Supporting inquiry learning in a Māori context

Your school library provides opportunities for Māori students to connect with a wide range of quality information resources. Here you'll find information and resources to help you develop a school-wide information literacy programme using an inquiry learning approach.

Windley School

 Students using Windley School’s library for inquiry


Inquiry learning - a library / teacher collaboration
Case study: Pakirehua i ro kura Māori
Resources to support inquiry learning with te reo Māori students

Inquiry learning - a library / teacher collaboration

Through inquiry learning, students are guided in developing the ability to:

  • locate relevant information and ideas
  • evaluate and make sense of that information
  • integrate information and ideas within and across a range of texts
  • think creatively, and transfer and apply their knowledge and skills in new contexts to deepen their learning.

21st Literacy and Inquiry provides more information on ways your school library team can collaborate with teachers in guiding students through the inquiry process.

Case study: Pakirehua i ro kura Māori- Inquiry learning in kura Māori

Six kura Māori from the Tamaki Makaurau Rumaki ICT Cluster in Auckland share their inquiry learning journey. During 2003-2006 with the support of the University of Auckland Faculty of Education and National Library of New Zealand Services to Schools staff, the teachers learnt about and introduced inquiry learning with their te reo Mäori students using the general theme, 'To Tātou Wāhi'.

The following processes, resources and quotes have been contributed by:

  • Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Puau te Moananui a Kiwa
  • Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o ngā Maungarongo
  • Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Rakipaewhenua
  • Te Wharekura o Manurewa
  • Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Puaha o Waikato
  • Te Kura Kaupapa Māori a Rohe o Mangere

In the following sections, the teachers outline their journey and share resources they created to assist students with inquiry learning processes:

Step 1: Staff professional learning
Step 2: Introducing the inquiry process to students
Step 3: Teacher reflection: Challenges

Step 1: Staff professional learning

Defining inquiry learning

Inquiry learning is a framework to support students into becoming independent learners. However, in order to carry out successful inquiry students need to be information literate. This means students need to learn how to:

  • recognise what information is needed
  • access information
  • evaluate information
  • use information from a range of resources

Teachers need to be able to teach our students the above skills but also 'how to navigate in the ocean of available information and knowledge'. Brown, T.H., (2005). Beyond constructivism: Exploring future learning paradigms. University of Pretoria.

Undertaking staff professional development

To learn about inquiry learning many of these teachers did the Auckland University’s Infolink course, which focused on identifying and teaching the skills needed for information literacy. It used Gwen Gawith’s action learning model as a framework for inquiry learning.

This inquiry learning approach sets up opportunities for students to drive the research process from creating their own research questions to finding their own resources. It requires the teacher to become more of a guide. This guidance must be structured so the students are set up for success. This is done by teaching the students the skills, processes and strategies, so progressively they can become more independent learners. All guided inquiry / information literacy models follow a stage-by-stage process.

In the third year of the cluster teachers from each kura carried out inquiry units on a general theme: To Tātou Wāhi.

Developing teacher planning resources

They created the following planning tools:

Step 2: Introducing the inquiry process to students

The key stages were:

  • Overview of the inquiry process
  • Stage 1: Whakatau– Deciding: Front loading, brainstorming, mapping, keywords, key questions, key concepts, planning
  • Stage 2:  Rapu – Finding: Print and online searching, using authentic learning contexts
  • Stages 3 and 4: Whakamahi / Whakatakoto - Using / Analysing / Organising / Synthesising 
  • Stage 5: Whakaatu - Presenting
  • Stage 6: Aromātai – Evaluate

Overview of the inquiry process

It is important to introduce an overview of the inquiry process to the students so they understand it and can see all the different stages. One way doing this is to create a visual wall display. Some teachers used the wall display as a monitor for their students. The students moved their names along as they progressed through the stages.

Stage One: Whakatau - Deciding

  • What is the purpose of the research?
  • What do I already know and what do I want to find out?

Front loading: In order for students to engage and ask questions about a kaupapa they first need a basic knowledge about the kaupapa. If they don’t have this basic knowledge then you need to frontload the information by showing videos, displaying books on the topics, visits, and engaging in discussions with your students.

