Supporting Tiriti-based curriculum delivery in mainstream Early Childhood Education
Te Whāriki, the national early childhood curriculum, was devised to provide opportunities for all children to develop knowledge and understanding of the cultural heritage of Tiriti o Waitangi partners (Ministry of Education, 1996). Te Whāriki was constructed from a socio-cultural theoretical perspective. Although Te Whāriki has a highly innovative framework, implementation continues to be challenging for teachers (Broström, 2003; Clark, 2005; Cullen, 1996; Nuttall, 2003a; Scrivens, 2005). This is because Te Whāriki is more of a philosophy than a curriculum (Clark, 2005) which means teachers could be seen to operate from within a vacuum (Broström, 2003). This study, therefore, seeks to understand the strategies early childhood teachers developed in order to implement the Tiriti-based (bicultural) aspects of Te Whāriki within their centres. The research question of this thesis, therefore, is: To what extent, and in what manner, have early childhood teachers been able to implement Tiriti-based curriculum as outlined by the Ministry of Education in Te Whāriki? The theoretical framework used to address this question encompasses appreciative inquiry, and the thesis challenges prevailing deficit theorising of indigenous knowledge. The study employed the methodological approach of case studies in early childhood education centres. The first two case study centres applied action research. However, in the third case study centre an appreciative inquiry approach was used. By applying appreciative inquiry as a methodology (rather than as theoretical framework) the researcher was better able to understand how early childhood teachers built upon existing knowledge and strength-based experiences to implement Tiriti-based curriculum. Data were gathered by administering an anonymous questionnaire, conducting observations of staff and their environments, facilitating a focus group, and a number of interviews with teachers and managers of the case study centres. A key finding was that growing teachers’ strengths provided an effective way of implementing Tiriti-based curriculum. The whole team working together was also found to be important, and having a leader committed to Tiriti-based pedagogy was a crucial element. If Tiriti-based curriculum is to be sustained, teachers must take ownership. These findings provide guidance to teachers and teacher education programmes w is a key contribution of this thesis.