A framework for partnerships/collaboration

Two terms that are widely used to describe the concept of home-school connection are 'partnership' and 'collaboration'.

Brooking (2007) suggests that home-school partnerships “refer to ideas and initiatives schools have implemented that involve parents, families and whānau in their children’s learning, in an effort to form closer relationships between schools and homes” (p.14).

In describing the concept of collaboration, McNaughton 
and Glynn (1998) propose that collaboration implies an interdependence between parents and teachers and these authors are quite specific about what will be shared between the home and school partners.

In our view, collaboration ideally entails shared expertise between educationalists and family caregivers. That expertise requires shared understandings about goals of teaching and learning, and about processes of teaching
 and learning. It requires also shared actions relating to goals and understanding.

This sharing is not unidirectional but reciprocal, so 
that agents in each setting are able to learn from
 and complement each other. In our view, this does not undermine the expertise of the teacher. Indeed, the modification of teachers' expertise required by
 shared understanding with caregivers enhances professional expertise (p.4).

Both partnership and collaboration, as described above, infer a degree of power-sharing; therefore schools need to consider what this means in terms of engagement with Māori whānau and communities.

This is particularly important given that, historically in education, partnerships between Māori whānau, communities and schools have been determined and dominated by the school (Bishop & Glynn, 1999).


Video 4: Literacy a koha for whānau

Key thoughts

“It was never seen as something schools would hold on to and determining how it was going to be used…schools should be offering it to their community, offering the training, the feedback to the community and let the community be self-determining about how they will use it.

When you really get whānau determining how it will be used then you’ll really be lighting the candle and spreading the flame of literacy at that level and when you can get it going in both settings, get it happening at schools and community, then you’re going to double the effect of literacy learning.”

Key questions

  1. What potential benefits do you see in working alongside your whānau and community with a literacy intervention?
  2. Who else needs to be involved?
  3. How might you create a context where whānau 
can be self-determining about how literacy or any
 other koha will be used?

In examining power relations in education, Bishop and Glynn (1999) propose a framework that encompasses five issues associated with power, namely: initiation, benefits, representation, legitimation and accountability (IBRLA). They utilise the IBRLA framework to suggest a model for planning and evaluating educational activities in schools and classrooms in relation to the Treaty of Waitangi principle of partnership (p.199). This framework can be adapted and applied to be used by schools as a means of discussing, planning and evaluating how they engage in the process of developing educationally powerful connections with Māori whānau and communities.

Use the framework provided in Resource 3 below to discuss and consider how the IBRLA model applies in relation to home-school partnerships with Māori whānau and community. Detail current practices and possible alternative practices that you might explore.


Framework Activity
[Download 3]


Culturally responsive pedagogy
 of relations

Evidence from Phase 5 schools in Te Kotahitanga has demonstrated that when a culturally responsive pedagogy of relations is embedded in classrooms, and across the school, Māori students are more likely to experience education success (Alton-Lee, 2014).

When considering home and school relationships and interactions with Māori whānau, hapū and iwi members it is useful for school leaders and teachers to evaluate themselves in relation to a culturally responsive pedagogy of relations. This requires being able to contemplate the extent to which their own school reflects a context:

  • where power is shared between self-determining individuals within non-dominating relations of interdependence
  • where culture counts
  • where learning is interactive, dialogic and spirals
  • where participants are connected to one another; and
  • where there is a common vision for what constitutes excellence in educational outcomes (Bishop et al., 2007).

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy
 of Relations
[Download 4]


Collaboration – theory 
and practice

The concept of collaboration in educational settings is 
not clearly defined within the literature. One academic 
(Hynds, 2007) even goes so far as to suggest that the literature has resulted in “competing definitions” (p.11) 
and a “confusing array of terms” (p.12).

In her Masters thesis, Sweeney (2011) investigated collaboration within and between schools, suggesting 
that it was possible to gain clarity about the concept by focusing on the purposes of collaborative practices.

Based on her review of the literature, she proposes two broad and interconnected purposes for effective collaboration in education, namely: “for teachers and students to learn and improve” and “for those working together to reach a common goal” (p.18).

