Supporting Research

Te Ara Whakamana: Mana Enhancement is unique in that it combines and then applies many proven scientific and educational theories, research and knowledge from both Western and Māori world views to an actual tool that is effective and simple to use. This praxis allows professionals with expertise from many fields to practically apply their knowledge and be guided, supported by and explore the latest research and thinking in behaviour change within a sound and culturally effective framework.

Aatea Solutions Te Ara Whakamana Evaluation for the Ministry of Education, 2021

In 2019, the Ministry of Education commissioned a Kaupapa Maori evaluation with AATEA Solutions which was published in 2021. To read a summary, and the evaluation in full visit the Education Counts page here.

Te Ara Whakamana: Mana Enhancement Framework in the mahi (work) of New Zealand Psychologists, Monika Lovelock, 2020

A thesis presented for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand. Written by Monika Lovelock, 2020. To read this Thesis, visit the Massey University site here.

Supporting Theory

Neuroscience and Neuro-placticity

Knowing that we as humans are dynamic and complex, understanding the link between our behaviour and the neurochemistry of our brains, highlights the need to understand the relationships we form with each other. Te Ara Whakamana: Mana Enhancement is an enabler to creating trusting relationships and acknowledges both cultural, ecological, and sociological references to support such a relationship.  

A senior fellow of the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, Texas and an adjunct professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, Dr Bruce Perry’s ‘Neurosequential Model’ has helped shape our thinking and approaches we take in understanding our brain, the impacts of trauma on our brain, and how our life stories have shaped us. Dr Perry also recognised for example the all-importance of whānaungatanga, when undertaking research here in Aotearoa, New Zealand. 

“To best understand the here and now, we need to know where we came from and ‘what happened’ to us and our ancestors.

Perry, B. D., & Winfrey, O. (2021, p.248). What Happened to You? Conversations on trauma, resilience, and healing. Flatiron Books & Bluebird London United Kingdom 

Harness the chemistry of conversations.”

Glaser, J. E., & Glaser, R. D. (2014). The neurochemistry of positive conversations. Harvard Business Review, (6), 6-12. 

“Practices such as mindfulness, whakawhānaungatanga, breakfast in schools, and ritual/routine are a few of the practices that [also] help to meet the needs of the brainstem and allow it to calm.”

Bruce, J., Clelland, T., Macfarlane, S., Mikaere-Wallis, N., Ruddenklau, K., Taula, J., & Taula, I. (2014, p.8). Positive youth development through education: Addressing issues of dis/engagement in Aotearoa/New Zealand schools.

“Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going inside ourselves.”   

Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score: Mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma. penguin UK. 

Kaupapa Māori

Te Ara Whakamana: Mana Enhancement situates itself as a Kaupapa Māori framework. Locating the model firmly within Te Ao Māori (a Māori world view), to provide the foundations and principles which guide a process that is co-constructed, culturally centred, mana enhancing, and strength-based, not only reasserts the value of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) but authenticates and honours the narratives that underpin the model. 

“Kaupapa Māori emphasizes interdependence and spirituality as a fundamental component of intellectual endeavour and knowledge construction. It is implicitly founded on collective consciousness, and historical and cultural concepts that are not necessarily reflected in qualitative-quantitative or positivist interpretive critical categorisations.

Henry, E. & Pene, H., Kaupapa Māori: Locating Indigenous Ontology, Epistemology and Methodology in the Academy., in Organization, 2001, 8., SAGE., London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi

“Kaupapa Māori [then] is an important Indigenous initiative because it carves out a space for Māori to articulate for ourselves our own multiple identities and realities in ways that are culturally appropriate for us.”

Murphy, N. (2014) Te Awa Atua Menstruation in the pre-colonial Māori world: An examination of stories, ceremonies and practices regarding menstruation in the pre-colonial Māori world p.15 He Puna Manawa Ltd

“Kei hea taku reo karanga ki ōku tīpuna. Hoki mai, hoki mai e taku reo rangatira.”

