Māori student perceptions of group work in their social work degree

Donna Louise Guy


Few practitioners today would argue the value of group work as an effective teaching approach to enhance deep learning opportunities for social work students – but how many of us have stopped towonder whether our students agree? This paper presents the findings from an interpretive study, using a mixed method approach to investigate students’ perceptions of group work. A particular focus was the experiences of Māori students, as one of the frequently cited assumptions about Māori cultural teaching and learning preferences is that they are a communally-minded culture with a preference for group, rather than individualized processes and inquiry.

Māori are the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand,comprising 15% of the population. Like many indigenous and colonized cultures, Māori have experienced ongoing oppression and practices of colonization resulting in significant disparities in social, economic status, education, health and wellbeing (Ministry of Health, 2015; Tertiary Education Commission, 2011). Māori are a large client group for social workers, and the profession is keen to ensure a strong Māori presence among the qualified practitioners to work alongside their own people. It is important, then, that teachers give Māori students in higher education every assistance to succeed.The findings from this study highlighted a few surprises. Māori students revealed mixed and, at times, contradictory perceptions of the value of group work. As one participant revealed, “Group work can be really awesome but it can also be really stunting”. While acknowledging a number of benefits, students emphasised peer influences and the role of the teacher as having a significant impact on whether group work was deemed a positive or negative experience. This paper discusses these, and other key themes related to positive and negative group work experiences, along with strategies students suggested to enhance their social work study experience. The paper concludes that generalizing about Māori, and/or possibly other indigenous cultures who naturally thrive in collective environments, does not mean we can assume they will thrive during group work in the higher education classroom. Finally, some reflections and implications for best practice are offered.

Full Text:

 Subscribers Only


Analoui, B. D., Sambrook, S. & Doloriert, C. H. (2014) Engaging students in group work to maximise tacit knowledge sharing and use. The International Journal of Management Education, 12, 35-43 [Accessed 16th October 2018 at ://dx.doc.org/10.1016/j.ijme.2013.08.002]

Arini, Curtis, E., Townsend, S., Rakena, T., Brown, D., Sauni, P.& Johnson, O. (2011) Teaching for student success: Promising practices in university teaching. Pacific-Asian Education, 23, 1, 71-90. [Accessed 16th October 2018 at http://hdl.handle.net/2292/13472]

Anderson, M. L., Sylvan, A. L. & Sheets Jr, R. L. (2014) Experiential group training: An exploration of student perceptions. Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2014. [Accessed 16th October 2018 at: http://www.counseling.org/knowledge-center/vistas/by-year2/vistas-n2014/docs/default-source/vistas/article_35.]

Beccaria, L., Kek, M., Huijser, H., Rose, J. & Kimmins, L. (2014) The interrelationships between student approaches to learning and group work. Nurse Education Today, 34, 1094-1103. [ Accessed 16th October 2018 at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2014.02.006 ]

Bell, J. & Waters, S. (2014) Doing your research project: A guide for first-time researchers. (6th ed.). New York, NY: Open University Press

Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T. & Teddy, L. (2009) Te Kotahitanga: Addressing educational disparities facing Māori students in New Zealand. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 734-742

Burke, A. (2011) Group work: how to use groups effectively. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 11, 2, 87-95

Coers, N., Williams, J. & Duncan, D. (2010) Impact of group development knowledge on students’ perceived importance and confidence of group work skills. Journal of Leadership Education, 9, 2, 101-120

Colby, I. (2009) An overview of social work education in the United States: New directions and new opportunities. China Journal of Social Work, 2, 2, 119-130

Cournoyer, B. R. (2014) The social work skills workbook. (7th ed.) Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole

Creswell, J. W. (2014) Research design: qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches. (4th ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Curtis, E. T., Wikaire, E., Lualua-Aati, T., Kool, B., Nepia, W., Ruka, M., Honey, M., Kelly, F. & Poole, P. (2012) Tatou Tatou/success for all: Improving Māori student success. Wellington, New Zealand: Ako Aotearoa, National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence

Durie, M. (2001) Mauri ora: The dynamics of Māori health. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press

Gray, M. & Gibbons, J. (2002) Experience based learning and its relevance to social work practice. Australian Social Work, 55,4, 279-291

Greenwood, J. & Te Aika, L. H. (2008) Hei tauria: Teaching and learning for success for Māori in tertiary settings. Wellington, New Zealand: Ako Aotearoa

Hassanien, A. (2006) Student experience of group work and group assessment in higher education. Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 6, 1, 17-39

Hermida, J. (2014) Facilitating deep learning: pathways to success for university and college Teachers. Boca Raton, FL USA: CRC press

Hillyard, C., Gillespie, D. & Littig, P. (2010) University students’ attitudes about learning in small groups after frequent participation. Active Learning in Higher Education, 11, 1, 9-20

Jackson, D., Hickman, L. D., Power, T., Disler, R., Potgieter, I., Deek, H. & Davidson, P. M. (2014) Small group learning: graduate health students’ views of challenges and benefits. Contemporary Nurse, 48, 1, 117-128

