent example of research at the interface of māturanga Māori and Western science.
“We’re this small Taranaki Māori community organisation working with a large university. On the face of it, it’s David and Goliath. But in actual fact it’s two groups of colleagues bringing their skills and knowledge to a shared collaboration at the interface of mātauranga Māori and Western science. It is high trust, an equal power relationship and leveraging off both knowledge systems.
“We’re really privileged to be supported and have this power team of like minds who want to make a difference for tamariki, who want to make a difference for Aotearoa.”
For more information, please contact:
Matiu WorkmanCommunications Advisor (Māori)University of OtagoTel +64 3 479 9139Mob +64 21 279 9139Email