In pursuit of excellence in whānau wellbeing

September 09, 2019

All tertiary providers need to ensure that study programmes on offer provide students with currency of knowledge that will be of value to them throughout the study period and upon graduation.  At our Wānanga we regularly scrutinise our offerings, by both internal and external reviews, which are further enhanced by monitoring and moderation.  Monitoring is carried out annually, and a full internal review undertaken every three years. There is always room for new thinking in the knowledge continuum.  Some specialist subjects require extra attention for the purposes of professional registration, notably the Toiora Whānau programme and the teacher training programmes. Very recently the Toiora Whānau programme underwent such a review, the Poutuarongo Toiora Whānau Re-recognition Review.    

The Poutuarongo Toiora Whānau programme is a four-year degree accredited by the Social Work Registration Board which provides a uniquely Māori perspective on whānau wellness. Common to all study programmes, te reo and studies of iwi and hapū are compulsory elements.  Graduates of the programme will have gained knowledge and skills required to work effectively to improve the social wellbeing of whānau, hapū and iwi.  Drawing on kaupapa tuku iho (inherited values) they are able to plan and implement measures that contribute to the wellbeing of Māori, the communities we live in and ultimately, the nation.

The panel of six comprised academics from external institutions and one from the wānanga, a member of the Social Work Registration Board and a practitioner in the toiora whānau field.  They met with a wide range of staff including academic staff in teaching and research roles, current and graduate students, kaiāwhina, the programme’s external advisory committee and management and support staff.  The outcome of their findings and recommendations will assist to ensure that we continue to offer a solid distinctive programme of integrity and excellence and that our guiding kaupapa are embedded in everything that we do.

Preparation for the review required an enormous amount of work that culminated in several documents covering programme structure and content; programme standards;  teaching staff curriculum vitae; field education administration. 

This was a comprehensive review that encompassed staffing; the student/teacher relationship; whakatupu mātauranga, particularly in tying teaching practice to research; publication of written and oral literature; how guiding kaupapa are embedded in the programme; the role of kaiāwhina (voluntary contributors); assessment of assignments; succession planning to protect knowledge and relationships; provision and utilisation of library services and resources; student support; integration and synergy of the specialisation with the compulsory elements; transportability of knowledge and skills into working within different cultures; keeping up to date; contribution by staff to national forums

Kaiāwhina were asked about the skills and experience they bring to the programme, how they support the teaching programme and support for ongoing development.  There are different levels of participation.  Some agree to assist because of their professional background; some see their professional and personal lives as being one and the same; others have gained qualifications through the wānanga and are of the view that it is their obligation to give something back.  A definite ‘pro’ expressed by all kaiāwhina was the opportunity to contribute to our own people.  The panel expressed appreciation of the kaiāwhina concept as a valuable contribution to social work through imbuement of values in practice and asked us to consider how the concept might be broadly developed and shared, to change the educational landscape.

Students were invited to comment about why they chose this place of learning, what makes it distinctive, what challenges were encountered in their education journey, how the compulsory elements linked to the specialty subject-, transferability of knowledge, advantages of kaupapa to practice, their knowledge of legislation and its process, how study tied in with family life and work commitments,  where the wānanga experience might be improved and their views about kaiāwhinatanga.

Graduate students’ responses included that they are better practitioners due to the compulsory elements as these enrich the specialist programme and are critical to it.  All of the students interviewed reported enjoying the participation by kaiāwhina because they bring different perspectives and approaches, are articulate, have the ability to connect kaupapa and are passionate about the ako process.  There was general agreement that social work competencies are embedded in the degree and the qualification gives the competency to be an effective practitioner. After hearing the students’ responses panel members were of the view that the social work profession can be very proud. 

The External Advisory Committee discussion focused on how feedback from stakeholders about the programme is effected, strategic membership, the advisory process, the committee’s role and mode of operation, challenges for the programme, motivation to serve on the committee.  The panel considered that the current enquiry into social work would be enhanced by input from this committee.

Our job is to provide a quality experience for those who wish to come and study with us, to model excellence in the service that we provide, that will result in excellence for our students.  There is always room for improvement, about which we need to be vigilant and active.   The re-recognition panel has assisted immensely in our goal and we thank them for helping us in our work.

For anyone interested in Poutuarongo Toiora Whānau degree, applications are now open for the 2020 year.






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