Approaches: What is ako?

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Approaches in adult LN (4)
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What is it?

Ako means both teach and learn. It’s a reciprocal relationship where the educator is also learning from the student.

Ako refers to traditional Māori thinking about the transfer and absorption of skills, knowledge, wisdom, experience, much of which has traditionally occurred in the course of everyday activities.

Ako implies ‘learn’ and ‘teach’ at the same time.

In English we use two words – learn and teach – for different things. In Māori, ako is simply used for both. In this way of thinking, it is acceptable for the learner to shift roles and become the teacher and for the teacher to become the learner.

A simple way to understand ako in the shifting roles of educator and learner is this:

  • sometimes learner, sometimes teacher.

Ako works through the tuakana-teina relationship between educator and learner. As we mentioned before, while these terms have their origin in traditional Māori settings, we now use them in adult education.

How does this approach contribute to a learner-centred teaching environment?

Tuakana-teina contributes to a learner-centred teaching environment by providing us with an alternative to traditional teacher-centred methods of teaching.

Consider the following two different models of teaching and learning from our discussion about tuakana-teina. The arrows indicate the transmission of knowledge.

Teaching and learning from a Māori perspective requires two active participants. Tuakana-teina is ako in action:

Tuakana ← ako → Teina

Teaching and learning from a traditional Western perspective doesn’t always require an active learner:

Teacher teaches (active)

Learner learns (passive)

  1. Do you ever notice when you find yourself in the middle of a long monologue in your teaching?
  2. What can you put both you and your learners more at the centre of your training?

For more on ako, click here.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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