You are on page 1of 8

Assignment 2: Essay

Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education


110169955
What are some of the key issues teachers need to consider for
working successfully with Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander students?
As educators, it is important that we know how to work with each student in our classroom
effectively. This essay will focus on the question, “What are some of the key issues teaches need to
consider for working successfully with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students?” and will cover
some of the key issues found when researching. It is vital that educators have the cultural
understanding of Aboriginal students and know how to engage their students and effectively teach
them. Other factors that should be considered are things like building positive relationships with
parents, students and the community, understanding the students as learners and creating positive
learning environments to successfully work with these students.

Throughout Australian history, we can see how poorly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
have been treated. Throughout the 1900’s, Aboriginal people were excluded from the society and
more importantly excluded from gaining an education (Beresford, 2012). History has impeded the
education outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, generations of alienation and
racist-inspired policies have contributed to the underachievement (Beresford, 2012). Teachers
lacked any sort of engagement with Aboriginal students and now as teachers of the 21st century, we
must try to rectify this.

To effectively work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, educators must have a sound
understanding of the culture to begin with. A culturally competent teacher will be able to
successfully foster engagement and participation by students (Buckskin, 2012). This will assist in
building positive learning relationships with the students and develop knowledge, skills and attitudes
further too effectively teach these students. We, as educators, need to understand that Aboriginal
students have a different set of skills, languages and knowledge. The oral tradition of Aboriginal
people is different to the written tradition of western society and the events that occurred in the
past have disadvantaged Aboriginal people heavily, therefore we need to ensure we are aware of
these events and are culturally sensitive when it comes to engaging with both students and parents
(Buckskin, 2012).

Culturally competent teachers should know that many Aboriginal students speak more than one
language and usually, English is not their first. Normally their first language will be a traditional
language or a dialect of Indigenous English. This means we need to work with Aboriginal students as
Language Other Than English (LOTE) learners as English can be considered a foreign language to the
students (Buckskin, 2012). Some students may have some developed English, this is called Aboriginal
English and is similar to Standard Australian English. Phrases such as deadly (Aboriginal English)
translates to good in (Standard Australian English) (Reynolds, 2014).

The student’s languages reflect their culture, identity and self-esteem. Like all people, they express
themselves through their language, this is their sense of identity, it’s who they are and we must not
restrict them from using this but instead respect it. As English is not their first language, we can
overcome this by teaching them English by placing them in English literacy programs or explaining
things in different ways and more than once, therefore we are accommodating to the visual,
auditory and kinaesthetic learners (Korff, 2016).

2403 words
Assignment 2: Essay
Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education
110169955
Another aspect of being culturally competent is recognising their culture and promoting this within
the classroom. Educators should be celebrating and embracing student’s Aboriginality, their values
and their beliefs (Gollan, 2012). Aboriginal students gain their understandings of the world through
their connection to the land and the values of the country they are born into. By including their
culture, this is going beyond the stereotypes and experiencing real life encounters with their family
and community.

We can promote Aboriginality through music, dance, and story-telling or even getting guest speakers
in. Sometimes, students with cultural backgrounds can feel alone or left out, but this prevents this
from happening as they can teach their classmates about their culture through other forms. Being
culturally competent also includes giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student’s connection
between real life and classroom activities (Engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
communities, 2014). Teaching Aboriginal students’ needs to convey a ‘relatedness’ which is a key
feature of Aboriginal world view. It stems from the connectedness to every living thing, which is the
foundation of Aboriginal tradition, culture and spirituality (Korff, 2016).

Due to discriminatory policies and legislation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and their
communities still experience limited access and participation in many areas, such as education,
health and employment. An impacting reason for disengagement within the classroom, is racism.
Racism towards Aboriginal people has been happening since first contact and has continued from
then on. Because of this, Aboriginal student could be distrusting of non-Aboriginal people and feel
intimidated at school (Gollan, 2012). Addressing racism is something that needs to be done within all
classrooms, it promotes student safety and will assist with keeping student engagement levels up.
Departments of education have created policies that schools are able to follow in response to school
based racism.

An example of this is the South Australian Department of Education and Children’s services (2007)
approach. They recommend that a whole school approach be taken, including some of the following
principles; the school identifying as an agent of change, teachers to provide a culturally inclusive
classroom, knowing the child as a cultural being involves understanding the complexity in that
person’s makeup, acquiring advice from the Aboriginal Education Officer and if their teaching is not
working with the student to change until it does (Gollan, 2012). These principles among many others
should help provide a less racist and discriminatory school environment. It has been shown that
improvements in the educational outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students arise
from a whole school plan that is responsive to their needs (SCSEEC, 2014).

Engaging students is difficult in its simplest form, but by including Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander studies within the classroom the students will be more inclined to learn. Price (2012)
describes teacher as the key: teachers who are aware culturally and understand the different
language backgrounds of their students and who value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives will
achieve outcomes. There is an unequal power relationship between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginal
people and as educators we need to remember this, the history between the two as it has affected
what has been and still is taught in schools (Harrison, 2011). Reconciliation would be a contributing
factor towards unequal power relationships as although there has been attempts, at the end of
2000, the Australian reconciliation process was not able to succeed in achieving their three goals of
improving education (Gunstone, 2007).

