Upcoming changes for this content
This content will be strengthened so it more completely reflects our commitment to practice framed by te Tiriti o Waitangi, based on a mana-enhancing paradigm for practice, and drawing from Te Ao Māori principles of oranga to support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. We each need to consider how we can apply these principles to our practice when reading this content. The following resources provide support:
Practice for working effectively with Māori
Our practice approach
What is the learning and achievement domain
This domain covers:
- cognitive development including speech and language development
- motor skills
- interests and abilities
- self-care and independence skills
- goals and aspirations.
It also involves knowledge exchange and learning from key whānau or family members, such as kaumātua and kuia imparting tikanga knowledge, te reo and information about whakapapa, hapū and iwi. Information relevant to this area of learning and achieving is also in the identity and culture domain.
Tamariki and rangatahi learn a lot of their knowledge and their personal identity outside of the formal school environment. Learning and achieving positively encourages a strong sense of self-efficacy and a high sense of self-esteem, both of which are important factors in promoting resilience in tamariki and rangatahi. Resilient tamariki and rangatahi are able to better cope with adverse circumstances and experiences and in turn are more likely to have positive outcomes in adult life.
The education domain addresses learning and achieving in formal education settings. Learning and achieving in non-formal educational and leisure settings is also integral to the overall development of te tamaiti or rangatahi.
In assessing the needs of tamariki and rangatahi in this domain it is important that you:
- seek the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family, and understand what skills and knowledge are valued by te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family
- engage with the early childhood service or school and other professionals working with te tamaiti or rangatahi around their views and opportunities to work together, especially if te tamaiti or rangatahi is in care — access any relevant assessments, such as Resource Teacher: Learning Behaviour (RTLB) assessments, speech language and occupational therapy
- consider any gateway or youth justice health and education assessments or screens that have been completed or ensure these are undertaken if required
- seek the views of the caregiver if te tamaiti or rangatahi is in care.
Development occurs in stages
Cognitive, emotional, social and physical development are interrelated and influence each other. For example the ability of a tamaiti or rangatahi to learn new information is influenced by their ability to interact appropriately with others and control their impulses.
Cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development occurs over time as part of a process of development. Development tends to occur within identified timeframes (ranges) — referred to as milestones — and allows us to gain an understanding of whether te tamaiti or rangatahi is progressing in an expected trajectory.
For example physical development progresses according to a framework — tamariki begin holding up their own head, rolling, sitting, crawling, walking, running, jumping, balance, through to more complex physical activities — and all have age ranges around when these can be expected to occur. The way ‘play’ develops for tamariki also reflects a developmental process — developing from unoccupied play (te tamaiti is observing not playing) through to:
- solitary play (te tamaiti focusses on their own play not on what other tamariki are doing)
- onlooker play (te tamaiti watches others playing and may interact, but not participate directly)
- parallel play (te tamaiti may play alongside but not with another tamaiti)
- associate play (te tamaiti is interested in and interacting with other tamariki playing but not in a coordinated way)
- cooperative play (te tamaiti may play with other tamariki in a more organised way where each tamaiti has a particular role).
Individual differences in tamariki should be recognised — however where there is significant variation from the expected milestone it is important that this is explored and if necessary underlying issues and/or issues in the environment are identified. When assessing the learning and achieving needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi it is important to have knowledge of the developmental stage relevant to them and understand how they are progressing.
If concerned seek some advice — consult a social work supervisor, your Regional Disability Advisor, meet with the kaiako/teacher or speak to a paediatrician or other child health professional. Atypical development and/or behaviour can have a variety of underlying causes, for example it may indicate experiences of trauma, issues in the environment, and physical illness or disability. Identifying areas of concern early provides the best opportunity to put in place strategies to support the way te tamaiti or rangatahi operates, thinks and interacts with the world and to support their ability to learn and develop to their full potential.
Cognition and language as partners in development
Cognitive developement refers to how tamariki learn and process information. It involves language, thinking, reasoning, problem solving, memory development and mental imagery. Cognitive development is not an automatic process — it relies on a rich and diverse learning environment.
