Data, Narratives & Indigenous Ways of Knowing – Rethinking Stories About, With and For Students

Two of my personal professional learning goals for 2016 are focused on better utilising data and accelerating Maori student achievement.

In exploring these goals, my inquiry has led me to consider that ways in which we share ‘stories’ or ‘narratives’ with our students and the impact this has on them. My spiral of inquiry is focussed on traditional Maori narratives and the potential they have to impact a students understanding of their own learning journey. Narrative is the means through which we learn from experience by reflecting upon experience, declaring what it means, and distilling it into a symbolic form to be expressed and remembered.

Narrative expression can involve a sort of critical reflection in which experience is recalled, considered, and evaluated in relation to a broader purpose. For indigenous communities narrative frameworks are about the importance of being able to tell their own story.

Traditional methods of storytelling focussed on accurately passing on knowledge, accuracy being paramount to the effective transmission of this knowledge.  For Maori, an oral history means that getting the information ‘right’ is essential for the dissemination and preservation of the story at the heart. If you don’t get it right, there is a distortion of what is or is not. The consequences of poor storytelling may have changed, but ‘getting it right’ is still an essential element when telling Maori stories today.

In a Maori context, three essential ingredients of the old forms of storytelling are the waiata – the song, whakapapa – the genealogy of the story, and the karakia – the prayer.  In a learning context these elements can provide a lens through which learner stories/narrative can be connected to indigenous ways of knowing. I am interested in exploring these concepts and the potential for them to transform the narratives we construct, with, for and about our students.

  • Waiata – What is the story that is being told?
  • Whakapapa – Where has the story come from?
  • Karakia – What might need to happen to increase the likelihood of favourable outcomes?

Our ability to tell a learning story from a Maori audience point of view, influences the conveyance of the story associated with the information. Therefore consideration should be given to a couple of questions:

  • In what ways can the currency of indigenous storytelling influence student learning outcomes?
  • What impact would ‘data’ driven narratives, within indigenous narrative frameworks, have a positive impact on Maori student learning outcomes?

My inquiry is the beginning of a story about the links between indigenous narrative frameworks and (data driver) learning stories. I am interested in where it might lead.


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