Concepts: What is whanaungatanga?

What is whanaungatanga? 

Whanaungatanga refers to a sense of family connection. It’s a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging.

Whanaungatanga is about connecting to whānau or family. This includes extended family and relationships at all levels. It also includes your work and classroom “family”.

A simple way to understand whanaungatanga is that it is about relationships and expectations. 

Sometimes in education settings, we use the word to talk about a process of getting to know each other. This is called whakawhanaungatanga. 

Whanaungatanga describes the ‘glue’ that holds people together in any whānau relationships. In tough times, it’s the relationship-glue of whanaungatanga that causes the whānau to gather round, provide support, and put the needs of the group before the needs of individuals.

How does whanaungatanga help create a learner-centred teaching environment?

You can’t have a learner-centred teaching environment without good relationships. This applies to your relationships with your learners as well as their relationships with each other.

In a learner-centred teaching environment, people feeling connected and identify with the group. They stick together. Shared expectations mean that they celebrate diverse abilities and individual excellence.

As educators, we should foster whanaungatanga in our teaching environments. This means communicating a belief in the capacity of all as learners and achievers. 

We should look for opportunities to use learners’ life experiences as the foundation for future learning. 

Getting to know your learners takes time and many interactions. The more you can interact with your learners, the more they will see that you are genuine in your desire to help them succeed.

How can you use whanaungatanga to create learner success?

  1. Think about what you can do to build relationships in your teaching environment. Doing things together socially can go a long way to helping build relationships. 
  2. Look for opportunities to eat together. Food is a great way to create whanaungatanga and build relationships. When you eat together, you are signalling on a deep level that you’re family. 
  3. Find out what your learners’ aspirations and goals are. This sounds basic, but you get to know people better when you find out more about what they want for themselves and their families.

Author: Graeme Smith

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

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