The concept of ako describes a teaching and learning relationship, where the educator is also learning from the student …. Ako is grounded in the principle of reciprocity and also recognises that the learner and whānau cannot be separated. (Ka Hikitia, 2008, p.20)

Many articles and strategies acknowledge the conceptual notions of Ako since its published inception as a humanistic paradigm of an effective teaching and learning development model by Dr Rangimarie Rose Pere (1982). From the original stage as a concept, to its re-constructing as principles (Bishop & Glynn, 1999), Ako has become a philosophical teaching and learning framework, that eventually encouraged the New Zealand Ministry of Education to acknowledge the importance of Ako as a teaching and learning ‘method of reciprocity’.

What is the problem?

The problem is that many educators only see Ako as one word and act accordingly. However, there is a vast font of knowledge resting within that one word that needs exploring to find a deeper understanding of Ako and its application in the learning environment.

What is the solution?

This presentation of Ako uses the art of etymology to expound the dimensions of Ako and to expose the concepts within.

Ako: The unconditional shared pathway of disseminating knowledge through teaching and learning. It is in kaiako – teacher, akonga – learner and akomanga – learning environment and is transferable in a range of contexts. Ako could be described as Came et al suggest ‘transformative knowledge development’ (Came, Warbrick, Doole, Hotere-Barnes, Sessa, 2019).

Koa: For effective teaching and learning to occur, there needs to be Koa, satisfaction and enjoyment. The kaiako needs to be satisfied and happy with their paper, content, context and delivery. The akonga needs to enjoy the learning and exploration of their papers and its content. They need to be reflected in the style of delivery and at ease within the learning environment.

Kao: NO! This is the dimension that allows the kaiako or the akonga to negate, query, critique or disagree with content or context of knowledge development. It is a safe space to challenge the status quo and to offer something else in its place.

Oka: Sever the known to the unknown. Taking the critique from Kao, the kaiako and akonga can collaboratively de-construct to re-construct.

Kā Ao: Ka to ignite, Ao universal.  Ka Ao, transformation of knowledge from understanding to enlightenment to a wisedome (wisdom). Ka Ao is when the kaiako and akonga share that moment of,” I get it now”. The Ako moment.

Therefore, Ako is both to teach and to learn and reflects the role-reversal and reciprocity of teaching and learning. In understanding the dimensions of Ako, there is Koa, enjoyment and happiness to teach and learn. There is Kao, saying no to challenge ideas and concepts, so that Oka, can help to de-construct to re-construct. From this process comes Ka ao, enlightenment and illumination, the Ako moment.

So, how can the dimensions of Ako support the transformation of knowledge to inform your practice?


Bishop, R & Glynn, T. (Eds.) (1999). Culture Counts: Changing Power Relations in Education (1st ed). Palmerston North. Dunmore Press Limited.

H.A. Came, I. Warbrick, C. Doole, A. Hotere-Barnes & M. Sessa (2019): He hokinga ki te mauri: strengthening te Tiriti o Waitangi public health education in tertiary education settings, Teaching in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2019.1613357

Ministry of Education. (2008). Ka Hikitia Managing for Success: Māori Education Strategy 2008-2012. (p.20) Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Government.

Pere, R. R. (1982). Ako: Concepts and learning in the Māori tradition. Wellington: Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust Board

– Herewini Easton

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