He Vaka Moana - Navigating Māori student and Pasifika student success in the tertiary sector introduces a compilation of eight articles that provide an invaluable contribution to our understanding of how we can improve teaching and learning in tertiary settings.
This article introduces He Vaka Moana, which has been tested and evaluated at international and local levels. He Vaka Moana is a strength-based model of academic fellowship that is framed by Oceanic principles and methodologies. The authors base this model on what connects and sustains us as Māori and Pasifika people—that is, Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa.
Drawing on nautical notions of traversing the Pacific Ocean, we seek to encourage Māori and Pasifika researchers to come together in purposeful and transforming ways, not to further homogenise Oceanic identities but, as many sang in active resistance in Aotearoa New Zealand during the 1990s, Kia Kotahi ra Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa (“Unite as one like the Pacific Ocean”). We present Vā-kā as a methodology that emerged from a research fellowship focused on Māori and Pasifika student success at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
The notion of “success” for Pasifika students in higher education remains contested given the socio-political agendas of education in New Zealand targeting Pasifika engagement. The motivation to increase academic achievement for Pasifika peoples stems from “tail-end” outcomes, in which Pasifika populations are compared with other demographic populations in the attainment of higher qualifications. Many institutional “success” strategies are initiated essentially from a deficit positioning, to respond to barriers of participation, and ensure academic progression and student completion.
This article is about a university course which decolonises the classroom by making culture count. It examines how the ethnic identity journeys of 13 Pacific students in a third-year course in Pacific Studies run by the University of Auckland define and derive meaning for a more secure ethnic identity as a strategy for success across teaching/learning and life courses.
Māori and Pacific students are not achieving in science in comparison with other ethnic groups in Aotearoa New Zealand. At the same time, evidence of engagement with their traditional ways of knowing and being in university science settings is limited. Most formal science curricula globally are founded on Western modern science, and this focus can contribute to the underachievement of Indigenous students in science, particularly if Indigenous knowledge is not included (Howlett et al., 2008).
Leadership Through Learning is a 12-week (i.e., one-semester) programme for Māori and Pacific tertiary students run by Te Fale Pouāwhina, a Māori and Pacific student learning service at the University of Auckland in Aotearoa New Zealand. The programme is designed to help students lead, empower and transform through normalising their leadership and learning success. As a strategy, normalising success counters negative stereotypes, micro-aggressions, and the everyday colonialism and racism these students encounter.
As a Samoan educator, I have frequently heard the claim that Pasifika students need to learn how to learn to succeed at university. As part of the He Vaka Moana Fellowship in 2018, I sought to explore this claim by conducting talanoa with 24 Pasifika students who had taken a Pacific Studies course at the University of Auckland. The talanoa focused on their thoughts about learning and learning processes inside and outside the university. This study demonstrates that Pasifika students know how to learn and frequently reflect on their learning processes.
He Vaka Moana is a strengths-based project framed by oceanic principles and methodologies that connect us as Māori and Pasifika to the ocean. The underpinning kaupapa and theoretical framework of He Vaka Moana is the Tongan proverb “pikipiki hama kae vaevae manava”, which refers to our individual vaka coming together to support each other as we navigate the moana.
Māori and Pasifika students remain as ‘priority learning groups’ for tertiary institutions, a sector of education that often measures success in quantifiable measurables such as grade point averages and timely course completion. While strategic policy documents express an aspiration to make a difference for these learners what is required to bring these policy directions into action to create transforming change.
This issue offers insights and learnings from the He Vaka research fellowship – a group of professional and academic staff at the University of Auckland who committed a year to research dedicated to Māori and / or Pasifika student success in their faculty.
He Vaka Moana is a strength based project that is framed by Oceanic principles and methodologies. We base our fellowship on what connects and sustains us as Māori and Pasifika people – that is Te Moana-nui-ā-Kiwa the Pacific Ocean. We draw from our shared ancestral history of navigated the vast Pacific Ocean on purposefully built vessels using Indigenous methods and ways of being to successfully reach their destinations. Our fellowship is based on a model that has been tested and evaluated at international and local levels whereby champions of teaching and learning across faculties work individually and collaboratively to examine existing practise and to develop innovative ways for addressing issues of strategic priority to the institution. Here we look specifically at ways to advance the success of Māori and Pasifika students in higher education, exploring what works, how success if defined, how as a university we listen to those stories and the difference it makes for our teaching and learning.
We draw on our own knowledge and language to conceptually frame He Vaka drawing on a Tongan proverb pikipiki hama kae vaevae manava which means to last together the outrigger of a canoe to another to share stories, resources, to sustain and gain stability before unlashing and continuing on purposeful journeys of discovery. This notion resists homogenising both cultural / ethinic identities and projects as each project is viewed as interrelated with similar and different values and objectives that centre Māori and Pasfika student success at the centre and privilege our Oceanic ways of being.
This issues includes a foreword written by Damon Salesa and Cynthia Kiro, eight articles and a book review of Decolonizing Research: Indigenous Storywork as Methodology. Edited by Jo-Ann Archibald, Jenny Lee-Morgan and Jason De Santolo with a Foreword by Linda Tuhiwai Smith.
He Vaka Moana – Navigating Māori and Pasifika student success through a collaborative research fellowship by Ema Wolfgramm-Foliaki and Hinekura Smith
Igniting the vā – Vā-kā methodology in a Māori-Pasifika research fellowship by Hinekura Smith and Ema Wolfgramm-Foliaki
The art of wayfinding Pasifika success by Jacoba Matapo and Tim Baice
I am who I am – Pacific tertiary students and the centrality of ethnic identity for successful outcomes by Melani Anae and Ingrid Peterson
Pasifika students and learning to learn at University by Marcia Leenen-Young