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Report and recommendations: Māori design and tertiary education

This research project led by Otago Polytechnic’s Caroline McCaw and supported by Ako Aotearoa, introduces 4 strategies for incorporating Te Ao Māori and Māori design principles into the teaching programmes of tertiary design educators.


Caroline McCaw – Otago Polytechnic, Associate Professor Sarah Wakes – University of Otago and Tracey Gardner


Date completed: May 2012

Cover of final reportClick to download the final report (2.9 MB PDF)About the project

In this project, the team set out to address a gap in documented research that specifically focuses on or about a kaupapa Māori design process. The main aim was to identify and collate specific methods, practices and strategies for use in tertiary design teaching and disseminate important ideas relating to te Ao Māori and Māori design principles, practices and processes to tertiary design educators.

Thematic narratives based on experience and grounded in kaupapa Māori practice, were developed through 5 case studies of Māori designers and design educators. These have informed the development of a four-strategy model for teaching design within a New Zealand context.

Strategy 1: Māori educators introducing Māori content

This strategy allows both individual mentoring as well as the introduction of broader examples of cultural content.

Strategy 2: A well-resourced, integrated approach

This strategy is about building bridges through advocates for cultural themes and practices.

Strategy 3: Putting culture and identity in the centre

An ongoing process of modelling cultural values through teaching practices.

Strategy 4: Regeneration, revitalisation, innovation and future focus

A strategy that recognises that there needs to be an acknowledgement of the value of culture within design and that it is looking forward and is adaptable.

Challenges, Opportunities and Risks

A major challenge identified for non-Māori design programmes is to understand and undertake systemic changes in order to allow cultural values to be in the centre, and not an add-on.

This is however an opportunity to develop design curricula and teaching methods that reflect the unique cultural environment of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Risks include the need to recognise culture as continually changing and responding to change.


This work is published under the Creative Commons 3.0 New Zealand Attribution Non-commercial Share A... (BY-NC-SA). Under this licence you are free to copy, distribute, display and perform the work as well as to remix, tweak, and build upon this work noncommercially, as long as you credit the author/s and license your new creations under the identical terms.

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