Kia Aroha College believes that learning is grounded in our students’ cultures.  This understanding goes far wider and deeper than “one-off” cultural days or weeks, and involves changes in thinking about how we learn, what we learn, and how we structure our schools.

In the last two years we have built further on our early work in Culturally Responsive teaching and learning (outlined below, and still extremely important) to describe our work in terms of Culturally Sustaining, Critical Pedagogy (learning and teaching). Culturally Sustaining, Critical Pedagogy goes beyond thinking we just have to have better relationships. It raises fundamental questions about the purpose of schooling, and the responsibility of schools to sustain and, in indigenous communities, to also revitalise culture, instead of ignoring, assimilating, and eradicating it as they have done in the past – and still do currently.  Culturally Sustaining Critical Pedagogy  speaks to what Paris and Alim (2017) describe as “the fallacy of measuring ourselves and the young people in our communities solely against the White middle-class norms of knowing and being, that continue to dominate notions of educational achievement.

Culturally responsive teaching and learning is:

“It’s not culturally responsive, if it’s not also critical.” (Milne 2013)

Duncan-Andrade and Morrell (2008) identify three goals of critical pedagogy as empowered identity development, academic achievement and action for social change.


Paris & Alim (2017)                              Geneva Gay (2000)
Gloria Ladson-Billings (1992)
Duncan-Andrade & Morrell (2008)
Ann Milne (2013)
James Banks (1991)

  1. Validating - It uses the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and learning styles of our students to make learning more appropriate and effective for them;
  2. Comprehensive - Culturally responsive teachers develop their students’ intellectual, social, emotional, and political learning. They realise not only the importance of academic achievement, but also the maintaining of cultural identity and heritage.
  3. Multidimensional - Culturally responsive teaching involves many things: curriculum content, learning context, classroom climate, student-teacher relationships, instructional techniques, and performance assessments.
  4. Empowering - Culturally responsive teaching enables students to be better human beings and more successful learners.  Empowerment can be described as academic competence, self-belief, and initiative.  Students must believe they can succeed in learning tasks and have the motivation to persevere.
  5. Transformative - Banks (1991) asserts that if education is to empower marginalized groups, it must be transformative.  Being transformative involves helping “students to develop the knowledge, skills, and values needed to become social critics who can make reflective decisions and implement their decisions in effective personal, social, political, and economic action.”
  6. Emancipatory - Culturally responsive teaching is liberating.  It guides students in understanding that no single version of “truth” is total and permanent.  It does not solely prescribe to mainstream ways of knowing.