Definitions of key terms used in Kōwhiti Whakapae.


Being attuned means being able to sensitively read others’ cues to understand their wants, needs and emotions. Cues can include movement, gestures, vocalisations and subtle changes in any of these.


Biases are judgments based on pre-conceived beliefs and assumptions. Biases are usually unfair, because generalised assumptions and judgement are made without full understanding, knowledge or experience. For example, having expectations based on age.


Discrimination means unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, commonly on the basis of ethnicity, age, gender, or disability.

Expected limits and boundaries

Expected limits and boundaries refers to expectations about how to behave and interact in a particular place. Agreed expectations should align with the shared philosophy of the setting. These are sometimes referred to or discussed as rules.

Funds of knowledge

Funds of knowledge’ is a concept that takes a positive view of the diverse bodies of knowledge and experiences found in families. In early childhood education, this term is commonly used to refer to the rich knowledge, understandings and practices that children and families bring from their home lives. 

Gender diverse

This term refers to the spectrum of possible genders, and the diversity of genders and is sometimes used to describe a person or people whose gender presentation falls outside the male-female binary.

Gender identity

A person’s gender identity is the gender they feel and express. Gender is not necessarily aligned with biological sex, or the gender assigned at birth, and is separate from sexuality and attraction.


An inclusive environment is one where all members feel a sense of belonging and that they can make a meaningful contribution. Inclusion involves identifying and removing barriers that may limit participation based on gender, ethnicity, ability, learning needs, family structure, values, socio-economic status and religion etc.

Metacognitive language

Metacognitive language refers to words, phrases and ideas associated with metacognition which is the process of thinking about one's own thinking and learning. Kaiako can support children’s metacognitive thinking with questions like ‘How did you create that?' ‘Why do you think that worked?’.

Neurodiversity (Neurodivergent)

Neurodiversity refers to the diverse ways people experience and respond to the world around them. The term neurodiverse or neurodivergent in this resource refers to children with neurological variability including Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia and autism. Not all neurodivergent children will have a diagnosis.


Some people have a gender identity that is neither male nor female, often called non-binary. This can include identifying as neither male nor female, as male or female at different times, as both male and female at the same time, or rejecting the idea of two genders.


Kōwhiti Whakapae uses the term ‘phases’ to describe children’s capabilities as typical characteristics along a continuum of learning. The expression of these capabilities will vary for each child, shaped by language, identity, and culture. Capabilities across phases are cumulative and overlapping.

Possibility thinking

Possibility thinking refers to a style of communication that focuses on possibilities, options, and opportunities that could come from something, rather than on limitations or constraints. Possibility thinking supports wonder and speculation about things that may not seem readily possible.


Prejudice refers to judgements of others based on unsupported, stereotyped beliefs and assumptions. Prejudice views are harmful and may focus on a person or groups’ characteristics such as ethnicity, race, age, weight, disability, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation.

Professional Learning and Development (PLD)

Professional Learning and Development (PLD) is also known as professional learning or professional development. PLD describes the ongoing learning and development, both formal and informal, that teachers engage in to continuously upskill and grow their professional knowledge and practice.


Progress refers to the way children’s learning changes in complexity and range of capabilities overtime and is shaped by identity, language and culture. While individual progress will vary in direction and pace at times, there are typical characteristics and patterns that are observable over time.

Rainbow families

‘Rainbow families’ are families with queer and/or gender-diverse parents, for example lesbian, gay or trans parents. Children of rainbow families benefit from seeing a wide range of family structures represented and openly valued in the early childhood setting. All children benefit from developing appreciation for rainbow families as they live and grow up in a diverse world.

Shared values

Shared values’ refer to an agreed set of concepts that guide how members of a group engage with and support each other and themselves. These concepts are often reflected in a setting’s philosophy statement and should be informed by the beliefs and aspirations of community members - including children, parents and whānau and kaiako.

Social cues and expectations

Social cues refer to the use of body language and facial expressions that provide information in social interactions about what is expected. Social expectations include the implicit (implied or hinted at) and explicit (very clear) norms and customs for different situations that will vary by culture and context.


Stereotypes are generalised beliefs about a particular group of people. Stereotypes are based on assumptions and conventional ideas, often involving negative bias and oversimplified images of certain groups.

Sustained shared thinking

Sustained shared thinking describes an effective pedagogical interaction, usually between a teacher and a child, where two or more people engage in prolonged communication to progress a shared idea. Sustained shared thinking interactions can involve solving problems, clarifying ideas, evaluating or assessing experiences, or extending a narrative.

Systemic inequities

Systemic inequities occur when systems have in-built biases that disadvantage some groups and advantage others. Systemic inequities are often not noticed by people who are advantaged by the system. Systemic inequities can be found in organisations, policies, laws, government and other systems that we live, work and learn in.


Takatāpui is a Māori word encompassing diverse genders and sexualities and can be loosely compared to the English term LGBTQI+. ‘Takatāpui’ historically referred to any intimate relationship between people of the same gender, but in recent times it has been reclaimed as a uniquely Māori queer identity with broad meaning.

Te taiao

Te taiao is a Māori term for the natural world; the environment that surrounds and contains us. Te taiao infers a Māori worldview of the interdependent relationship between people and all elements of the natural world.

Theory of Mind (ToM)

‘Theory of Mind’ refers to understanding of our own and others' mental states including thoughts, beliefs, feelings, wants, and motives, and the ability to comprehend that these may differ among people in the same situation.