She further suggested that collaborative groups that have been successful in raising student achievement are characterised by particular practices that, again, fall into two broad categories: “building skills and knowledge”
and “building relationships” (p.27).

While Sweeney’s research is specifically focused on collaboration between educational practitioners (i.e. teachers, school leaders and professional development providers), the collaborative practices identified within the literature can be expanded to encompass family and community members and applied as indicators of effective collaboration between home and school stakeholders.

In summarising the literature, Sweeney has developed 
a table of specific indicators of effective and ineffective collaborative practices associated with building skills and knowledge and building relationships. The table below details indicators of effective collaborative practices that are relevant to home-school collaboration and is an adaptation of Sweeney’s summary (p.41-43).


Sweeney’s summary

Collaboration in practice: conversations with
 Mere Berryman and Ted Glynn

In two separate interviews about home-school collaboration, Mere Berryman (2010) and Ted Glynn (2011) responded to questions about how schools should make connections to and engage with Māori communities.

From these interviews, four common themes emerged. These themes are:

  • identify who you are
  • build relational trust
  • listen to communities; and
  • respond accordingly.

An explanation of each theme, and some strategies that schools could implement to address these four themes, 
are detailed as follows.


1. Identify who you are

Whether you are a school leader, a researcher or a teacher, Māori communities want to know who you are – not necessarily what you are, but who you are.

Rituals of engagement such as pōwhiri and hui provide powerful opportunities for Māori to see who you are. Knowing who you are in part helps the community to determine their own connections with you and to also assist them to begin to ascertain where you are coming from.

Key thoughts

"Māori communities want to know who I am, not what I am. What do I bring to the whānau context, am I a parent, a grandparent, (an aunt, uncle, sister, brother), they
 want to connect at a personal level so that they can start to build some trust with me."

"This is who I am – this is what I have to offer, how can we work together?"

Key questions

  1. What are the benefits of connecting with your Māori whānau and community on a personal level?
  2. Why do some people prioritise identifying ‘what’
 they are over ‘who’ they are, and what are the implications of this when connecting with Māori whānau and communities?


2. Build relational trust

Māori communities often exist within a complex network of interconnected relationships. It is important to understand that you need to invest in these relationships – you need to contribute before you take out.

The development of good relationships between the school and Māori elders is also desirable because these people can provide school leaders, researchers and teachers with legitimation within Māori communities.

Key thought

"I have my elders...and I go through rituals of engagement – pōwhiri…and I ensure that I have people with me who can help, legitimate not only myself, but the work that
 we want to do in those communities."

Key questions

  1. What processes or – rituals of engagement are currently provided at your school that enable
 school leaders and teachers to build relational trust between themselves and the Māori community?
  2. Consider the relationship that your school has
 with your local Māori elders - kuia and kaumatua:
    • who has the relationship?
    • how does the school invest in the relationship and build relational trust?
    • how do elders benefit from the relationship?
    • how does the school benefit from the relationship?


School leaders and teachers who want to work with Māori communities need to be prepared to accept that there are no boundaries between professional and personal worlds.

In the following video clip, Ted stresses the importance 
of understanding the collective and, more specifically, the role the school leaders and teachers have to play within
 the collective.

Video 7: Connecting professional-self with personal-self

Key thoughts

"You can’t just say well that’s the personal stuff let’s just carry on with the professional stuff…you can’t just conveniently retreat behind the professional image…
 you can, but people see through that really quickly…
 it’s actually living your life a completely different way and
 it’s also understanding the collective."

"When you go to a hui, and you find that perhaps two hours goes and they’re still doing the whakawhanaungatanga, they’re still going around, and you know that there’s 
been a big change in yourself when you think - yeah that's okay.

Key questions

Ted is suggesting that some re-positioning is required
 by non-Māori in order to build relational trust with 
Māori communities.

  1. What are the implications of not making a personal commitment to relationships with Māori communities?
  2. What are the challenges associated with this and
 how might those challenges be overcome?


3. Listen to communities

Whenever you engage with Māori - be good hosts. Follow tikanga and listen respectfully to what they want to
 say. Listen so that you can work with, and not against Māori communities.

Historically non-Māori tend to focus on taking from a hui messages that meet their own agenda rather than listening to what is being said and considering what they can put 
in. In the following video clip, Ted describes an example
 of his non-Māori colleagues becoming frustrated in situations where they have not been required to speak
 but rather listen.

