Connecting With the Ngākau: Exploring Social and Emotional Learning Appropriate for the Culturally Diverse Contexts of Primary Schools in Aotearoa New Zealand
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Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is an important area in education that has gained attention in recent years due to an increased focus on student wellbeing, even more so due to Covid-19 and inter-racial issues on the world stage. Current research links wellbeing to both culture and emotional awareness. However, relatively few SEL approaches focus specifically on incorporating diverse ways of knowing, being, and doing in relation to SEL. Researchers often fail to take cultural context into account, or if they do, it is as an ‘alternative’ view. Indigenous approaches offer valuable insights into this area of education by viewing SEL through a mono-cultural lens. The objective of this study is to conceptualise and explore the potential strengths and limitations of a more culturally-responsive SEL (CSEL) theory for the cross-cultural spaces of Aotearoa New Zealand. To do so, an appropriate methodology was developed after the literature review reflected and refined the CSEL approach through an intentionally interdisciplinary examination. Both the resultant ‘Respectful Inquiry’ methodology (RI) and the concept of ‘Heart-based Emotional Appraisal’ (HBEA) for CSEL suggest that new ways of opening co-constructed, cross-cultural spaces to increase wellbeing may be possible. However, this will not occur with prescriptive approaches that fail to create a space for collaborative meaning-making and empathetic understanding of diverse social and emotional ways of knowing and being. RI and HBEA contribute toward such a space and, in this way, aim to contribute to the ongoing educational research conversation within the diverse context of Aotearoa New Zealand.