Factors facilitating the engagement in learning of Pasifika students at intermediate school level : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Albany Campus, Auckland, New Zealand
This study explores the engagement in learning of Pāsifika students at intermediate school level. Engagement was considered as a multi-layered, multidimensional construct, which is best viewed through an ecological, culturally based lens. The importance of teacher knowledge and understanding of critical cultural components, which are at the core of Pāsifika peoples’ values and belief systems, was highlighted.
A case study was used to investigate behavioural and emotional engagement across three different ecological layers: personal, school and wider community. Participant interviews, surveys, whole class observations, and data from the school’s database illustrated the significance of shifting understandings of engagement from being uni-dimensional and within-person, to multidimensional and within communities of learning.
The results of the study generated a ‘Feeding the Roots’ Model of Pasifika Student Engagement. This model illustrates how ‘static’ as opposed to ‘cyclic’ processes in a school’s ecology can act as barriers or enablers to engagement. ‘Static’ processes, identify barriers to engagement in learning, and are those communities where there is limited understanding of the value of incorporating critical cultural factors in teaching, learning and interacting with parents. In this context, Pāsifika students’ achieved lower levels of engagement in learning, and parents remained on the periphery of the school community. In contrast, ‘cyclic’ processes that facilitated engagement were environments where students and parents were included in collaborative, reciprocal communities in which critical cultural factors were a central focus. These communities were representative of teaching practices that valued collectivism, community, and reciprocity and generated higher student and parent engagement.
The findings provide insights into the actions teachers can take to develop culturally appropriate and culturally responsive communities of learning. The ‘Feeding the Roots’ Model of Pasifika Student Engagement is an assessment and reflection tool teachers can use to determine whether their practices are creating higher levels of Pāsifika engagement at student, parent and school levels.