Dr Elana Taipapaki Curtis – Tertiary Teaching Excellence Teaching Profile
Teaching profile from Dr Elana Taipapaki Curtis (Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences ■ The University of Auckland) – 2015 Award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching in a Kaupapa Māori Context
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences ■ The University of Auckland
Being Māori is central to my identity as a tertiary educator. I am passionate about sharing my identity with my students, and I aim to use this passion to excite others in their own teaching and learning. My early experiences have instilled in me an innate sense of what fairness means and an appreciation of how power and privilege affect society. I regularly apply these insights in the classroom. As a tertiary educator, I believe in aiming for excellence in order to promote the rights of all my learners. This approach requires me to be open to criticism, to develop engaging and effective teaching and learning methods, to evaluate my impact on students and staff around me and, wherever possible, to lead by example.
I was appointed senior lecturer and kaiārahi (academic director) of the Certificate in Health Sciences (CertHSc) in 2005. The CertHSc is a one-year science-focused bridging-foundation programme for Māori and Pacific students hoping to pursue a career in health at The University of Auckland. At this time, the CertHSc programme had a low student pass rate (SPR) overall (52%), with particularly poor outcomes for Māori students. Of the 85 students enrolled that year, only 23 students completed the CertHSc. Of the 39 students recruited via the Māori- specific Whakapiki Ake Project (WAP), only nine ended up completing the CertHSc. It was clear that despite best intentions, the CertHSc programme had a number of challenges.
Supported by my head of department and other colleagues with similar concerns, I began to instigate changes. It is important that CertHSc students are appropriately prepared for success to avoid setting them up for future failure. In order to address the low pass rate, student selection into the CertHSc programme needed review. Students with limited science exposure were being recruited into what is a heavily science- oriented curriculum. By necessity, I became involved in the Faculty of Medical and Health Science’s (FMHS) Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme (MAPAS), responsible for CertHSc student admission, support and graduation.
By the end of 2006, appropriate entry criteria had been developed for CertHSc applicants and I co-led the introduction of an innovative admissions process involving the development of a MAPAS-specific Multiple Mini Interview and new cognitive testing introduced for all MAPAS applicants (Curtis, Wikaire et al. 2015). Any MAPAS applicants who require additional preparation are directed to appropriate pathway programmes via individualised feedback sessions, provided on the day of their MAPAS interview.
I gradually increased my engagement with WAP to ensure increased alignment of Māori student recruitment with the new MAPAS and CertHSc admission and student support focus. Informed by a formal literature review examining “how to best recruit indigenous students into health professional careers” (Curtis, Wikaire et al. 2012) WAP focus was realigned to include early exposure interventions targeted well before Year 13.
I encouraged MAPAS staff to examine their model of student engagement to increase professionalism within student relationships and promote the independent learning necessary for success within health professional study. MAPAS staff formalised their screening of student pastoral issues and cohort whakawhanaungatanga via student wānanga and MAPAS lunches were further developed.
We now see this wrap-around, outside-the- classroom, academic and support model as being key to our dramatic increase in student success (Curtis, Reid et al. 2014) –
- The SPR within the CertHSc has improved dramatically, increasing to 98% in 2013
- The proportion of students who enrolled in and completed the CertHSc increased from 18% to 76% for Māori, and 29% to 74% for Pacific by 2011 (Curtis and Reid 2013)
- Overall FMHS undergraduate SPR increased from 89% in 2005 to 97% in 2013 for Māori, and from 81% in 2005 to 87% in 2013 for Pacific students.
Alongside improved performance, the total number of Māori and Pacific students in different programmes across the FMHS has increased, with 451 undergraduate MAPAS students enrolled in 2013 (206 Māori, 204 Pacific and 41 Māori/Pacific).
Elana brought to the programme and particularly to Hikitia Te Ora, the Certifi cate in Health Sciences, an unrelenting focus on quality and the promotion of high standards within a supportive and inclusive framework. She gave a new focus to the programme and provided outstanding leadership in pathway education. The students, what they could do and what they could become, were at the centre of the programme. …The students’ progress was carefully tracked and students knew that they were in a teaching and learning relationship that valued them and would provide all that was possible to ensure that they were realising their potential.
