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Study shows culture in classrooms boost engagement levels

11 May 2017

Posted in: Pacific Radio News,

A new study has found that teachers who incorporate cultural components in their lessons engage better with their Pasifika students. 

Feeding The Roots model is the product of studies by Massey University graduate, Dr Alet van Vuuren, who observed and interviewed teachers and parents of Pasifika students.

She says if teachers incorporate Pasifika culture in their lessons, they will get a much better response from Pasifika students.  

“Teachers who have high expectations and have a personal interest in students, have a much much higher outcome than teachers who are disregarding that.”

Massey University graduate, Dr Alet van Vuuren. Photo/ Supplied.

She says that she observed a classroom of students with a teacher who engaged with them culturally and the level of engagement was at 98 percent.

The same classroom of students moved on to the next teacher who did not engage with them culturally and the level of engagement dropped to 27 percent.

Examples of incorporating culture into the class included a teacher asking a student how their parents were, or how their siblings were getting on at university.

“Another teacher, when she transitioned from one activity to the next, played this beautiful Pasifika music instrument and the kids knew it was time to move on," says Dr van Vuuren. 

She says what surprised her most was that the ethnicity of teachers had no impact on the Pasifika students engagement.

Her survey found that non-Pasifika teachers who were deliberately teaching with more cultural awareness and understanding achieved the highest levels of student engagement.

As a registered psychologist for the Ministry of Education, Dr van Vuuren says her findings suggest that her model could foster higher rates of achievement for Pasifika students at secondary school and tertiary levels.

“I’m so excited and I’m really hoping that this can be of some significant meaning to Pasifika and their engagement in learning in the future.”

Tags: Massey University, Feeding the Roots, Pasifika learning, Pasifika education, Dr Alet van Vuuren,