Oral (spoken) language
Oral language is the first and most frequently used structured medium of communication. Oral language competence is the ability to both express and understand verbal messages and is the foundation of all social interactions. It is the primary means through which each individual tamaiti and rangatahi will be enabled to structure, to evaluate, to describe and to control their experience. In addition, and most significantly, for most tamariki and rangatahi, oral language is the primary mediator of culture, the way in which tamariki and rangatahi locate themselves in the world, and define themselves with it and within it.
For deaf tamariki and rangatahi, engagement with NZ Sign Language needs to be considered in assessing their language development.
Cognition and language are partners in tamariki development. We use language to learn new ideas, to talk about our thoughts and fears, and interact with those around us. Language development is strongly interdependent with and supports the brain development and cognitive development of tamariki.
Laying the foundations: early childhood experiences
Supportive parenting early in life has been shown to have positive effects on cognitive, behavioural, and psychological development throughout the lifespan. The human brain is moulded by the experiences it encounters, especially in the first 1000 days. Early experiences are critical for the brain to form the connections it needs to progress. Everyday interactions for most tamariki pose a world rich with opportunities to explore and to stimulate cognitive growth.
In early childhood tamariki need to be exposed to multiple and varied experiences, stimulating the brain and providing opportunities for physical, social and cognitive development to occur.
As noted above, language skill acquisition, especially when working with younger tamariki, needs to be carefully considered. If language delay is suspected this needs to be formally assessed. Some tamariki may have undiagnosed hearing problems that can impact language development and medical testing may be required. A speech and language therapist can assess where delays lie and how these are best addressed.
Although a supportive environment in early childhood provides a clear advantage for tamariki, it is possible to make up for early losses in cognitive development if a supportive environment is provided at a later date.
Environments that support development
A warm, loving, nurturing environment supports cognitive, emotional, social and physical development. Tamariki and rangatahi learn best through social interactions with other tamariki, rangatahi and adults and in environments where they are exposed to multiple opportunities and areas of learning, such as where:
- language development is supported by talking, reading, singing and music, storytelling, and time spent interacting with other tamariki, rangatahi and adults
- they are given the opportunity to develop knowledge, engagement with and understanding of their culture and confidence to operate within their cultural world
- they have the opportunity to explore different physical environments and develop and hone their physical skills
- ‘playtime’ includes free, unstructured opportunities to explore the world, develop their imagination, experience cause and effect, and test out their ideas and thinking
- creativity and imagination are valued
- they have opportunities to test their physical and cognitive boundaries in a safe and supportive way
- they have opportunities to develop their social skills, communication and ability to interact with others — where they can learn about sharing, playing together, peer relationships, conflict resolution, problem solving
- the uniqueness and strengths of te tamaiti or rangatahi are recognised and valued, and are used to support their learning and sense of achievement
- learning is connected to the world around them, who and what has come before, and they can see themselves in this bigger picture
- they have the ability to influence and direct their own learning, and follow their interests and passions
- experiences are varied and include opportunities to explore music and arts
- they have opportunities for success and to learn from mistakes and errors, within their developmental frameworks and with safe boundaries.
Prompts to support assessment
- Consider what is happening in the environment for te tamaiti or rangatahi. Are they being supported, encouraged and provided with opportunities for holistic development and growth? Is the home environment rich with language and culture, providing an environment to nourish their cognitive development?
- Are they being provided with opportunities to learn their language and whānau or family history? Are they being supported and prepared to interact within their cultural world?
- Does their environment include a variety of learning opportunities — library, playground, walks in the neighbourhood, marae and cultural activities and the avoidance of prolonged viewing or access to inapppropraite content on TV and screens?
- Consider how a disabled tamaiti or rangatahi is supported to participate in society, cultural and community acitivites. Are there barriers to their participation that need consideration, for example accessing indoor and outdoor places for recreation, involvement with cultural/family activities?
- Observe te tamaiti or rangatahi. Seek out information about their early experiences, their current environment and their development across the multiple domains.
- Seek information from their caregiver, parents, preschool or school, and other adults involved with them.
Cultural context for learning
Adults provide the cultural context for learning and determine what knowledge is considered valuable. People are likely to display high levels of ability in skills highly valued by their culture.
For example Māori value humanistic qualities that reflect Māori customs, values and beliefs, so cultural skills such as waiata, kapa haka and carving, and interpersonal relationships and aspects of spirituality are highly prized.