For example one Year 3 and 4 class inquiry topic was kapua. 'We took photos of the clouds. I downloaded cloud pictures off the internet and put them up in a display area along with some National Library books. I videotaped the weather off Māori TV. We made a 10 piece cloud jigsaw puzzle from a cloud picture. The students were given a card for our topic competition and asked to go home and talk to their parents about what they thought the next topic of study might be and come back with their ideas on the card.' Marieanne Selkirk

Ohia manomano - Brainstorming:To find out what the students already know, we used the following to guide the students: Pakirehua ture ohia manomano

Researching history

Ngā Ture ohia manomano: an example from a kura researching their history

Younger classes need to practise this skill first. 'I used brainstorming in our writing time. The children talked about weekend mahi and then we brainstormed one as a tauira. Children continued with individual brainstorms in their books then wrote stories. We also practised brainstorming whakaaro about non-fiction books that each group had.' Sarah Pickering

Mahi Mahere - Mapping: Mapping sorts your brainstormed words into groups/whānau or categories. It helps to have an 'other' group for words that may not fit anywhere else. For younger students the teacher will probably have to provide the subheadings.

The following video clips show how the kaiako makes the mapping exercise a tactile experience for Year 1 and 2 students by using hoops.

In the first step she sets up different categories in the hoops and then she demonstrates.


In the second step she checks the students have put all the brainstormed words into the correct hoops.


Another strategy for older students is to use post-its to map so students can move the brainstormed words into the mapping categories. Once mapping is complete, you can see if you are going to research all categories or select a specific category to concentrate on.

Post-its for mapping inquiry

 An example of using post-its for mapping categories

Kupu matua – Keywords: The next step is selecting kupu matua / key words and forming the pātai matua / key questions. Keywords are words you use to look up in the library catalogue, the internet, or index and contents page in books to find your information.
'We selected the words from the brainstorm and mind maps. Then the students highlighted the key words they decided on. We practised looking up these words in the school library catalogue and Internet and on the contents and index pages of the books they had in their classroom. They had to rethink some of the words as it wasn’t always possible to find the information we were looking for using those words.' Gwendoleine Taare, Resource Teacher of Māori

Year 1 and 2 class kupu matua

In this Year 1 and 2 class the kupu matua were displayed on the wall.

Pātai Matua - Key questions: Using the key words, key questions / pātai matua are formed. Key questions need to be open-ended and range from factual, simple questions that can be answered easily to powerful, fat questions that are more complex. Students need to be taught how to ask good questions.

'I used the key words to model framing a question with the question starters we had used with picture sets: kei hea, he aha, he aha ai, ko wai, āhea, ināhea. We spread out two sets of words on the floor: the question starters and key words. Children then chose the key word and a question starter to give something tangible for them to look at, hold and write to.' Marieanne Selkirk

'I introduced the tamariki to questioning skills during morning talk sessions. The tamariki could all ask questions but quite often they were not relevant or correct. So we focussed on basic questions to extract more information e.g. Ko wai? e hia? He aha ai?"  Marama Tuuta

Aria Matua - Key Concept: The idea for having a key concept / āria matua is to connect the students into why the topic is important to learn about. For example: "Mena kāhore tātou e ako e ana ki te hangarua ka kīkī haere ngā wāhi rāpihi." Another kura was building a new kura. As shown here, their concept outlined the reason for the inquiry.

Inquiry learning

Planning: Students need to plan where they will go for resources or sources of information; how they will present their new knowledge; who they will present it to (the audience); and also to plan the time it will take to complete the different stages. See examples:

Stage 2: Rapu - Finding

This stage involves gathering information from different sources and resources and/or making discoveries through exploration.

Year 1-4 students used Kari rapu to record people they were going to interview and the Dewey number of books that had relevant information. Laminated searching cards were also used to write on.

Another finding skill to teach students is selecting and rejecting resources.

'I mixed up the books I had found on kites with other non-related books. On an A3 green sheet I wrote 'Kei te Pai'. On the red sheet I wrote 'Kāhore i te pai.' I wrote on the board our key words (Māori and Pākehā) Manu aute / kites, build, hanga, make, mahi, fly, flying, rere. We discussed that we were looking for books that could help us build a kite. By using the key words we would select the relevant books. The tamariki looked at the books and then I asked them to place the books we needed onto the correct paper." Marama Tuuta

Maori book titles

"Before starting we learned about the whare pukapuka. I showed the children the Dewey chart in Mäori. We then played games such as 'kei hea ngā pukapuka e pā ana ki te whana poikiri'." Sarah Pickering

Online searching: The following worksheet was developed:

Authentic learning contexts: Te Wharekura o Manurewa Year 9 class was doing an inquiry unit on tuna. Their finding stage involved a field trip where they made their own tuna net, got their own bait, set the net and caught their own tuna.

