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

I hear voices in my head, and they’re singing!

Dr Te Oti Rakena

Dr Te Oti Rakena

Dr Te Oti Rakena, Dr Gregory Camp, and Peter Watts (Creative Arts and Industries)

This project examined current methods of teaching music theory skills by creating and testing interventions that respond to the specific needs of Māori and Pacific Island students. We wanted to reduce the number of students repeating core music theory courses and increase the achievement of performance students enrolled in these papers.

We were surprised at how engaged students were in the process. We believe this was because we already had strong relationships with our research cohort from a previous year-long project, using Talanoa as a research method.

We had intended to create an online music theory tutorial to supplement core courses, and potentially provide a pre-tertiary foundation course or National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) supplement in the final year of school. However, after a comprehensive literature review, we discovered that while many overseas institutions had developed this type of intervention, there was little evidence to show it was effective. We also considered the entire project through the lens of a Māori and Pacific Island student and acknowledged that kanohi ki kanohi (face to face) was a more effective way for our students to internalise and make routine this type of information.

Student feedback through informal evaluations and email responses, showed more confidence and deeper content knowledge of theory skills with a more agile ability to complete tasks within a prescribed time limit. Students have indicated that these are transferable skills that improve their studio outcomes.

For the researchers involved, this project has confirmed the notion that when dealing with Māori and Pacific Island tertiary students and developing strategies to improve their achievement, the students are most often the experts in the room. With careful attention to interview questions and tasks, and confidence that those in power would listen, we have found many effective strategies. Students have indicated they do not care about remediating, and the negative labelling of these types of courses, the students have indicated they do not care. They want to succeed.

This project has contributed to the content in a new portfolio course developed for 2019 as a part of the new Tertiary Foundation Course. It will introduce students to the visual arts and performance literacies. In addition, the School of Music implemented a new undergraduate degree in 2019 and this project will assist in the assessment and design of courses, and the support mechanisms offered by the School and the Tuākana network.