Professor Raewyn Dalziel, Deputy Vice- Chancellor (Academic), 1999-2009
The positive outcomes described above were also achieved by investing in constructive professional relationships across the faculty, where the evidence of our success (and failure) was collaboratively reviewed and debated, helping to build trust amongst our colleagues and promoting our commitment to excellence. In turn, this has led to increasing support from faculty staff to ensure programme focus, funding and high-quality delivery are maintained.
Elana’s positive manner engages colleagues, earning her the greatest of respect. She has helped change attitudes in the wider FMHS towards the values she espouses of indigenous rights; equity; disadvantage; privilege; power; access and quality. Whether in meetings, or one to one, she has helped many of us to refl ect on our role as educators in a public institution and the lens through which we view our work.
Professor Philippa Poole, Head of Department of Medicine
My first experience of a tertiary teaching and learning environment required me to lead effectively. It also required me to take some risks. In hindsight, my newness to the tertiary sector allowed a fresh, naively ‘brave’ approach to introduce significant changes to multiple programmes.
One area I was able to develop significantly within 13H Introduction to Māori Health course was the way in which CertHSc students were delivered Māori cultural content and skills. Prior to my arrival, students had weekly kapa haka practices over the semester, culminating in an assessed public performance. Reports from existing staff suggested that this assessment activity was unintentionally diverting Māori student commitment away from other assessments across the programme, particularly within their science subjects.
I replaced the existing cultural component with an intensive marae stay, to be delivered across a weekend, with multiple interactive cultural workshops. These included kapa haka performance, and other important aspects of cultural skill development. Engaging with iwi representatives to provide cultural workshops, making the workshops ‘hands-on’ for students and requiring students to learn and perform a full kapa haka or Pacific dance bracket had a transformative outcome for many of the CertHSc students. Hosting the wānanga as a noho-marae also helped to promote learning associated with immersion in a traditional Māori environment.
The word excellence is synonymous with the educational experience I had under Dr Curtis. An example of this excellence was the three-day cultural wānanga held at Waipapa Marae. We experienced hangi making and ki-ō-rahi (traditional Māori games).
Dr Ebrahim Soloman, Second year house offi cer, Ex-CertHSc student
It was imperative to develop a safe learning environment for students where possible alienation from cultural activities could be overcome. To assist with this, I learned and performed all cultural workshops alongside the students (including the kapa haka performance, despite my very questionable poi skills). This ensured that the cultural wānanga was promoted as a safe space for all students and staff to
‘give it a go’. Embedding cultural content and activities within the curriculum helped students to identify more strongly with their indigenous culture.
I was raised white, I was raised by my Mum so I found it a lot easier, it was a more accepting environment, or maybe I was more accepting of my heritage because going through the MAPAS programme it gave me an easy introduction into [being] Māori…..because they do teach you.
Success For All – research study student quote
In 2012, I was tasked with leading the development and delivery of a new Māori health teaching and learning intervention, the Ngāti Whātua Case Study. Serving as the introduction to a four-day, inter-professional, learning programme known as the Māori Health Intensive, the case study needed to engage a cohort of more than 500 medical, nursing and pharmacy second year students within one lecture theatre, for approximately two hours. To achieve this we decided to record and share the detailed experience of one local hapū/iwi to expose students to the effects of colonisation, and then link this experience to contemporary health outcomes.
The case study was developed with representatives of Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei, who oversaw the development of all teaching materials and provided iwi-based resources for use within the case study. Older and younger iwi representatives agreed to be interviewed for mini-vignettes, purpose-made for the case study, in order to share their memories and interpretation of what occurred at Bastion Point.
As a migrant to NZ I had no idea about what Māori groups like Ngāti Whātua went through. I am glad I was here today - everyone should be shown what we learnt today.
Year 2 MHI student, 2012
I remain committed to university teaching excellence that is student-centered, inclusive, effective and engaging. In order to achieve this, tertiary educators must open their teaching and learning practice to appraisal, be prepared to initiate change and where necessary challenge the academy to re-orient services to focus on student needs and rights.
Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi, ēngari I te toa takitini.
Anything I may have accomplished is a tribute to the many who have made it possible.