FYBEC 2 - Key note speaker - Professor Michael Walker
Bio and Key Note Address from Michael Walker.
Te Whenua, Te Tangata, Te Aronui, Te Māramatanga
Michael Walker teaches at all levels in biology and is widely considered to be the founder of the Tuakana Programme (TP) at the University of Auckland. His main contributions to teaching have been recognition that mismatches between the context and content of university teaching make it difficult for:
(1) Māori and Pacific Island (MPI) students to study effectively in the university setting and
(2) for all students to be comfortable with teaching content where there are conflicting views on particular subjects.
The TP addresses the social isolation experienced by the majority of MPI students entering study at the University of Auckland and works to ensure that the students make new friends quickly and focus on the content of their studies. The key to resolving contested issues is development of a shared platform for learning that enables all the students to recognise the validity of particular views and the reasons behind them.
Education transmits not only knowledge but also the culture and values within which that knowledge is applied. FYBEs therefore have a critical role in:
(1) establishing a common platform for teaching material where there is disagreement over the interpretation of content; and
(2) retaining first year Māori and Pacific Island (MPI) students effectively.
Where there are different views over teaching content, it is important to recognise that these differences are rooted in our history but can be resolved. Overcoming such differences presents significant opportunities for enhanced learning because all students can recognise the validity of different positions on contested issues in, for example, conservation and management of environments and resources. Conversely, MPI students are familiar with content but are typically socially isolated on entry to the university context.
Since 1991, the Tuakana Programme (TP) at the University of Auckland has provided a friendly and supportive environment through which MPI students can make new friends quickly and focus on understanding of course content. The outcome of the TP has been that MPI students quickly settle into their studies, perform at much the same levels as their cohorts, and are achieving high levels of employment and post-graduate study.