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Ako – an indigenous model

“Ako” describes a culturally derived way of learning and teaching, widely applied across education and training environments, in Aotearoa (NZ) today.

Before looking at “what” to design, it is helpful to have a rationale (reason for doing something) and model of practice to ensure the alignment of design and delivery.

Although we will be investigating a range of modern approaches, student-centred ways of imparting knowledge and skills have been used by traditional and indigenous peoples, for centuries. As the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand, the Māori people refer to their traditional model of learning and teaching as “ako”.

Ako sits within a wider “Mātauranga Māori” education paradigm (way of thinking). Mātauranga Māori translates to Māori knowledge; and you will see many references to this and examples of ako, throughout this course series.

What is ako?

NZ’s Māori Education Strategy, Ka Hikitia, describes the concept of ako as the reciprocal teaching and learning relationship where a teacher learns from the student, while teacher practice is informed, deliberate and reflective. (Ministry of Education).

An holistic view  

Ako also considers the spiritual, emotional and environmental dimensions alongside the cognitive (thinking-related) and psychomotor dimensions of learning. It can be enacted in both formal and informal learning situations and involves observation, modelling and imitation.    

In te ao Māori (Māori world view), ako recognises the knowledge that both teachers and learners bring to learning interactions and acknowledges how new knowledge and understandings can grow from shared learning experiences. This powerful concept is supported by research that shows that teachers who facilitate reciprocal teaching and learning, have improved student achievement outcomes. (Alton-Lee, 2003). 

The principle of ako affirms the value of collaborative learning with students interacting with their peers, teacher, tasks, and resources; so a teacher is not expected to know everything, and the knowledge of each class member is recognised and valued. (Keown, Parker, and Tiakiwai, 2005, p.12). 


Mātauranga Māori – Māori & Indigenous Development – AUT Retrieved from

Ako / Culturally responsive learning environments / Pedagogy / The arts / Home -Senior Secondary ( 

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