Tag Archives: research

Research: NZ school rugby teaching lacks character, values

New research from the University of Canterbury reveals that rugby in New Zealand secondary schools has no clear educative or social intention, focusing on building technical skills rather than developing character, social skills or resilience.

University of Canterbury (UC) researcher Dr Blake Bennett’s original doctoral study investigated both New Zealand and Japanese secondary-school rugby environments to examine the influences and intentions of their coaching.

Interviews with secondary-school-level rugby coaches has revealed that the long-established objective of using rugby as a vehicle for character development was not at the forefront of the New Zealand coaches’ minds, according to Dr Bennett.

“With New Zealand coaches, their focus appeared to be placed on skill development and discipline with no overt mention of the types of social and cultural learning that, historically, has been used to justify rugby as a sport offered in secondary schools,” he says.

“In contrast, the Japanese coaches suggested that character development, tenacity, and a range of social benefits were the primary focus of their coaching approaches.”

Dr Bennet says his research poses the question: what is rugby’s relevance in secondary school/schoolboy development, if it does not target a learning outcomes beyond a physical level?

“The potential for participation in such sports could offer more social and cultural development of New Zealand’s young males,” Dr Bennett says.

“For instance, learning could focus more on leadership, cultural awareness, social interaction, coping skills under pressure and in the face of defeat, and so on. However, without explicit mention of these potential learning outcomes, the literature strongly suggests that such learning will not be naturally transferred to players. Instead, the notion of sport participation becomes limited to technical ability.”

Dr Bennett, guided by Professor Ian Culpan and Associate Professor Jeanne Kentel, of UC’s College of Education, Health and Human Development, recently earned his PhD at the University of Canterbury with this research.

With consideration to the high profile of rugby in New Zealand, and the growing esteem and status of rugby in Japan, Bennett says that it was also important to investigate the historical and sociocultural (social) influences acting on rugby coaches in secondary school coaches and players.

“I was keen to uncover the types of learning that rugby coaches of this age level intended that their athletes will gain from the rugby experience.”

Dr Bennett speaks, reads and writes in Japanese and conducted all the interviews in Japan and New Zealand himself.

About the research:

Analysis of data from both Japan and New Zealand secondary school rugby coaches revealed several interesting findings in his comparative study of coaching pedagogy in Japanese and New Zealand high school rugby, according to Dr Bennett.

Japanese coaches emphasised what they termed “seishin” – an ideology that stresses holistic education and the cultivation of the mind through harsh physical practices – as a principal philosophy underpinning their coaching approaches. In an extracurricular setting that often requires players to attend training up to six or seven days per week, it was suggested that this seishin ideology was a way in which to encourage a vigorousness, positive attitudes towards hard work, and overall vitality in the young men in their squad. They suggested that, ultimately, the rugby experience at secondary school age would fulfil the objective of ningen keisei – or character development – that would in turn lead to socially balanced and tenacious young men, ready to contribute to society.

Conversely, the New Zealand data revealed a strong focus on developing correct technique and skills. To this end, many coaches attempted to maintain control of their sessions, and few were willing to break away from traditional coaching approaches to allow more player empowerment. This is significant as many initiatives in the field of sport coaching and rugby in New Zealand have emphasised athlete-centred approaches that aim to empower players to make their own decisions about their training and learning. Coaches interviewed in New Zealand spoke much less frequently about development beyond the physical or technical domain, and instead, communicated their intentions as a coach to develop technical proficiency for the purpose of safety and strategic ability.

Can you condense your research into 180 seconds?

The 180 Seconds of Science video competition (#180Science) provides Early and Mid-Career Researchers (EMCRs) with a unique opportunity to share their passion for innovative research with the public – all in the space of three minutes.

Being able to give an elevator-pitch style talk on your research is an essential skill for any academic and a great way to promote your research. Your video could be a general overview of your current research or a specific research project you would like to pursue.  Or it could be on some knowledge that is fascinating or correcting a misconception.

Category winners will be invited to attend Science Pathways 2016: Future Leaders in Sydney, 26-27 September, which will bring together EMCRs and scientific leaders from academia, industry and government and provide professional development opportunities to EMCRs. Category winners will present their videos to the meeting delegates and participate in a range of career development activities.