Whāea Whirimako Black


Within Te Ara Whakamana are woven the Pūrākau (stories) of the Kaitiaki. Each of these are complex characters whose exploits and personalities mirror the human condition and provide examples of the choices we make and the consequences of these choices. Children especially, are able to consider these behaviours from a safe place and explore what it feels like if things happen, and you are at risk.

Storytelling is brilliant for children’s mental development. It’s thought to improve narrative recall and problem-solving, increase literacy, facilitate abstract thinking, self-regulation and boost linguistic abilities.”

Ed Cooke

“Stories, then are at the root of our ability to communicate and understand what’s going on around us. Because understanding and memory are intertwined we shouldn’t be surprised that they are also very powerful mnemonic devices.”

Stephanie Goloway


When a person has behaved in ways that cause injury, discomfort or disruption they often become ‘storied’. By this we mean that information is shared about that person that explains their behaviour as an integral part of who they are, rather than just talking about ‘what they have done’. If they also believe that their actions are as a result of their ‘fixed’ nature the belief and motivation for positive change will be weakened. By focussing on a person’s strengths and structuring opportunities for that person to use those strengths in ways that are of assistance to others and reflect well on themselves, we create the potential for creating a new, positive story for both the student, staff, classmates and whanau.

“Strong social support correlates with an astonishing number of desirable outcomes, e.g. ‘high levels of social support predict longevity as reliably as regular exercise does, and low social support is as damaging as high blood pressure.”

Juilanne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy Smith, Bradley Layton

Trauma-Informed Practice

Trauma Informed Practice looks to ‘normalise’ behaviour and view them as adaptive rather than symptoms. Once we become aware of the significance of traumatic experiences in people’s lives and begin to view their presence as adaptive, we can move from a “pathology” mindset (i.e., defining clients from a diagnostic label, implying that something is wrong with them) to one of resilience – a mindset that views peoples presenting difficulties, behaviours, and emotions as responses to surviving trauma. Trauma Informed Care embraces a perspective that highlights ‘adaption’ over ‘symptoms’ and ‘resilience’ over ‘pathology’. Trauma informed Practice sits well within the philosophy of Te Ara Whakamana in that it promotes a move away from punitive approaches that in many cases serve only to retraumatise people, and places emphasis on a therapeutic approach.

Te Ara Whakamana: Mana Enhancement has now been shown to be transformative in schools that have experienced elevated levels of challenging behaviours, disengagement, and truancy. School leaders looking for ways to overcome these barriers toward educational success have taken up the wero (challenge) to embed Te Ara Whakamana as pedagogical tool in understanding trauma, addressing it in a strength-based mana enhancing way, and overcoming the barriers and deficits in attaining educational success.  

“In education, the reality of secondary/vicarious trauma needs to be considered at every level of the system (federal, state, district, schools). In the high-poverty, high-stress schools, secondary trauma is underestimated. While self-care is promoted as component of trauma informed practice, administrators at school and district levels should shoulder responsibility for embedding approaches and practices that encourage self-care and regulation for all adults in schools, including teachers and staff.”

Thomas, M. S., Crosby, S., & Vanderhaar, J. (2019). Trauma-informed practices in schools across two decades: An interdisciplinary review of research. p. 26 Review of Research in Education43(1), 422-452. 

Restorative Practice

Te Ara Whakamana: Mana Enhancement opens the opportunity for restorative practice. Empowering people through enhancing mana facilitates a pathway to seeing other perspectives which aids in the important development of empathy and compassion. 

Given the process is co-constructed/ako, participants feel understood and empowered to better manage and take ownership of their emotions. Te Ara Whakamana: Mana Enhancement enables participants whether it be offenders or victims, to understand the scope and impacts of what has occurred and restore relationships. Likewise, the Mana model is a contribution tool for Restorative Practitioners. 

Young people’s thinking and behaviour are shaped by the social contexts in which they live and learn (Bruner, 1996). Family and culture are highly influential in shaping the thinking and behaviour of young people in schools…”

Wearmouth, J., Mckinney, R., & Glynn, T. (2007). Restorative justice in schools: A New Zealand example. p. 39. Educational Research49(1), 37-49. 

