Teacher experiences and perceptions related to developing a culturally and linguistically responsive emergent bilingual literacy program in Aotearoa New Zealand: A collaborative case study





bilingual education, indigenous languages, teacher pedagogy, bilingual children, teacher perceptions


In this article we discuss teachers’ perceptions and experiences of a collaborative case study to adapt a literacy approach originally designed for an Aotearoa New Zealand English-medium context. The approach was adapted to meet the needs of learners in a school offering differing levels of bilingual education. Our collaboration included a facilitating researcher, supported by two researchers at a University (of Ngāi Tahu, Kati Mamoe, and Waitaha descent) and two classroom teachers of Māori descent from a small rural Māori community in Aotearoa New Zealand. We report findings from qualitative data collected from the two classroom teachers as part of the research process, analysed using a wānanga approach. Findings suggested that developing a linguistically and culturally responsive literacy approach to foster emergent bilingual language development required Kaupapa Māori approaches. These included ako (acknowledging the experiences and knowledge of the teacher and learner within shared learning experiences), the development of trust and quality relationships between the teachers and the facilitating researcher, and the ability of teachers to be agentic when implementing the approach. Teachers viewed responsiveness to culture and language as integral to developing an emergent bilingual literacy approach for children, which underpinned connections between teachers, children, and families.


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Author Biographies

Amanda Denston, University of Canterbury

Amanda Denston’s whakapapa affiliates to Waitaha, Kāti Mamoe and Ngāi Tahu in the South Island. She is focused on language and literacy development in children within their early years of schooling, and literacy learning difficulties. Amanda has worked extensively with teachers within schools, as well as with other professionals in the implementation of programs within the response to intervention framework.

Rachel Martin, University of Otago

Rachel affiliates to Waitaha, Kāti Mamoe and Ngāi Tahu in the South Island. She is focused on culturally and linguistically sustaining Te Tiriti-based frameworks for research. She also has extensive experience in bilingual education, Māori Education, intergenerational transmission of Te Reo Māori, intergenerational trauma and historical trauma, and Kaupapa Māori research.

Mel Taite-Pitama, Te kura o Tuahiwi

Mel Taite-Pitama is the current principal of Tuahiwi School in Christchurch and has a wealth of experience leading in the schooling sector. She is also the Deputy Chair of Ara Institute of Canterbury Limited. She has a passion for Māori success, pushing educational boundaries and creating opportunities for others.

Awhina Green, Te kura o Tuahiwi

Awhina affiliates with Ngāti Porou. She is currently teaching in North Canterbury within an immersion Māori medium context. Awhina is interested in fostering te reo Māori language in children within their early primary school years.

Reece Gough, Te kura o Tuahiwi

Reece has a background in teaching in both English and Māori-medium settings. He is currently teaching in Canterbury, New Zealand and is interested in structured literacy approaches.  

Gail Gillon, University of Canterbury

Gail affiliates to Ngāi Tahu and is the Director of the University of Canterbury Child Well-Being Research Institute. Her area of research focuses on understanding the relationship between spoken and written language development and, in particular, the importance of children’s phonological awareness to reading and spelling development.


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How to Cite

Denston, A., Martin, R., Taite-Pitama, M., Green, A., Gough, R., & Gillon, G. (2022). Teacher experiences and perceptions related to developing a culturally and linguistically responsive emergent bilingual literacy program in Aotearoa New Zealand: A collaborative case study. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 51(2). https://doi.org/10.55146/ajie.v51i2.17