Teacher and student perspectives on combining restorative practice and Te Kotahitanga
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The main aim in this research was to determine whether Te Kotahitanga strengthened Restorative Processes, and if so, in what way. The rationale behind this research was to determine whether adopting culturally responsive and inclusive teacher pedagogy, supports young people to positively engage in learning experiences and spaces when they are faced with behavioural challenges. In addition, this research aims to explore whether the relationship between Te Kotahitanga and Restorative Processes working in tandem, helps young people in realising their full potential as positive young adults, and as such consistent with the Positive Youth Development model outcomes. To support the analysis of this research, and test the hypothesis, the researcher examined the theoretical frameworks that underpin Te Kotahitanga, a professional development project aimed at raising Māori student achievement, and Restorative Practices, a theoretical strengths-based approach that is utilised as an alternative to punitive approaches. This was achieved by reviewing literature from New Zealand and International sources. In addition it also provided a perspective on culturally responsive and inclusive pedagogy, which is situated within the Te Kotahitanga framework, Restorative Practice framework and Positive Youth Development model. Furthermore, this research provided a basis from which the researcher could develop new knowledge and theory which might contribute to supporting learning outcomes for Māori and non-Māori youth in state secondary schools in Aotearoa New Zealand, which would then enable young people to exit secondary school with a positive outlook on their journey beyond the school gate. From this perspective, the researcher positioned herself within a kaupapa Māori paradigm. That is, by taking an ontological and epistemological worldview as a Māori researcher, this research supports the notion of for, with and by Māori. As a case study, the researcher developed methodologies and methods, which allowed her to collect qualitative data from a Principal, teachers and students, then employed thematic and discourse methods to create a theoretical framework, which supported the findings. This research indicates that where strong relationships are nurtured between students and teachers, opportunities are created for collaborative and reciprocal engagement, thus strengthening the restorative process, and promoting engagement. Students clearly identified that where teacher relationships are strong, there are fewer incidences of inappropriate behaviour, respect is reciprocated, and issues are dealt with quickly. The findings in this research also support the notion that a combination of Te Kotahitanga and Restorative Practices working in tandem assist students in recognising their potential. In this instance, the researcher asserts that the principles of Te Kotahitanga indeed strengthens the restorative process, as having stronger relationships from the outset, provides the platform for restorative conversations to occur. This in turn, leads to greater transitional opportunities beyond school, and enables young people to effectively determine their own pathways to success.