Understanding what skills and attributes are valued by the whānau or family of te tamaiti or rangatahi helps us see where they may have skills, knowledge and abilities that should be nurtured and which provide potential pathways for their development and success.
In many cultures parents share the role of educating with grandparents and extended whānau or family — and there are close relationships with grandparents and other whānau or family members who have a role in teaching and supporting their development. In many whānau or family grandchildren can and do have a special relationship with their grandparents that is characterised by warmth and intimacy.
The role of grandparents, kaumātua and kuia are instrumental in caring for tamariki and transferring knowledge to them. Siblings and cousins play a role in the learning process — tuakana and teina relationships.
For whānau Māori the ‘context’ of learning is important, such as telling the story in the place that it occurred — sitting on the porch and telling the story of the mountain before them. Kaumātua and kuia have a role in imparting knowledge, ranging from practical knowledge to the metaphysical, teaching Māori tikanga and the underlying values that are important.
For example, the Māori worldview values the natural world, where people are connected to land and nature and tangata (people) are part of and related to the natural world. Understanding this and learning to respect and take care of the natural world is an important learning for tamariki Māori.
Cultural practices also provide unique opportunities for holistic development to occur. For example participating in kapa haka promotes the development of multiple skills:
- learning about language and culture
- life skills by demonstrating commitment and self-discipline
- cognitive and physical development — learning memorisation, physcial coordination and stamina
- exposure to leadership opportunities, personal growth and development
- embedding of Māori values and tikanga
- increased confidence as a performer
- benefits of the values of being part of a group — whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, aroha.
Tamariki and rangatahi in care have a right to expect they will be given the opportunity to develop knowledge and understanding, to engage with their cultural heritage, and to build confidence to operate within their cultural world.
Cultural and linguistic knowledge, meaningful relationships with their whakapapa, understanding whanaungatanga relationships and obligations, knowledge of tikanga and cultural values and practices are all important aspects of learning that assist te tamaiti or rangatahi to gain knowledge, confidence and a strong sense of self for the future.
Other whānau or family members and cultural contexts are likely to play a key role in the transmission of this knowledge.
Tamariki and rangatahi should be empowered to value their culture and see it as a meaningful and relevant part of their academic and non-academic learning. This increases self-esteem and confidence resulting in them being more likely to develop to their potential.
Subdomain: Cognitive development
- Is te tamaiti or rangatahi meeting their developmental milestones in regard to speech, language and cognitive ability within the context of any disability or impairment?
- Does te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family have adequate access to learning and educational resources?
- Are oral communication/language skills being developed and encouraged at home? Simple things like playing word and descriptive games, and limiting time in front of TVs or screens help this. Does the whānau or family enjoy reading and support te tamaiti or rangatahi to have a positive relationship with books and reading?
- Are learning needs for te tamaiti or rangatahi being met in the home? Are parents and caregivers using language to explain their actions or routines within the home?
- Is there an understanding around any cognitive delays? Are we clear about what is causing delays in speech or thinking processes? Have professionals identified or dismissed any potential causes, such as hearing difficulties, speech impediments, environmental factors, severe emotional disturbances or learning disabilities?
All ages, with specific developmental stages from birth to adulthood.
Descriptors: cognitive development
10 — Te tamaiti is meeting all expected milestones within the context of any identified disabilities/impairments and any additional support needs are being met.
5 — Te tamaiti has developmental milestones which are delayed but assistance is being provided. Te tamaiti has a diagnosed condition which affects cognitive development and requires special care and oversight. Plans are being developed to support any specific needs.
1 — Te tamaiti is not meeting developmental milestones in speech, language or cognitive abilities and there is no assistance being provided or recognition that this is of concern. The home environment does not provide adequate stimulation or opportunity for healthy development to occur no interactive play, inappropriate conversations for age, no reading and storytelling, no toys, poor social interaction etc.
Subdomain: Motor skills
The refinement of motor skills that use the large muscles of the body as well as those that tap hand–eye coordination and require subtle movements is an important developmental task.
- Does the physical environment at home and in the community provide opportunities to develop motor skills — play, sports activities, dance, cultural activities that promote development?
- How are gross motor skills developing — such as strength, balance, coordination, jumping, running? Are these being achieved in an age-appropriate way? Does te tamaiti or rangatahi participate in physical activities confidently with other tamariki or rangatahi?
