Monday, 28 May 2012

Activity Nine Culture

I like this description of culture
“More recently, however, culture has been seen as an entity that transcends ethnic and national boundaries. Viewed from this perspective, culture encompasses “the patterns shaped by ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, geography, profession, ideology, gender, and lifestyle” (Branch, 1993, p. 7). This more recent definition of culture embraces the idea that every person and human group is both cultural and multicultural (Uzuner, 2009)”.
Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 10(3), Article 10.3.13. Retrieved from
What approaches can you utilise to meet the needs of indigenous learners?“Those who provide instruction or design materials in such cross-cultural  situations should increase their own knowledge of target learners. In particular they might ensure the presence of instructional components that include explanations of vocabularly and intendant concepts, historical sketches, brief overview of disciplinary procedures (such as those used in archeology), and pictures and illustrations( to illustrate unfamiliar architectural elements, for instance)” (Wilson, 2001, p62). 
Wilson, M. S. (2001). Cultural considerations in online instruction and learning. Distance Education, 22(1), 52-64. Retrieved from

It would be interesting to explore the concept of ethnocentrism  and in turn share our own everyday experiences of same within my course. Turanga Kaupapa is part of midwifery standards of practice culturally appropriate practice is an important part of meeting clients needs holistically . For example as a relatively new midwife I once suggested to a young Asian woman that she get into a bath in labour for pain relief.  I duly ran same and left the room. I returned to the room to find her in the bath with clothing on. I was a bit taken aback and did not want to compound her embarrassment by suggesting she remove same especially as I suddenly realised she was probably wanting to cover up for her male doctor returning soon also. I had made many assumptions about this woman i.e. that she would be comfortable in front of me undressed, that she would understand the purpose of the water and that she felt free to decline. I was in a position of authority and may have imposed my cultural birthing practices on her.
As a student nurse I was required to interview someone who identified with a culture other than my own and write a report about my findings (we had set questions). Our entire class was informed we had all failed the assignment as we had all interviewed someone too similar to ourselves, we were all suitably horrified. I challenged the lectures that they were making cultural assumptions about me as they had not interviewed me to make this determination and I asked them how they knew what my cultural identity was?  I was informed that I was the only student that had passed the assessment and was asked to leave the meeting. Until you explore issues deeply cultural variance may not be clear e.g. curry is now as popular in England as fish and chips! Just because we eat some things in common does not mean we prepare food the same way (pray before preparation), eat it the same way (with utensils, on the floor, children or adults first etc). What we eat may be a superficial question compared to how we go about having or preparing a meal? 
“instructors should be cognizant of variations in students’ experience and learning styles and at the outset of the course remind learners that learning activities in ALNs may be different from what the learners are accustomed to. It is also equally important that instructors model the target behavior or learning outcome expected from the students. For example, in distance education environments such as the American one, critical reflection is highly valued. The instructors in these contexts should not assume that all students are familiar with reflection processes. In fact, as Biesenbach-Lucas’s (2003) and Thompson and Ku’s (2005) studies show, challenging and criticizing others’ ideas may not be considered culturally appropriate  in some cultural groups (Uzuner, 2009).”
Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 10(3), Article 10.3.13. Retrieved from

Outline any experiences you have had working with indigenous learners.I have had few experiences with indigenous learners. We have very few Maori students within the midwifery curriculum or other ethnic minorities unfortunately. One particular student who springs to mind appeared to enjoying sharing her own maternity experiences but did not appear to give any credibility to other class participants who did not identify as being mothers themselves despite other rich life experiences to contribute. Perhaps this student was more philosophically aligned with the traditional origins of midwives as mothers who tended other birthing women in their communities.  This student was also older than the other students and may have wanted to have some age related respect afforded?
There was conflict with this student and other members of the class regarding group work participation, communication and general ability to collaborate. This may have been predominately personality and learner style related (which can link to culture). 
What were some of the challenges that you and the learners faced?
Finding common ground was a challenge. Tension developed outside the classroom setting that resulted in suggestions of mediation and student counseling services for members of the class.
How did this affect their learning?Having relaxed non-judgmental debriefing were students felt ‘safe’ required vigilant facilitation. Food, a cuppa and some team building exercises such as sharing your favourite, book, movie or secret indulgence were good ice-breakers during these sessions. Students needed more individual input from me face-to-face in private and via phone and email.
I could have considered asking students to bring other methods of sharing into our reflective setting e.g. articles, poems, journal entries.

I found these articles which were interesting reading contextually

Chevannes, M. (2002). Issues in educating health professionals to meet the diverse needs of patients and other service users from ethnic minority groups. Journal Of Advanced Nursing, 39(3), 290-298. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2648.2002.02276.x

Cairns, J. (2005). Maori maternity in the land of the long white cloud. British Journal Of Midwifery, 13(2), 74-7

Phew thats it folks, I hope my reflections with a clinical emphasis where not too long winded
Regards Fee


  1. Some wonderful stories Fee. I wonder do you have any suggestions for improving the numbers of Maori students accessing midwifery, and what might be the barriers for them? For example, some success has been achieved in keeping students in their communities and offering f2f support therein which is a model midwifery is using already. Would offering the training on a marae with closer ties to rūnaka and involvement with whanau be more attractive do you think?

    What are your thoughts about how the Te Whare Tapa Whā model of learning is offered in midwifery?

  2. Hi I think lots of liason with Nga Maia will be beneficial ongoing. Nursing has a Pacific programme in Wellington and it would be interesting to see if something along similar lines for Maori midwifery students would work too.