Best Practices for Teaching Hawai'i Students Effectively

As the start of a new semester begins and the new professors start their classes (yours truly included), let us take a little time to remember a bit of advice from Kumu Noe Noe. Based on my sitting through new faculty orientation, I found that most of us that are starting at the University system are not from here. E olu olu (please, kindly) practice a little cultural humility by starting with these ten best practices below. A little bit of aloha goes a long way and you will see that our local students will come out of their "cages" and thrive. Have a wonderful semester!

Ten Best Practices for Effective Teaching To Students From Hawai‘i
By Noe Noe Wong-Wilson

  1. Names are an integral part of a person’s genealogy and identity. Ask each student what name they prefer to be called. Learn to pronounce their names properly.
  1. Inform your students how you would like to be addressed. The name you choose to be called sets up your relationship with the students.  Many local and Hawaiian students find it difficult to call you by your first name, particularly if the students are much younger than you. “Aunty,” “Uncle,” or Kumu (teacher) are often used as respectful forms of address.
  1. Incorporate real life experiences into your classroom learning. Students will relate better to their learning if they can see how it affects them in real life.
  1. Find opportunities to speak to students one-on-one or in small groups. Our students have a difficult time speaking directly with their teachers. It may be more comfortable for them if they can speak with you in small group settings instead of in the larger classroom.
  1. Encourage group activities. Students can take advantage of group learning, study buddies, or small group activities. This also allows them to engage in discussion with each other and actively participate in their learning.
  1. Reward good behavior, study habits, active participation. Be positive and dwell on rewards rather than on bad behavior. Tell them your expectations and allow the natural leaders in the group to help self-regulate classroom behavior.
  1. Utilize the landscape and environment. Teach a class outdoors on a nice day. Incorporate the island landscape into your teaching and learning. Group or self-directed field trips or visits to historic, significant sites are effective learning tools for any discipline.
  1. Incorporate local stories, newspaper articles, and Hawaiian literature into your lesson plan whenever possible.Excite the learner’s thirst for knowledge about the universe by exciting them about their own world first.
  1. Students can become good learners in the first year of their college experience. Help them to become good learners.  The majority of students do not enter college knowing how to be a good student. They have to learn through experience withyou as their mentor.
  1. Celebrate their accomplishments. Allow the students to share and celebrate their learning at the end of the semester. Incorporate a small pot-luck at presentations or special activities. Invite special guests, other faculty, and administrators, to share in the celebration and to mark the passage into a new semester.


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