PI: Professor Linda Mitchell, The University of Waikato, NZ

Co-Is: Dr Amanda Bateman, Dr Elaine Khoo, Dr Lesley Rameka, Raella Kahuroa, Dr Polly Atatoa-CarrProfessor Lynn Ang and Ruth Ham

Advisors: Professor Margaret Carr, Professor Bronwen Cowie

Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) funding ($199,993) (2018-2020): Strengthening belonging and identity of refugee and immigrant children through early childhood education

The project will develop theories and practice strategies on how ECE can enable refugee and immigrant families and children to construct positive outcomes for belonging and participating in Aotearoa New Zealand, while sustaining and contributing important cultural aspects from their home country. Specifically, the project focuses on the affordances of children’s drawing, story-telling and play in providing opportunities for supporting belonging; and in art-based and play-based pedagogies in enabling teachers to engage with children, parents and whanau (family). Our understandings and strategies developed over the course of the study will be published in a resource package for teachers.

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern visits Project's Refugee Centre.

Jacinda Ardern with refugees at project Refugee Centre.

Cooking group.

Children cooking pastries.

The aim of the proposed research is to develop a new evidence-based theoretical model, and associated strategies, that will contribute to transforming policy and practice in early childhood education in ways that enable refugee families and children to construct positive outcomes for belonging and participating in NZ. We will identify specific opportunities, understandings, and dispositions that enable refugee children and families to belong and participate in spite of uncertainty and change. Three premises frame this research: (1) a primary task for refugee families is to develop a sense of belonging, which is a basic human need and a foundation for cultural identity and contributing to society that has not been well articulated, understood or supported in multicultural contexts; (2) early childhood education provides unique opportunities for addressing challenges in refugee settlement, but its potentially transformative role in building belonging with refugee families has not been investigated, and deserves analysis; and (3) early childhood practices that build on concepts of Mana Whenua (jurisdiction over land, power associated with the possession and occupation of tribal land; i.e., ‘belonging’) from kaupapa Māori theory (research theory and methodology based on Māori world views) can strengthen a sense of bicultural belonging and identity for refugee families in NZ—but a theory that incorporates key cultural constructs that refugee families bring with them would cement that strength.  

Project links:

Marsden Awards 

Background to Research