Video 8: Be ready to listen rather than expect to speak

Key thoughts

"My Pākehā colleagues, they get invited to the hui and
 they go there assuming their expertise is what’s
 required and they get frustrated - they think I took my harp to the party and nobody asked me to play."

"What they don’t appreciate is that by going there
 they’re showing a willingness to listen and they’ve actually done a lot of good."

Key question

  1. What sense do you make of the messages 
that Ted is suggesting in this video clip?

In the following video clip, Mere shares her insights into listening and responding to Māori communities.


Video 9: Listen to Māori communities and respond accordingly

Key thoughts

"I listen to what the community wants of me... together
 we learn, together we move on, together we become 
more powerful."

"We’ve got to create spaces in our education system
 where Māori can engage on their own terms."

"Māori, by and large, really want to engage… if we can ensure that our education settings are creating that successful context for their children, the parents will engage."

"As educators, we need to listen to what communities want from us."

Key question

  • Consider the occasions when your school engages with your Māori community:
    • who determines the terms of engagement (for example; the venue, the time, the agenda, who will participate)?
    • who does the most speaking and who does the most listening and what are the implications of this?
    • how might you provide opportunities for the Māori community to have a greater level of self-determination in terms of their engagement with the school?


4. Respond accordingly

Developing relationships, and responding respectfully within the context of these relationships, is critical
 when working with Māori communities and whānau. It is important to allow whānau space and time to consider:

  • whether they are interested in what you are saying/offering
  • whether or not they would like to take you up
 on the offer.

Video 10: Connecting with Māori communities

Key thoughts

"Look before you leap, listen before you speak, and put in to the network before you take something out."

Key question

  1. What are the implications for school leaders of not carefully considering how they initiate and engage in relationships with their Māori communities?

Consider your own school context and how you engage with Māori communities. What messages in this video clip do you find reaffirming and/or what messages are new to you?

If schools genuinely allow whānau to be self-determining, then they need to be open to the possibility that Māori communities might not necessarily accept what the school is offering. If the offer of an initiative is not taken up by a whānau or the wider Māori community, it is important that the school remains committed to working together to find a solution or course of action that is mutually acceptable.

When school leaders and teachers create the conditions where the relationships between themselves and their Māori communities are characterised by reciprocal respect and care, there is greater likelihood that the
Māori community will seek and provide support on their own terms.


Video 11: Community self-determination

Key thoughts

"This community group had come in and had carved this table for us to show that they know about all of the successes in the school, and the mahi that we are doing, and they wanted to support that."

"It doesn’t matter if we’re praised or if we are not – when we are challenged, we’re a whānau and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect students and ensure that they succeed."

Key questions

  1. What sense do you make of the key thoughts above and actions of the community presented 
within the video clip?
  2. What questions would you want to ask this school and their community? Why?

In summary

This collaborative story identifies a number of important considerations that schools need to engage with, both prior to and throughout the process of building collaborative and educationally powerful partnerships with Māori communities:

  • to maximise the relationship between schools and their Māori communities, Māori communities need
 to be part of determining the rituals of encounter and the relationship.
  • Historically schools have defined how Māori parents and whānau can and will participate, and the whānau themselves have not been allowed to determine on their own terms how they can and will contribute within schools.


  • Schools need to provide spaces (metaphorical and physical) that allow whānau and the school to talk together and work together for the benefit of Māori students. This important work should not be delegated to just one person.
  • The creation of such spaces can be mutually beneficial. School leaders and teachers can be informed about the community in which they serve and they can also have access to a body of knowledge within the Māori community that has been traditionally ‘untapped’.
  • The spaces also present an opportunity for the school to build the capacity of the Māori community to contribute to learning.
  • The spaces need to reflect a context that says to whānau – “you belong here, we want you here, we have some knowledge; we recognise that you have knowledge too and by working together we can be
 much more powerful”.
  • Māori parents engage in schools in settings where their children are successful (kapahaka and sport). Therefore, schools need to ensure participation and achievement reflect the same successful contexts (including classrooms) for Māori students, as this will encourage parental engagement.