Jarvis, P. (2010) Adult education and lifelong learning: Theory and practice. (4th. ed.) New York, NY: Routledge

Kiweewa, J., Gilbride, D., Luke, M. & Seward, D. (2013) Endorsement of growth factors in experiential training groups. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 38, 1, 68-93

Knowles, M. (1984) Andragogy in action. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Kolb, D. A. (2015) Experiential learning: Experience as a source of learning and development. (2nd ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education

Lom, B. (2012) Classroom activities: simple strategies to incorporate student-centered activities within undergraduate science lectures. Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, 11, A64-A71

Lumpkin, A., Achen, R. M. & Dodd, R. K. (2015) Student perceptions of active learning. College Student Journal, 49, 1, 121-133

Macfarlane, A.H., Glynn, T., Grace, W., Penetitio, W. & Bateman, S. (2008) Indigenous epistemology in a national curriculum framework? Ethnicities, 8, 102-127

Marks, M. B. & O’Connor, A. H. (2013) Understanding students’ attitudes about group work: what does this suggest for instructors of business? Journal of Education for Business, 88, 147-158

Merriam, S. & Bierema, L. L. (2014) Adult learning: Linking theory and practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Miller, C. J. & Metz, M. J. (2014) A comparison of professional-level faculty and student perceptions of active learning: its current use, effectiveness, and barriers. Advances in Physiology Education, 38, 3, 246-252

Ministry of Health (2015) Tatau Kahukura: Māori health chart book 2015. (3rd ed.) Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Health

Ministry of Education (2009) Hangaia te mātāpuna o te mōhio: Learning foundations for Māori adults. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education

Pauli, R., Mohiyeddini, C., Bray, D., Michie, F. & Street, B. (2008) Individual differences in negative group work experiences in collaborative student learning. Educational Psychology, 28, 1 , 47-58

Pollio, D. E. & Macgowan, M. J. (2010) The andragogy of evidence-based group work: an integrated educational model. Social Work with Groups, 33, 2-3, 195-209

Smith, C. K. & Davis-Gage, D. (2008) Experiential group training: Perceptions of graduate students in counselor education programs. Groupwork, 18, 3, 88-106

Smith, C. V. & Cardaciotto, L. (2011) Is active learning like broccoli? Student perceptions of active learning in large lecture classes. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 11, 1, 53-61

Struyven, K., Dochy, F., Janssens, S. & Gielen, S. (2008) Students’ experiences with contrasting learning environments: The added value of students’ perceptions. Learning Environments Research, 11, 2, 83-109

Sundrum, A. & Kanasan, M. (2013) Students’ perception on the effectiveness of teamwork based activities in enhancing the learning process. Eurasian Journal of Social Sciences, 1, 2, 52-60

Sweifach, J. S. (2015) Has group work education lost its social group essence? A content analysis of MSW course syllabi in search of mutual aid and group conflict content. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 35, 279-295

Tahua-Hodges, P. (2010) Kaiako Pono: Mentoring for Māori learners in the tertiary sector. Wellington, New Zealand: Te Puni Kōriki & Ako Aotearoa

Tamati, A. (2005) “Ma tou rourou, Ma toku rourou”: The concept of AKO: Co-construction of knowledge from a kaupapa Māori perspective. Early Education, 37, 23-31

Tangaere, A. R. (1997) Learning Māori together: Kōhanga reo and home. Wellington, New Zealand: NZCER

Taqi, H. A. & Al-Nouh, N. A. (2014) Effect of group work on EFL students’ attitudes and learning in higher education. Journal of Education and Learning, 3, 2, 52-65

Tertiary Education Commission. (2011). Ministry of Education. Part Two: Priorities [Accessed 16th October 2018 at http://www.minedu.govt.nz/NZEducationPolicies/TertiaryEducation/PolicyAnd Strategy/TertiaryEducationStrategy/PartTwoPriorities.aspx.]

Thaman, R., Dhillon, S., Saggar, S., Gupta, M. & Kaur, H. (2013) Promoting active learning in respiratory physiology–positive student perception and improved outcomes. National Journal of Physiology, Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 3, 1, 27-34

Thondhlana, G. & Belluigi. D. Z. (2014) Group work as ‘terrains of learning’ for students in South African higher education. Perspectives in Education, 32, 4, 40-55

Welsh, A. (2012) Exploring undergraduate perceptions of the use of active learning techniques in science lectures. Journal of College Science Teaching, 42, 2, 80-87

Winitana, M. (2012) Remembering the deeds of Māui: What message are in the tuakana-teina pedagogy for tertiary educators? Mai,1 , 1, 29-37

Wolfe, P. (2006) The role of meaning and emotion in learning. New directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 110, 35-41

Woodward, B., Colyar, J. & Woodward, J. F. (2009) IT group work: Undergraduate student perceptions. Issues in Information Systems, 10, 1, 103-108

Yazedjian, A. & Kolkhorst, B. B. (2007) Implementing small-group activities in large lecture classes. College Teaching, 55, 4, 164-169

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1921/gpwk.v28i2.1202


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2019 Groupwork