Under the hood: Te whare tapa wha


tapawha2Te Whare Tapa Whā is a holistic model of health and wellbeing also known as hauora. Originally used in the healthcare sector, it’s now used in education and other settings including prisoner rehabilitation and career development.

Where does it come from?

Māori health expert Mason Durie developed the Whare Tapa Whā model of health in 1982. Professor Durie has affiliations with the Rangitane, Ngāti Kauwhata and Ngāti Raukawa tribes of New Zealand.

For over 40 years, Durie has been at the forefront of a transformational approach to Māori health and has played major roles in building the Māori health workforce.

What’s it for?

It’s for helping you think in a holistic way about health, education or any other issue affecting yourself or someone else.

What is it?

It’s a visual representation that shows a Māori wellbeing in four dimensions:

  • Taha wairua – the spiritual domain or well-being of your learner
  • Taha tinana – the physical domain or well-being of your learner
  • Taha whānau – the family or social well-being or domain of your learner
  • Taha hinengaro – the mental domain or well-being of your learner

Each of these are the different sides of a wharenui (meeting house).

In education, it’s a way of thinking about your learners more holistically. If each learner is like a whare, then it’s important that they are strong in each of the four dimensions. For example, if one or more sides of the house is weak or broken, then it’s likely the roof will fall in.

This way of thinking about our learners means that we have to think beyond the kinds of content that we want to teach. All four dimensions are necessary for strength and stability.

How is it relevant?

It’s relevant because you can use your knowledge of Te Whare Tapa Whā to enhance your teaching. This knowledge is drawn from Māori culture, but it’s not limited to working just with Māori.

Te Whare Tapa Whā explains the journey of many Māori learners and also outlines the tutor’s perspective towards this.

When we talk about a learner from the context of Te Whare Tapa Whā we place our learner at the centre. And that means that we can look at our learners in four different ways.

Most of our students go through a journey into our organisations. From a student’s perspective, this is the kind of conversation that they’re having with themselves even before they enter your classroom:

  1. Do I believe I can do this course? (Taha wairua).
  2. Do I have the resources I need to do this course? (Taha tinana).
  3. Do I have the support to do this course? (Taha whānau)
  4. Can I cope with the work in this course? (Taha hinengaro

What does it mean for me?

If you identify as Māori, the Whare Tapa Whā is a framework that allows you to talk about how you probably already work with your learners. If you are not Māori, the framework allows you to see your learners, particularly your Māori learners through new eyes.

It also means that the things that you think are the priority in your teaching environment, might not be for some of your learners. For example, learners who haven’t eaten breakfast are less likely to be interested in your great teaching resources.

One big implication is that you need to think about whether you’ve attended to all four domains from a Māori perspective.

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