“In New Zealand restorative justice practices are also influenced by traditional Māori cultural values and preferred ways of responding to wrongdoing, which emphasize restoration of harmony between the individual, the victim and the collective (tribe or sub-tribe). Victim–offender conferencing is a problem-solving process that is geared towards future solutions rather than an attribution of blame for past actions…” 

Wearmouth, J., Mckinney, R., & Glynn, T. (2007). Restorative justice in schools: A New Zealand example. p. 39. Educational Research49(1), 37-49. 

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

With a significant focus on whānaungatanga and whakapapa, Te Ara Whakamana: Mana Enhancement acknowledges the role parents play in supporting their children when they are facing challenges at school. Whānau are considered the most valuable resource, as they know their child/children best. When the mana of the whole family is explored, every member become active participants in the change process. Re-storying and enabling children to create their own plan, aids the process supporting them to identify what they need and what they want adults to do to support them when they are facing challenges. 

This is where Te Ara Whakamana: Mana Enhancement aligns with the kaupapa of cognitive behaviour therapy.  

“Cognitive behaviour therapy in children should be augmented using parents or carers as co-therapists. This emphasises that a child’s difficulties are a joint problem to be tackled in partnership with families.

Kaplan, C. A., Thompson, A. E., & Searson, S. M. (1995). Cognitive behaviour therapy in children and adolescents. Archives of disease in childhood, 73(5), 472. 

“Our clinical experience suggests that children who benefit from cognitive behaviour therapy may remember techniques and apply them when facing future problems. This raises the interesting possibility that successful cognitive behaviour therapy may equip a child with a degree of resilience with which to face further adversity.”

Kaplan, C. A., Thompson, A. E., & Searson, S. M. (1995). Cognitive behaviour therapy in children and adolescents. Archives of disease in childhood, 73(5), 472. 

Positive Psychology

As Te Ara Whakamana: Mana Enhancement is a strength-based model, drawing upon an individual’s mana, where one can converse, sharing their strengths, both learnt and inherited, and identify the things which uphold their mana algins with theories underpinned in positive psychology. 

Identifying people, places, values and beliefs, treasures, self-care, and care for others are all recognised (Papatūānuku), as is the status of one’s emotional and dispositional well-being (Ranginui). As positive psychology purports, when an individual can identify their strengths, and share them with others, they are more likely to experience a higher quality of life and relationships. Te Ara Whakamana: Mana Enhancement not only fulfils these objectives, but also includes cultural references and experiences which aim to decolonise and eliminate any deficits that have prevented Māori knowledge and aspiration, their rangatiratanga. 

“Positive psychology is concerned not just with positive states like emotions but also with more enduring positive characteristics of the individual: talents, abilities, values, and strengths of character. Positive traits lead to optimal functioning not only by enabling positive emotions but also in their own right by facilitating lives characterized by engagement, meaning, and fulfilling relationships with others…” 

Keyes, C. L., Fredrickson, B. L., & Park, N. (2012). Positive psychology and the quality of life. Handbook of social indicators and quality of life research, 99-112. 

Narrative Theory

Stories: we all have a story that has shaped and moulded us and our ways of being, thinking, feeling, and doing. Through Te Ara Whakamana: Mana Enhancement, the process values the time taken to listen to the stories being shared, the beauty, truth, and sacredness they hold and the understanding we glean from them. 

“A major reason was my enduring fascination with storytelling and my increasing curiosity about people’s life stories. An abiding question was: what role do stories play in our life work – in our formulating of plans, dreams, plots, missions, purposes? In short, how efficacious is storying in meaning-making? What ways of knowing are involved in storying? How are ‘life stories’ implicated in identity, agency and learning?”

Goodson, I. F. (2012). Developing narrative theory: Life histories and personal representation. p. 4. Routledge.

“Only when we have the courage to tell the truth about our old stories will the new stories arrive to guide us. Stories that recognize that the natural world and all its inhabitants have limits. Stories that teach us how to care for each other and regenerate life within those limits. Stories that put an end to the myth of endlessness once and for all.” 

Klein, N. (2020). On fire: The (burning) case for a green new deal. Simon & Schuster.

About us

Te Ara Whakamana is a tool designed by:
Ako Solutionz – Plans and Strategies for Positive Change.

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