Whanaungatanga: What Is It? How can you use it to create learner success? 3 Things You Need to Know

Whanaungatanga: What Is It? How can you use it to create learner success? 3 Things You Need to Know


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Updated Post on Whanaungatanga

I have a more recent and updated post on whanaungatanga here.

What is whanaungatanga? 

Whanaungatanga is the Māori concept of building and nurturing relationships, emphasizing a sense of family and belonging.

You will struggle to create any kind of learner-centred teaching environment – whether online or in real life without it. Check out the video below with myself and Dr Mei Winitana discussing whanaungatanga.

Short video with Mei and Graeme

Family connection

Here’s the first thing you need to know. If you only remember one thing, remember this:

  • Whanaungatanga refers to a sense of being like a whanau, of family connection.

Whanaungatanga is about family connection and a sense of belonging. It emphasises the idea that individuals are interconnected like members of a family (whanau).

In adult education, it means creating a learning environment that fosters trust, support, and a sense of community.

Educators can promote whanaungatanga by encouraging sharing, facilitating collaboration, organising community activities, and embracing cultural diversity. By nurturing these family-like connections, learners can develop a strong sense of identity, belonging, and motivation to succeed.


Whanaungatanga is about building relationships and creating a sense of belonging. It recognises the importance of connections and the idea of “family” in various contexts, including the classroom or workplace.

It involves fostering a supportive and inclusive environment where learners feel valued and connected to others. By promoting positive relationships and embracing diversity, whanaungatanga contributes to a thriving learning community.


Whanaungatanga encompasses relationships and expectations that extend beyond biological family ties. It emphasises the importance of forming connections and fostering a sense of community.

In the context of education, whanaungatanga involves creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment where learners and educators develop meaningful relationships based on mutual respect and understanding.

These relationships are characterised by certain expectations. It is about acknowledging and valuing each person’s unique strengths, contributions, and cultural backgrounds. It involves recognising the collective responsibility to support and uplift one another in achieving shared goals.

Whanaungatanga encourages learners to actively participate, collaborate, and contribute to the learning community. It promotes a sense of belonging and encourages individuals to embrace their cultural identities while fostering an environment of inclusivity and support.

Whakawhanaungatanga – Getting to know each other

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.

Sometimes, it’s more obvious when that relationship glue is NOT there. You’ve probably had the experience of walking into a classroom, work, relationship or family situation and just KNOWING that something wasn’t right.

If you could tell that “something” was missing in a situation like this then perhaps you already know what whanaungatanga is. And perhaps you just didn’t have the right word to describe it.

Well, now you do.

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

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

This is a good question. Here’s the answer:

  • 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.

We should foster whanaungatanga in our teaching

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.

Of course, this has a wider application beyond the classroom as well. You need to foster whanaungatanga in all aspects of your life. This includes everywhere where you have relationships including at home, at school, at work, at church, in your sports activities, clubs and pass times.

How can you use whanaungatanga to create learner success?


What is Learner-Centred Teaching – 12 Concepts from Te Ao Māori You Should Embrace to Create Learning Success

Discover time-honoured approaches to learner-centred teaching

What if I told you that there were time-honoured approaches to teaching and learning you can use to create the conditions for learning success. Imagine if your teaching really connected with your learners… What if your classroom or training environment was a place where your learners felt like they belonged and wanted to learn?

Here’s a secret. It’s totally possible if you discover and embrace time-honoured concepts from Te Ao Māori – the Māori world. This book is for you if you want to teach or train in a way that is more learner-centred or if you want to learn to think in a more holistic way. Read more here


Click the link below to find out more about What is Learner-Centred? 12 Concepts from Te Ao Māori You Should Embrace to Create Learning Success


Three Simple Approaches You Need for Learner-Centred Teaching

Find out more about three of the fundamentals of adult teaching

Have you ever thought about how to improve your teaching? Have you ever wondered what it takes to create learner success in any teaching environment? Well, you need three things. Make that four things… You need to:

  • Understand what people mean when they talk about “learner-centred” teaching.
  • Know how to leverage your learners’ prior knowledge.
  • Have simple ways of increasing the motivation of your students. 
  • Know what learner agency is and how to develop it.

Read more here.


Click the link below to find out more about Three Simple Approaches You Need for Learner Centred Teaching – Proven Ways to Use Prior Knowledge, Increase Motivation and Develop Learner Agency to Pave the Road to Learning Success

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Once you’ve finished reading, you will have a better understanding of the basics including how to integrate or embed literacy and numeracy into your teaching. This includes with technical and vocational education. You can read more here.

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