Building a Hinaki

Students at Te Wharekura o Manurewa making a hinaki

Fishing for Tuna

Students at Te Wharekura o Manurewa catching tuna

Stages 3 and 4: Whakamahi/Whakatakoto – Using/ Analysing/ Organising/ Synthesising

These stages focus on how the information collected is used to answer the questions and develop understandings.

Skimming and scanning English texts using keywords: Often a difficulty for kura is finding print and electronic resources in te reo Māori. One class used the strategy of skimming for keywords in both languages. In the following video you can see the teacher then went on to translate orally the sentence in which the keywords had appeared.

Other strategies for older students involved getting parents to read the information aloud in English to students at home. 'The tamariki took reading home to matua to read to them. The tamariki returned to kura we discussed ngā whakautu i roto i te reo Māori.' Sarah Pickering

Note-taking / recording strategies: 'Prior to the unit I integrated note-taking strategies into the daily programme across all marau so they could transfer skills. I would lead the tamariki and they would write out lists of key words and key phrases. They would read their own paragraphs and then circle key words. After this they wrote in their own words their whakaaro e pā ana ngā kupu kī.' Sarah Pickering

  • Note-taking worksheet (DOC): A kaiako translated a piece of text and then set up a note-taking sheet for students to first extract keywords and then form their own sentences.
  • Note-taking skills using the Dot Jot method (DOC). For older students using the dot-jot method teaches them to take notes from several sources before combining the information to form their own understandings. If taught consistently, it will stop the blanket copying and pasting. An important strategy for teaching of all these skills is for the teacher to model first, for example by modelling video note-taking.
  • Visual recording: For younger students visual images are an important way to record information.'Most tamariki used pictures to record information about their topic as they were dependent on the teacher for reading and writing. I would also read books aloud to the whole class who would record key words.' Hinemoa Hunziker

Organising information: Teaching the students to organise their information is also an important skill. 'The tamariki all had a folder in which they stored their information they gathered. They found pages in books they wanted photocopied, used post-its to mark these pages and then photocopied them themselves.' Hinemoa Hunziker

Stage 5: Whakaatu - Presenting

Students need to be taught the skills they need for presenting their new findings and understandings. 'We practised in our reading programme plays from journals to reinforce their communication skills. It taught the children confidence, voice projection and gestures. They also practised walking while giving morning korero, using hands, speaking clearly and focusing on an audience.' Sarah Pickering

Year 9 students fromTe Wharekura o Manurewa used PowerPoint to present their research on tikanga and methods of catching tuna.

This student explains their deciding stage.

Stage 6: Aromātai - Evaluate

The research process and skills used were evaluated as well as the final product. Checkpoints are a method of formative assessment, a way of monitoring the research process and the student’s progress, including checking if they need more scaffolding, or teaching of specific skills. The following resources were used by teachers:

  • Pakirehua - Self-assessment: te reo (DOC): used with Year 1 and 2 students to document each stage and activity for them to assess themselves as they completed it. 'This was completed during group conferencing sessions which involved oral reflections on what worked well and what could be done better next time.' Hinemoa Hunziker
  • Pakirehua kaiako -process assessment (DOC): Teacher’s evaluation of each student’s progress through the whole inquiry learning process.

Aromatawai - Assess: The following rubrics were developed to assess product and/or process:

Step 3: Teacher reflection: Challenges

The biggest challenge for kaiako in kura is the lack of print and online resources in te reo Māori. A couple of strategies have already been outlined above under the Stage 2: Rapu - Finding section as to how to use English resources.

Other possible solutions include:

  • Only select inquiry topics that have print and electronic resources available in te reo.
  • Select an inquiry unit using people as your sources of information.
  • Carry out authentic learning experiences as Te Wharekura o Manurewa did with their inquiry on tuna.

When using electronic resources, it is important to teach your students the strategies to find te reo Māori websites. For example, using websites or portals such as TKI and Te Ara which can be searched using Māori keywords and will return te reo Māori information (if available).

Many kura have their own libraries. It is important that the library catalogue system is set up to enable the students to search in both languages. If Ministry of Education resources, such as Wharekura, are also catalogued on the library system, this will also greatly improve access to these resources (often the only ones available on a topic in Māori) for students and teachers.

Resources to support inquiry learning with Māori students

You can download the following inquiry learning resources developed by the teachers from the Tamaki Makaurau Rumaki ICT Cluster in Auckland.