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

Māori mai-me (‘Māorify me’)

Dr Tauwehe Tāmati

Dr Tauwehe Tāmati

Drs Tauwehe Tāmati and Nasser Giacaman (Faculty of Education and Social Work and Faculty of Engineering)

The objectives of this project were, firstly, to propose a set of conversational Te Reo Māori phrases for beginner speakers to use in a wide variety of University contexts; secondly, to develop a virtual reality (VR) mobile application to allow users to practice them; and, thirdly, to evaluate the impact of VR in second language acquisition.

We were very pleased with the outcomes: not only with the creation of the VR app, but also with the lessons learnt and the growing interest around the University. The app was designed with pedagogical elements to support learning and second language acquisition, with a particular focus on encouraging users and making them feel more confident to speak Te Reo Māori. To formally evaluate the project, we secured the required ethics approval early in the project. The evaluation was designed to identify the impact on users. Unfortunately, we struggled to attract a large number of participants. Instead, we carried out a smaller practice evaluation (with 5 participants) to identify potential hiccups in the evaluation design, and prepare for formal large-scale evaluations in 2019.

Despite high interest, recruiting participants for the evaluation workshops proved challenging. We redesigned our evaluation for 2019 with prizes. We learnt a lot from the practice evaluation and have redesigned our evaluation to suit a large number of participants. The users in our practice evaluation provided valuable feedback, confirming the value of a VR app for practice. They liked being able to practice a conversation at their own pace, and being able to listen to sample phrases from both fluent and novice speakers. Based on the 2018 pilot evaluation, we learnt which features need improvement.

The project grew larger than anticipated, resulting in plans to extend it. Additional funding was secured for 2019. In addition to sharing the VR with students in our own faculties (Education and Social Work, and Engineering), we also welcomed on board Medical and Health Sciences to allow their students to use the app. The project will also be promoted through the University of Auckland Reo Māori Policy Committee.