Understand Me: Crafting Selves and Worlds in Collective Storied Conversations with Tamariki/Children, Whānau/Families, and Kaiako/Teachers

Funding year: 
2 years
University of Auckland - Te Whare Wānanga o Tāmaki Makaurau
School sector
Project start date: 
January 2021
Project end date: 
November 2023
Principal investigator(s): 
Professor. Janet Gaffney and Dr Meg Jacobs
Research team members: 
Assoc Dean-Pasifika Jacoba Matapo (University of Auckland), Dr Tauwehe Tamati (University of Auckland), Ms Alison M-C Li (University of Auckland), Marieta Morgan (Deputy Principal at Papatoetoe North School)
Research partners: 
Papatoetoe North School, Kamo Primary School, Owairaka District School

Intro / Project description

We will establish how sharing lived-experience stories among children, whānau, and teachers create openings for understanding that transform the relational praxis of learning and teaching. We will co-design with teachers in three schools (Year 1) and three affiliated kindergartens (Year 2) ways to engage in everyday being-listening-telling of storied conversations. Storied conversations between triads of child, parent/ whānau, and teacher will be ignited by sharing artifacts, blogs, and multimodal story sharing at an event. We will examine how storied conversations can carve pathways of understanding that shape relationships, “school” knowledges, and the members of the school/centre community.


Our study aims to place relationships at the heart of pedagogy in storied conversations that intersect with the people, places, and histories most dear to the participants. We craft ourselves and our worlds in stories that reflect our embedded cultural knowledge and identities. In the relational flow between telling-listening-being, learning is privileged, deepening new understandings in the conversational space. Storied conversations are multigenerational by nature and potentially bi/multi-lingual and bi/multi-cultural. Those engaged in storying are described as extended whānau (Bishop, et al., 2014, p. 190), including the child, family members, teacher, and researcher with mutual caring relations in a safe story-sharing space. We will explore how teachers notice the storied conversations that are part of the fluid culture and the learning-teaching fabric of the school-home-community. With the teachers, we will note how these stories fold into and enrich the local curriculum and extend everyday pedagogies. 

Why is this research important? 

This research aligns with current and future learning and teaching priorities for all children, including Māori, Pasifika, and children in families born in other countries, and addresses the engagement of whānau, an issue of strategic educational importance in Aotearoa New Zealand. The storied conversations will contribute to agentic, culturally responsive and engaged learning (Berryman et al., 2017) in which children’s linguistic and cultural identities will thrive and be sustained (Paris, 2012). New knowledge generated addresses gaps in existing research on how stories are pathways to the pedagogies of whānau, homes, and communities (Cummins, 2009). Through storied conversations, knowledges of families and children are authorised and woven into the fabric of learning and teaching. Child-parent/whānau-teachers partner as placemakers (Gruenewald, 2003) of the collective story of their school or centre. 

What we plan to do 


Teachers will inform a fluid qualitative design that best fits their school/centre (Kemmis and McTaggart, 2014) through two methods: 3-4 (1 hr, audio-recorded) collective design sessions per year and one individual teacher interview (1 hr, audio-recorded). Design meetings will reflect on stories that surface within the everyday routines of the school/centre, such as artefacts shared by children and families, an online platform for families to communicate and represent, school/centre events, and other possibilities discovered by teachers. As a follow up to stories, teachers will invite a child, and one of their family members to each engage in one video-recorded storied conversation. Each teacher will invite 3 child-family pairs.


An inductive data analysis approach (Charmaz, 2014) will be taken to identify the essence of the storied conversations that lead to understanding. University researchers will compose interpretive summaries of the video-recorded storied conversations, and teacher-researchers will challenge and expand these interpretations with their own. The whole team will then identify patterns across the interpretive summaries.


Berryman, M., Eley, E., Copeland, D. (2017). Listening and learning from Rangatahi Maori: The voices of Maori youth. Critical Questions in Education, 8(4), 476–494.

Bishop, R., Ladwig, J., & Berryman, M. (2014). The centrality of relationships for pedagogy: The Whanaungatanga Thesis. American Educational Research Journal, 51(1), 184-214.

Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis (2nd ed.).

Cummins, J. (2009). Pedagogies of choice: Challenging coercive relations of power in classrooms and communities. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 12(3), 261–271.

Gruenewald, D. A. (2003). Foundations of place: A multidisciplinary framework for place-conscious education. American Educational Research Journal, 40(3), 619-654.

Kemmis, S., & McTaggart, R. (2014). Critical participatory action research. In D. Coghlan & M. Brydon-Miller (Eds.), The SAGE encyclopedia of action research (pp. 209-211). London: Sage.

Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), 93-97. DOI: 10.3102/0013189X12441244

Contact details

Janet S. Gaffney

Marie Clay Research Centre, Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Victoria Street West, Auckland 1142

Email: janet.gaffney@auckland.ac.nz

Phone: +64 9 373 7999 ext 48323

Name: Meg Jacobs

Address: School of Education (Office AR317), North Campus, Auckland University of Technology, 90 Akoranga Drive, Northcote, Auckland 0627

Email: meg.jacobs@aut.ac.nz

Phone: 09 921 9999 Ext 5776

Front Row (from left):  Dr Meg Jacobs, Prof Janet S Gaffney, Ms  Alison M-C Li

Back Row (from left): Assoc Dean-Pasifika Jacoba Matapo, Dr Tauwehe Tamati