Supporting Cultural Awareness for Teaching Staff in a Polytechnical Institute
How academic staff and leadership show cultural awareness to students in a tertiary education environment can be highly beneficial to students of diverse cultures, and may help them to succeed in their studies. Students who feel valued are more likely to persevere through difficult times in their personal lives, when they feel that their teachers are genuine in supporting them. Leaders and academic staff may also find that their professional and teaching relationships are satisfying and productive when the organisation they work in promotes cultural awareness positive towards each other. The challenges of the current performative environment in tertiary education puts management and teaching staff under pressure to produce good student results. Even so, many teachers continue to build successful educational relationships that play important roles for their students’ successes. Despite the abundance of evidence and policy available to support schools in New Zealand, policy written specifically for management and educators working in the tertiary sector appears to be somewhat lacking. This dissertation reports on research written about schools and tertiary education that shows the value of relationship building with students, as well as the challenges of working in a performative environment in tertiary education that has prevailed over the past few years. The research was an appreciative inquiry conducted in a Polytechnic in Auckland. The results demonstrate the benefits of education providers showing cultural awareness not only to their staff, but also to their students, who are often happy to recommend their provider to others, when they feel they have been supported in their learning journey. Data was collected with the help of a small sample of staff and students from one Campus through online survey, interviews and a focus group discussion. This study was designed to investigate how participants thought cultural awareness in their area was supported by leadership, and strategies, and their experiences. The results show that both staff and students felt that cultural awareness was shown best when authentic relationships were formed between staff and students, in an environment that was supported clearly through strategies that were clearly articulate by leadership. This study not only adds to what is already known about the value of showing cultural awareness to students and staff, but also provides good evidence that policy and systems help to define how cultural awareness can be extended in the tertiary sector.