Meet the team—Herewini Easton

Meet the team—Herewini Easton

‘Meet the team’ is our series featuring the people and teams who are here to give you support and advice during your time at university. This week we spoke to Herewini Easton, Kaiārahi Ako—Learning Advisor Māori at Te Taiako—Student Learning.

Herewini Easton, Kaiārahi Ako—Learning Advisor Māori at Te Taiako—Student Learning.

My journey in teaching and learning

I’m a trained teacher and my life has revolved around teaching and learning. I studied teaching at Waikato University in the 1990s and have had experience across all levels of education, from mainstream to kura kaupapa Māori, primary and intermediate, to secondary, and now tertiary. I’m a learning advisor Māori but work with a broad sector of regional, local, and international students. I work with students to deconstruct their assignments and then help them to reconstruct it.

What I love about working with students at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

I love the learning aspect. At schools, it was the ‘aha!’ moment when their eyes lit up, and now that I’m working in tertiary it’s that same feeling of ako—learning when they go “Oh, I get it now.” The only difference is that tertiary students are studying because they want to be here, and with our Māori students, their minds are connecting or reconnecting with Māori epistemology and ontology.

My advice for students looking for ways to improve their learning

Go on our Student Learning website, talk to lecturers, and get out and explore the help available. When students come to us, some of them don’t know how to attack the assignment brief, so we show them some ways of attacking it. We also have students that just want clarification that they’re on the right track. When a student makes an appointment, we ask that they send through a draft that they’re working on and the assignment brief and the marking guide. We sit down with them and work through what the assignment is asking, breaking it down.

To develop independent and active learners at all levels of tertiary study, Te Taiako—Student Learning have mapped their operational goals with Te Herenga Waka values.

Assignments and the metaphor of the waka

Our Māori name here at the University—Te Herenga Waka—means the mooring post of the canoe or waka. In our waka, everyone has a part to play, whether you’re the paddler, the person steering, or if you’re the one bailing water out of the canoe. Every role is knowledge based.

There’s mōhiotanga – knowledge inside the waka and there’s mātauranga – knowledge outside of the waka. Then there’s the māramatanga – knowledge of enlightenment—destination, where the waka is going. I say to the students, “the assignment is the waka, get in that waka and learn all that you can, look at literature (which is external to your waka), and use it to guide your assignment.”

And finally, a great moment at work and some golden advice

I try to have a great moment every day, but I like to support the staff with things around Māori context and how it can inform our processes as learning advisors. I like to remind everyone of the ‘au’ in whānau. ‘Au’ is Māori for ‘me’ ‘myself’, so it’s a reminder of our own position within the collective whānau. Last year, I worked with students from our Te Aro campus, who were doing postgraduate study (Masters) in architecture and design. They wanted to have Kaupapa Māori context in their work. It was rewarding to hear from some of them recently, letting me know that they’d passed with an A and done well with the course.

Herewini Easton, Pare Hauraki—Ngāti Tamaterā—Ngāti Tāwhaki, Maniapoto—Ngāti Te Unu, Te Arawa—Ngāti Rehu—Ngāti Rangiwewehi, is the Kaiārahi Ako Learning Advisor Māori at Te Taiako—Student Learning. He holds several qualifications including a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching from Te Herenga Waka. He has authored and co-authored texts which focus on Māori pedagogy in learning and curriculum.

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