In Pursuit of Culturally Responsive Evidence Based Special Education Pathways in Aotearoa New Zealand: Whaia ki te ara tika
Macfarlane, Sonja Lee
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis seeks to acknowledge the issues and challenges, as well as the opportunities and successes that continue to present for Māori learners accessing special education services in Aotearoa New Zealand. Year after year, strategic educational documents, policies and services are revisited, reviewed or restructured in order to effect a series of considered and realistic responses that are able to address the inequities that perpetuate for Māori learners. Discussions and debates specific to what needs to change, how this should be done, and who has the authority to decide, continue to be had. Perceptions vary between interested groups about the relevance and appropriateness of much of the research evidence that is drawn on to inform special education policy and practice directions for use with Māori learners. This research study investigates two key special education constructs; culturally responsive practice, and evidence based practice. The overall aims are to ascertain what Māori perceive to be the key components that comprise both of these individual terms; to determine if (and how) they are dissimilar or synonymous terms from a Māori perspective; and, to understand how these perceptions differ or are in tandem with special education (western) thinking. It is argued that these terms are regularly defined for Māori by non-Māori, without input or consultation from the former, and that this (in effect) perpetuates a cycle of special education service provision that is unable to respond adequately to, or connect culturally with, Māori realities. The scene is set wherein a three-circle evidence based practice framework that has been adopted by special education is used (in tandem with the Māori concept of mana), as the structure for selecting the research participants; all of whom are Māori / Māori affiliated. It is my contention that a range of Māori perspectives that are reflective of all of the three types of evidence that special education acknowledges is a worthy starting point for determining parallels and distinctions. From the three evidence domains of research, practice, and whānau, 18 leaders share their respective and collective knowledge, expertise, thoughts and wisdom about the two key constructs. What transpires throughout this study is the emergence of six strong components that are unanimously privileged by these leaders as critical to culturally responsive evidence based special education practice for Māori tamariki and whānau. These components are then drawn on to uncover a range of kaupapa Māori frameworks that are reflective of the participants’ discourses.