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Delivering Te Mātaiaho and the Common Practice Model with Tikanga and Fidelity: what does that mean?

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

by Rebecca Thomas




Tikanga and Fidelity; these two words have been used by many since the release of Te Mātaiaho and the Common Practice Model, Steve and I also refer to them fondly. But what does it mean to deliver something with ‘Tikanga’ and ‘Fidelity’? How can it be unpacked with your staff?


On my journey to investigate this idea I came across an excellent paper written by, Professors Wiremu Doherty, Tā Hirini Moko Mead and Tā Pou Temara for Te Aka Matua o te Ture (Law Commission) on 21st September 2023, it is called He Poutama. Its purpose was to provide a guide into the nature of Tikanga for future state law. Despite the vast difference between law and education these two sectors have much in common.


Both law and education in Aotearoa are committed to addressing historical injustices and both seek to promote cultural diversity and equity; even if a change in government may mean that these same aspirations in the future policies are not necessarily promoted, there is already a sea of lawmakers and educators on the chalk face who will seek to continue this as the ideal, as no policy can change the bicultural foundation of a country.


New Zealand has been working to address disparities and promote equity for Māori in both the legal and education sectors. This includes initiatives to reduce the overrepresentation of Māori in the criminal justice system and improve educational outcomes for Māori students.


You can see now why I believe this paper written for law-makers is just as relevant for educators. Wherever you stand in the sector, disparities in social and economic outcomes between Māori and non-Māori populations will continue to be areas of concern that need to be addressed.


Politics and law aside now, I encourage you to immerse yourself in unpacking Tikanga and seeing how it aligns to implementing approaches with fidelity.


He Poutama paper begins with helping the reader understand the beginnings of Tikanga, right back to Te Kore, Te Pou and Te Marama, through to exploring the significance of tikanga in whakapapa pūraukau (through which knowledge is gained and housed), to the design and the construction of wharenui. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 50 pages as it helped me see how interconnected and important this induction knowledge is to truly understanding the depth of Tikanga principles.


“As always in tikanga Māori, the values are closely interwoven. None stands alone. They do not represent a hierarchy of ethics, but rather a koru, or a spiral, of ethics. They are all part of a continuum yet contain an identifiable core.”

- Te Aka Matua o te Ture | Law Commission


A reminder for us in the quote above that perceiving the component parts of tikanga as integrated can safeguard tikanga by ensuring that it is not treated as simply a “tokenistic” word or gesture from which to extract isolated values. In the same way this blog isn’t about offering you some rigid application of tikanga principles you should follow, as that in itself would negate the purpose, but more to demonstrate how tikanga is flexible and context dependent, and most importantly to acknowledge that we cannot forget that tikanga is influenced by Māori world view.


Tikanga concepts are grounded in norms that differ from dominant non-Māori norms. They may have broader relational, ethical, moral and spiritual elements. It is important to understand this complexity when seeking to engage with tikanga.


Stage set, I will now use Te Kākano diagram Steve and I introduced to help you understand Bishop’s ITAR model (Induction, Trialling, Application, Reflection) and how this process relates to unpacking new initiatives, (be it the CPM, structured literacy or Te Mātaiaho) and hopefully support you with how to deliver them with tikanga through core concepts central to Tikanga ‘systems’.


# Kia Whakatō: Planting the seed

Tikanga concept: whakapapa and whanaungatanga


By establishing connections between these two concepts they describe not only our relationship to each other as a team/staff (a whānau-like concept), but also our relationships to the initiatives being driven (the seed to be planted). Whakapapa can be a way of mapping knowledge, it connects place and community. As well as connection to ‘genealogy’, it also means to ‘recite in proper order’; making links between events and ideas. Through chronology, whakapapa links the people, and the practices of the people, to the land.


“Reliance on a whakapapa framework to make sense of our existence requires us to value every person as part of an endlessly expanding whole. This is not to be confused with some feel-good notion of equality or sameness; rather, it recognises that the particular qualities of every person contribute to the vitality of the whakapapa network in its entirety”

- Ani Mikaere (Beneath the Herbs and Plants)


In this quote, Ani explains that whakapapa is not only a way for making sense of the world, but also a behavioural guide.


My point being that in order to make sense of Te Mātaiaho, The Common Practice Model or structured literacy you must go back to the beginning and unpack the intent, mapping its journey, and deciding how this looks in your context with the relationships you have with the people in your community and your basis for allegiance.


To help you plant the seed (Kia Whakatō) with tikanga, using the concept of whakapapa and whanaungatanga we recommend the following activities with your staff:


For a structured literacy initiative, use North-East Literacy

For Te Mātaiaho, use Whakapapa Weaving

For the Common Practice Model, use Common Practice Model Pearls


By acknowledging the chronology, the connection, the relationship of these entities to us in our context, is the beginning of planting the seed (initiative) with tikanga. It is preparing the land for growth, it is operating with and maintaining whanaungatanga throughout this initial planting process (this Induction period). It is acknowledging that we all have a responsibility to care for it once the koha has been accepted; whanaungatanga highlights our belonging and inclusiveness as an educational community to embrace new concepts and ideas.


“ [t]he whanaungatanga principle goes beyond just whakapapa and includes non-kin persons who become like kin through shared experiences”

- Hirini Moko Mead and Pou Temara (Beneath the Herbs and Plants)


To look for a practical visual of whakapapa and whanaungatanga working together with tikanga think of the way manuhiri and haukāinga interact with protocols during the pōwhiri process. The induction phase after accepting the koha is every bit as similar, we are adhering to the protocol of accepting an initiative, one where the people are building connections and relationships to the context in interactive and discursive ways.


Discursive ways being: engaging in conversations, discussions, or interactions that involve a back-and-forth exchange of ideas and information. It implies that during the pōwhiri process, individuals are not just following a set of rigid rules but are actively participating in dialogue and interactions that help build connections and relationships. These interactions are likely characterised by a free exchange of thoughts, opinions, and cultural elements.


These discursive interactions can be found in any of our ELV tools.




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