But get in quick – submissions close 13 August.

For more information and to apply, visit 180 Seconds of Science.

Pushkin masterpiece translated into te reo

UC’s Māori Research Laboratory director Professor Angus Macfarlane and his team recently translated a love poem by Alexander Pushkin into te reo Māori as part of a new publication. In this blog, he shares how this project came about.


We were recently approached by Anna Filippochkina from the Russian Cultural Centre Trust who was looking for a translator for a project initiated by Boris Yegorov, director of the Arkangelsk Literature Museum in Russia.

The project was a publication which translated one of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin’s most famous masterpieces, A Wondrous Moment I remember, into 210 languages including Māori.

We were delighted and honoured to be part of the project, as we pride ourselves on the provision we make for the stewardship of the language and on our international connections.

Te Hurinui Clarke from the College of Education used his expertise on the challenging task. “The main difficulty was much of the meaning in the poem was implicit in the language rather than explicit,” said Mr Clarke. “Once I was able to get my head around what the poem was alluding to, the translation process became a lot easier.

“One of the great things about te reo Māori is that metaphor and personification were a normal part of its usage. Another interesting thing for me is that you could give that poem to five different people to translate and they would come up with five different ways of translating it.”

Mr Clarke is affiliated to Rotorua’s Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao. The translation was passed to the tribal authority on language, the late Mauriora Kingi to check for accuracy and concept.

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Caption: From left, Te Hurinui Clarke, with Professor Angus Macfarlane, Russian Cultural Centre Trust convenor Anna Filippochkina and Viktor Filippochkin.

Keen to showcase your freshwater-related research?

Postgraduate students engaged in freshwater-related research are invited to express their interest in presenting at the 2016 Waterways Postgraduate Student Conference, Tuesday, 15 November, 2016.

The Waterways Postgraduate Conference is an annual forum where students, academics, the wider industry and community partners gather to hear about the most recent research being undertaken relating to freshwater. The day is made up of presentations given by postgraduate students from Lincoln University and the University of Canterbury, with a poster session included at midday.

The day is scheduled to run from 9am to 5pm in the Stewart building at Lincoln University. Morning and afternoon tea and lunch is provided, and attendance is free, thank you to our generous sponsors. Conference information is available here, including registration and presenter information.

  • Oral presentations are 15 minutes long
  • There is a poster division, accepting either A0 or A1 posters
  • Expressions of interest are due by 1 August, 2016
  • Abstracts are due by 1 September, 2016
  • Prizes will be awarded for both oral and poster presentations
  • All presenters must also register on the webpage.

We’re inviting professionals, academics and potential employers who are interested in the freshwater research being undertaken in Canterbury.  It’s a great opportunity to practice presentation skills, and network with other researchers and potential employers.  We encourage postgraduate students to showcase their research by presenting on the day; the conference booklet is consulted through the year and many stakeholders book the day out in anticipation.

Expressions of interest can be emailed to Julie.clarke@canterbury.ac.nz. Registrations are also open and can be made here: Waterways Postgraduate Student Conference

How can UC improve mature students’ experiences?

Mature students’ experience of UC can be markedly different from that of their younger classmates and a study underway is aimed at learning more about how and why.

Pass this message onto your mature students

I have been contracted by Student Services and Communications to talk to students who started their UC journey later. The aim of the study is to gain a better understanding of the distinctive needs of mature students and to understand more about how UC can better engage with them.

If you are an older student who is interested in taking part, or know someone who might be,  please email Ric Stevens at rds65@uclive.ac.nz.

I can meet with you individually or in a small focus group and would be grateful to receive your insights.

Tell me first which of these best describes you:

  • A researcher (PhD or Research Masters).
  • In the Executive Development programme (MBA or similar).
  • A professional developer – looking to upgrade an existing qualification in a similar field in which you already have been working.
  • A late-starter – someone who may have been in the workforce or doing other things who has decided to pursue university study for the first time.
  •  A career transition student – someone who has been in the workforce but decided to change careers to something different.
  • A life-long learner – studying for the love of it.

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

– Ric Stevens