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SEED projects 2018 – He vaka moana: Navigating Māori and Pasifika student success

The art of wayfinding: Navigating Pasifika student success

Jacoba MatapoJacoba Matapo (Faculty of Education and Social Work)

The project’s aim was for all Faculty of Education and Social Work (FESW) staff and students to increase cultural awareness and engagement in cultural practices conducive to Pasifika success and to strengthen collaboration of teaching staff with Pasifika support staff. We aimed to develop a dynamic interactive website, shared within the University, which would change as new initiatives and interests emerged. The website would include content to foster Pasifika students’ success. A vision for Pasifika success within the FESW must be attentive to Pasifika students’ own aspirations of success. It is challenging to see the bigger picture, when the various support services lack an overall vision.

The research project generated new insights into the complexities of Pasifika success as framed by Pasifika staff and students. Because the research was informed by a Pacific cultural reference, it created opportunities for them to engage with traditional methods of navigation to reconceptualise engagement with knowledge, education and notions of resilience in their own academic success. Developing the website was unexpectedly time-consuming. The Pacific content and initiatives we collected showed a vast body of Pacific content already exists within the university, but connections across (within faculties) are fragmented.

The project generated a renewed conviction about Pasifika academic success, conceptualising that student learning is indeed holistic. Students were reaffirmed in their sense of belonging as learners and the talanoa created a shared vision of success amongst peers. As a result of this study, I am now working as Associate Dean Pasifika at FESW, developing a new Pacific student engagement strategy (2019).

The project will continue for another two years as I secured further funding. It will act as a pilot for a university-wide investigation exploring Pasifika student and staff notions of success within the university. The website will be redeveloped and adapted. We aspire to create a virtual Pasifika space, that all can access, share and engage with. The research will not only support the development of a Pasifika success student strategy in FESW, the subsequent research will continue to affirm connections across the university to strengthen culturally appropriate praxis in teaching, learning and engagement.