- How are fine motor skills developing? Can te tamaiti or rangatahi complete age-appropriate tasks, using their fork, buttoning clothes, pincer grip development, finger strength? Is preschool or school picking up any issues?
- Are cultural activities seen as a vehicle through which physical development can be promoted and strengthened? For example kapa haka, waka ama.
- Do they have any physical conditions that affect their capacity to use or develop motor skills?
- If any disabilities or impairments are evident have these been assessed and are services around te tamaiti or rangatahi coordinated and supporting inclusion in education and social activities to ensure potential is still reached for te tamaiti or rangatahi?
- Is a lack of confidence in relation to motor skills acquisition resulting in a limited experience of sporting and social environments?
All ages, with specific developmental stages from birth to adulthood.
Descriptors: motor skills
10 — Te tamaiti is meeting all expected milestones within the context of any identified disabilities/impairments. Well-co-ordinated, or supported with any additional needs, enjoys and participates in play, hobbies, games or sporting activities. The home environment encourages and supports the ongoing development of expertise and areas of interest.
5 — Te tamaiti has a diagnosed condition which affects motor skills and requires special care and oversight. Services are being provided to help develop gross and fine motor skills, and these skills are improving.
1 — Te tamaiti struggles with gross motor skills (walking, running, climbing, co-ordination) and/ or fine motor skills (writing, drawing, moving small objects) and is not receiving any assistance. The home environment does not support the development of motor skills.
Subdomain: Skills and interests
- What does te tamaiti or rangatahi enjoy doing? How are they being encouraged and supported to develop a range of skills, talents and interests?
- Do they have a special or particular talent? How is this being supported?
- How are cultural skills being recognised and supported? Are cultural interests being pursued?
- Does te tamaiti or rangatahi have regular opportunities for play and interaction with other tamariki or rangatahi, outside of formal educational environments?
- If te tamaiti or rangatahi is in care they have a right to be provided with opportunities for their interests and activities to be supported. How is this being supported?
- Are they involved in or have access to support systems to pursue their interests?
- Seek to understand any barriers to te tamaiti or rangatahi participating in activities they are interested in — financial, transport, support, encouragement.
- Do local networks promote and actively encourage tamariki or rangatahi participation? Does te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family know how to access these supports and networks?
Descriptors: skills and interests
10 — Te tamaiti has a range of interests and is involved in a range of activities that develop his/her skills, interests, abilities and cultural identity. Leisure time is used in a variety of ways, including physical activity, developing social skills and connections, self-care, giving to others and engaging in new and existing skills and interests. Te tamaiti proactively participates, seeks information and demonstrates help seeking behaviours. They are persistent in wanting to learn for future benefit, and are a positive role model to other tamariki/rangatahi to learn new things.
5 — The home environment supports and provides some opportunities for te tamaiti to develop skills, interest and abilities. Te tamaiti shows some motivation to develop their interests and skills and has some support to do this. Their attendance is improving. Te tamaiti is showing an interest to try new things and an active interest in committing to their actions. S/he is starting to ask questions without prompts. They will try new things, but need support to do so.
1 — The home environment does not support te tamaiti in the development of skills and abilities, interests and hobbies. Te tamaiti is not involved in any positive activities. S/he does not use leisure time in a meaningful way or has been excluded from activities because of his/her behaviour or other factors. Te tamaiti is unable to express their feelings and has no interest or makes excuses in learning new skills and ways of thinking. They have closed behaviour and body language. Te tamaiti is not willing to commit to anything. S/he is unable to manage their time. They do not understand or take any responsibility for their own learning and development.
Subdomain: Self-care and independence skills
- What level of self-care can te tamaiti or rangatahi provide? Is this level appropriate to their age and ability?
- Does the home environment encourage the acquisition of early practical skills of washing, dressing and feeding?
- How is te tamaiti or rangatahi discovering boundaries and limits, and learning about rules?
- Does te tamaiti or rangatahi know how and when to ask for help?
- Does te tamaiti or rangatahi understand when to say no and are they accurately anticipating when others will do so?
- Is te tamaiti or rangatahi developing skills and knowledge that will grow their confidence and ability to participate within their cultural world?
