Cultural Context, Inclusion, Pedagogy The uses of culture–based educational approaches in music education in Hawai’i have not been previously explored. Culture-based teaching leads to a greater sense of belonging When culture-based educational strategies are used, studies show relatedness to Native Hawaiian students’ greater sense of belonging and cultural affiliation, an application of cultural skills outside of school […]23 Nov 2023
Finding the Other Half Of Me
November 20, 2022
Cultural Context, Inclusion, Pedagogy
The uses of culture–based educational approaches in music education in Hawai’i have not been previously explored.
Culture-based teaching leads to a greater sense of belonging
When culture-based educational strategies are used, studies show relatedness to Native Hawaiian students’ greater sense of belonging and cultural affiliation, an application of cultural skills outside of school (even increasing the likelihood of engagement in social and political causes), higher rates of college graduation, and greater comfort with their heritage language. Similar results linking culture-based teaching and student academic achievement have been found within Indigenous communities.
You have to understand the culture before you teach it
The author utilized a collective descriptive case-study design and had four teachers, representing different specialties (instrumental, choral, general music, and Hawaiian music), serve as separate case studies within their respective music classrooms. Data collection involved interviews with teacher participants, student focus group interviews, and on-site field note observations. The data were then analyzed with the help of a “cultural auditor” that could look at the data through the lens of someone familiar with Hawaiian culture. Four major themes emerged across the cases.
1. Approaches to culture-based education: There were a variety of approaches to culture-based education in each classroom, for some it was deeply entrenched and connected due to cultural background in an immersion style education and for others, it was not as deeply embedded and more an add-on to the existing curriculum. In many classrooms, it was important not just to include Hawaiian music but teach the meaning and historical context behind the music included.
2. Sources of cultural understanding: Some of the educators were culture bearers themselves and could draw from family and personal experiences, while others had to better understand the culture they were trying to teach by consulting with local culture bearers, religious experts, and music and dance specialists. The educators that had a “deep and profound personal and generational knowledge of Native Hawaiian culture and music” saw a more powerful impact on the students in their class. Regardless, each teacher participant emphasized the ways in which they worked to learn more about Hawaiian culture itself.
3. Navigating challenges: Teachers and students struggled with how to present Hawaiian culture in ways that were authentic, and with how to motivate students to learn more about, and reconnect with, Hawaiian culture. Another challenge was trying to incorporate Hawaiian music into an already busy curriculum. There were also concerns about feeling the need to ‘legitimize’ Hawaiian music in light of the biases toward non-Western music in music education and dealing with the internalized stereotypes that come with the legacy of racism in colonized spaces.
4. Layers of meaning: All participants described deriving meaning but for many, particularly those of Native Hawaiian ancestry, the experience of having culture-based education in music classrooms was life-changing. Some students even had their perspectives changed on what they wanted to do as adults, along with their own perceptions of kuleana (responsibility). Ultimately, culture-based education affirms and forms positive cultural identities.
More teachers who utilise culturally relevant approaches are needed
While the depth of culture-based approaches varied across the cases, with “some teachers focusing on fostering knowledge of traditional Hawaiian musical practices, others on language and history, and others, […] on deeply held cultural values and beliefs”, students found these approaches to be life-changing and culturally affirming. The depth of engagement was tied with the teachers’ cultural background and their teaching specialty, which highlights that teachers who do not resemble their students with regard to cultural identity may face more challenges when working to make their curriculum and classroom community more culturally responsive. Another common thread was the centrality of the student-teacher relationships to the culture-based approaches.
It is therefore important for educators to continue to work on improving teachers’ cultural competence, developing innovative programs and strategies for a predominantly western teacher workforce, and consider ways in which educators with culturally relevant ties may be further recruited and supported.
“Culture-based education consists of “approaches to teaching and learning evolving from (but not fixed in) the languages, values, norms, knowledges, beliefs, practices, experiences, and places that are foundational to Indigenous or other cultural groups” (Kanaʻiaupuni et al., 2017, p. 318S). Culture-based education is rooted in and related to such efforts as culturally relevant pedagogy but goes further in working to “revitalize languages, knowledge, practices, and beliefs lost or suppressed through colonization or occupation” (Kanaʻiaupuni et al., 2017, p. 314S).”
“The prominence of this finding asks us to consider the role of the teacher in developing what Gay (2000/2010, 2002) calls “culturally responsive caring,” which places “teachers in an ethical, emotional, and academic partnership with ethnically diverse students, a partnership that is anchored in respect, honor, integrity, resource sharing, and a deep belief in the possibility of transcendence” (Gay, 2000, p. 52).”
“These stories encourage us to consider the profound impact of culture-based teaching within the music classroom and how we might better prepare, support, and give voice to music teachers who not only deeply engage with music of their students’ culture but work to affirm and restore understandings and ways of knowing that have been subject to colonization and marginalization.”
In education, students with diverse backgrounds and cultures are often marginalized because curriculums are entrenched with one predominant cultural bias. Culture-based education can motivate students to not only succeed academically but affirm and form positive cultural identities. Since these approaches are led by teachers it is important that the educators either reflect the cultural identities of their students or have the knowledge to implement these approaches with authenticity and depth. The stories from this study encourage us to reflect on how we can better support teachers who engage in the work of lifting up their students’ culture and affirm and restore ways of knowing that have been subject to marginalization.—Ayla Reau
Fitzpatrick, K. R. (2022). “Finding the Other Half of Me”: Culture-Based Approaches to Music Education in Hawaiʻi. Journal of Research in Music Education, 70(1), 22–47. https://doi.org/10.1177/00224294211018667