Ietoga : Samoan educators' educational journeys.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Teaching and Learning
Senior educators in Samoa who are currently studying towards a Master of Teaching and Learning degree through the Christchurch College of Education face the usual range of challenges encountered by students studying from a distance. In addition, they face a range of expectations from their jobs, their communities, their churches and their families that are not the norm in the western society through which they are studying. Despite such difficulties, these educators are successful and are leaders in their fields. I was interested to learn how they managed these challenges. This thesis therefore asks, How did a group of senior educators in Samoa undertake their educational journeys'! It also traces my cultural and research learning journeys and the pathways I followed as a palagi (white person) undertaking cross-cultural research. It was important that I recognise my limitations as a palagi conducting research in the Pacific and that as far as possible I followed practices and research methodologies sensitive to Pasifika contexts. I therefore adopted a holistic and collaborative approach that entailed consultation with the community throughout the research process. During initial consultation community members confirmed they wished the research to occur, and that they approved of and accepted me as the researcher. We worked collaboratively to determine the topic and the nature of the study. The community drew clear parameters and established the main emphasis of the research as a narrative approach within an ethnographic framework. Ongoing consultation included regular visits to Samoa to meet with the participants where we discussed progress and worked together to co-construct their stories. My research approach 0 auala i le fa'a Pasefika (Pasefika Pathways) guided me throughout the research. This approach, a combination of my own western social constructionist epistemology, Talanoa research methodology and Stephen Filipo's (2004) research approach 0 auala i le fa'a Samoa, enabled me to respect and value my participants while at the same time taking cognisance of the cultural limitations under which a palagi works. I was given cultural guidance and support by an advisor in New Zealand appointed by the College of Education. The participants voluntarily took on the role of cultural advisors during my time in Samoa. I gathered data through a combination of fono (interviews), and talanoa (informal conversations) conducted in Samoa, and supplemented this with data from the participants' journals and from my own research journal, I realised from an early stage that various aspects of the research such as the processes used, cultural aspects and the main themes drawn from the participants' stories were closely intertwined and difficult to separate. Consequently, I adopted the metaphor of an ietoga (fine mat) to present this thesis. The completed ietoga represents the participants' individual educational journeys together with my cultural and research learning journeys. I argue that the participants live between two worlds as they balance tensions between the requirements of the western institutions that provide their education and the requirements of fa'a Samoa. The participants' formal schooling did not take account of fa'a Samoa and its related values. Nor did it take account of Pasifika people's preference for oral and experiential learning. Codes of behaviour and expectations of fa'a Samoa such as fa'a aloalo (respect) for one's elders and those in authority have markedly constrained and influenced the participants' educational journeys. Their responsibilities to family, church and community, for example, have presented barriers to their success. Paradoxically, these same codes of behaviour and expectations have supported the participants and have made it possible for their educational journeys to be successful. I contend that if western institutions wish to provide meaningful programmes and learning experiences for their Pasifika students, it is important that they take cognisance of and plan for these students' cultural values, beliefs and codes of behaviour. This research determined factors that enabled a group of senior educators in Samoa to be successful. Two questions arise for me and present as opportunities for research to be undertaken by Samoan or other Pasifika peoples. Have the participants been successful in their postgraduate study because they are undertaking this while living in Samoa and therefore have ready access to fa'a Samoa's support systems? How have the participants' educational journeys differed from those of other educators who have not achieved the same success?