- Is te tamaiti or rangatahi able to express their needs to others, and do they have the communication skills required to develop increased independence?
- Is te tamaiti or rangatahi given opportunities to gain confidence and practical skills to enable them to undertake activities away from whānau or family?
Descriptors: self-care and independence skills
10 — Te tamaiti/ te rangatahi has self -care skills and independence/life skills which are age appropriate within the context of disabilities/impairments. S/he is confident in knowing his/her pepeha, tikanga, reo/language and/or whānau background. They feel a genuine connection to their past, and present and are confident in their future. Te tamaiti/ te rangatahi feels strongly connected to people around him/her, cultural traditions and languages of their family, where they live and are proud of who they are. The rangatahi is developing the necessary skills for living independently.
5 — Te tamaiti/te rangatahi has self-care skills and independence/life skills which are not age appropriate but are developing and s/he can manage self-care with assistance, or has a diagnosis which means ongoing supports are required and being provided to assist with self-care. S/he has begun learning and understanding their culture, language and/or family background(s). Te tamaiti/ te rangatahi talks about tikanga Māori and other respective cultural roles and expresses an interest in connecting with people around them. Te rangatahi is starting to understand who s/he wants to become and wants to belong within his/her communities. Te rangatahi is not able to self-determine his/her identity but has a sense of self-efficacy.
1 — Te tamaiti/te rangatahi has self-care skills and independence/life skills (eating, toileting, dressing, hygiene, health care, managing money, food preparation) which are not being developed or supported as required. Te tamaiti/te rangatahi has no motivation, ability or support networks for independence. They do not know their whakapapa or family background and they show no interest in gaining this knowledge. Te rangatahi does not know who s/he want to become and does not identify with any communitites. S/he is not able to self-determine their identity.
Subdomain: Goals and aspirations
- What aspirations does te tamaiti or rangatahi have for their future? What have these aspirations been influenced by? Are aspirations pro-social?
- If aspirations are harmful or inappropriate is te tamaiti or rangatahi exposed to pro-social environments where they have the opportunities to develop pro-social aspirations?
- How has te tamaiti or rangatahi experienced success and achievement?
- To what extent do they believe that they can influence the world around them? What has contributed to this?
- What is their level of self-efficacy (what te tamaiti believe they are able to influence), and sense of competency (what te tamaiti believe they are capable of)? What contributes to this and in turn what dampens it?
- Do they see adults as being able to help them achieve their goals?
- Does te tamaiti or rangatahi aspire to different goals than other whānau or family members and is this affecting the whānau or family dynamic and their capacity to achieve their aspirations?
Over 5 years
Descriptors: goals and aspirations
10 — Te tamaiti/te rangatahi has hopes and plans for the future and is able to articulate their aspirations. Te tamaiti/te rangatahi sets healthy goals with and without support, and is able to take steps towards achieving them, and seeks help appropriately. Te tamaiti/te rangatahi has a philosophy that promotes action and makes sense of life. They are helpful, hopeful and promote a healthy and positive outlook (may be faith or culture based). Te tamaiti/te rangatahi has trust and faith in others when warranted and can identify safe adults who have the capacity to help. Te rangatahi feels strongly that s/he is able to cope with challenges despite pressures; they feel safe, secure and able to face these challenges and express themselves. S/he take a lead in decision making and planning for their future.
5 — Te tamaiti/te rangatahi has set some goals, although may need help to construct these so they are achievable. Te tamaiti/te rangatahi has some support to achieve them and is starting to work on how they might be achieved. Goals, aspirations and skills development sometimes need to be created or pushed by adults. Te tamaiti/te rangatahi is starting to take some responsibility and active interest in committing to his/her actions.
1— Te tamaiti/te rangatahi is not goal or future orientated and is not hopeful about his/her future. S/he is unable to set and achieve healthy goals, or sets goals that are harmful or inappropriate or may lead to offending, eg “I’ll have a baby so someone will at least love me” or “I’m going to be the best artist by tagging every building”. S/he has no hope or positive outlook and does not trust/have faith in others or see anyone as being able to help. S/he is not motivated to make positive changes. Te tamaiti/te rangatahi is not willing to commit to anything and is unable to manage their time. S/he does not understand or take any responsibility for their actions.