2403 words
Assignment 2: Essay
Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education
110169955
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies is basically a subject all Australians should learn about, it
also provides Aboriginal students with a sense of belonging within the classroom. All Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander students should have an appreciation of this history, culture and identity which
we can provide by teaching this subject in schools (Evans, 2012). Schools used to teach about
colonial history from the 1700’s but never anything prior, this is because Aboriginal culture is what
was prior, they are the foundation of Australia (Price, 2012). Participation rates and educational
outcomes rise with Aboriginal students engage with these studies. Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Studies can also include the power of story. Students are able to relate through Dreamtime
stories, real life stories and familiar experiences. This is not only benefiting Aboriginal students but
non-Aboriginal students also, as it can be a great way to teach Aboriginality (Det.wa.edu.au, 2016).

Young Aboriginal students are the most disadvantaged group in Australia, this can act as a barrier for
learning. The educational performance outcomes for Aboriginal students are quite below non-
Aboriginal students in both regional and metropolitan areas (Lucy, 2014). When working with a large
group of Aboriginal students, teachers must not get frustrated with the lack of progress within the
classroom. The students come to school wanting to learn, they just need the right support and
guidance to be given the opportunity (Harrison, 2011). It is also important to remember that some
Aboriginal students can possibly come from broken homes, therefore we need to understand their
out of school lives. It is important we understand this as it can facilitate or impede their educational
success (Santoro et al, 2011). This meaning we need to take other factors into consideration and not
‘blame’ the student.

When teaching these students, teachers need to ensure they are not assuming their Aboriginal
students are deficient. If a person is surrounded by others who talk in that sort of way, the students
do become deficient in their eyes. This creates a power of discourse and positions Aboriginal
students in a negative place (Harrison, 2011). Things shown in the media portray Aboriginal students
as being below the non-Aboriginal students where this creates a non-Aboriginal standard against
which Aboriginal students are compared to. This is a way of maintaining power over others, to view
them as deficient (Harrison, 2011).

To effectively teach Aboriginal students, we need remember that although they all fall under
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander” they all learn different and have different life experiences. We
need to ensure that we recognise the differences but not make them so highlighted that the
students feel the divide between themselves and their non-Aboriginal peers (Harrison, 2011). We
need to encourage and push our students, because as a teacher our feelings and thoughts are
always felt by the students so what we think counts.

To ensure effective teaching, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership has
recognised that is not only classroom and community practice but teachers also need to be educated
in the respect of Indigenous students, with particular regard for the strategies, knowledge and skills
(Aitsl.edu.au, 2016). Pre-service teachers will be the target of this and will be required to further
develop two focus areas: ‘1.4 strategies for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
and 2.4 Understand and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to promote
reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.’ (Curriculum.edu.au, 2016).

2403 words
Assignment 2: Essay
Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education
110169955
Great teaching will improve performance for Aboriginal students significantly, however this may not
be the case for non-Aboriginal students as the educational disadvantage will generally be higher
than non-Aboriginal students, and therefore they may require more support from teachers
(Det.wa.edu.au, 2016). This will further influence Aboriginal student’s engagement within the
classroom, it will also influence their success, enjoyment, attendance and overall perception of
school. Due to this, many Aboriginal students have the mindset that school is not worthwhile for
them. They believe that they cannot achieve the future that the teacher paints for them. By creating
a relationship with the student and displaying positive qualities, it will be easier to gain educational
achievements.

Knowing the characteristics of a quality teacher is beneficial when working with Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander students. These can include personal warmth, smiling, friendly supportiveness,
a humorous approach, challenging the students and being understanding will maintain an effective
teacher-student relationship (Det.wa.edu.au, 2016). Quality teachers need to provide a safe learning
environment which is welcoming to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. It is vital to
empower students by allowing them to be involved in making decisions with respect to their
learning process and what will help them and contribute to quality teaching (David, 2016).

Teachers need to not only be comfortable with themselves and be able to convey these
characteristics, but to be comfortable with their teaching practice. Pre-service teachers can’t be
expected to have the knowledge and understanding, but learning these will come with the
experience gained within classrooms. There is no single pedagogy that will work for Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander students, but by ensuring the pedagogy is appropriate and is characterised by
being responsive to the culture and diversity will meet each student’s learning needs (Make it Count,
2011).

While teachers seem to know everything, they are learning as much as their students are, if not
more. While sticking to one certain teaching pedagogy can work for some, many teachers will need
to change many times to accommodate for their students. This can be difficult, but by having
Aboriginal students within a classroom, teachers will be able to learn more than what they would
with non-Aboriginal students. If a teacher is teaching in an Aboriginal community, they will be able
to learn to code-switch which will be extremely beneficial for them in their teaching career. This is
learning to use different language, to fit different audiences (Cult of Pedagogy, 2014). When pre-
service teachers leave university, they probably won’t be able to do this but this would be an
important skill to learn when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. It is
important to use different language when talking to families than you would when talking to
colleagues.

When teaching Aboriginal students, it is known that they will relate to Aboriginal educators more
than non-Aboriginal educators. It is important to learn from Aboriginal educators and gain their
guidance so you are able to teach your students effectively. Aboriginal knowledges can refer to
pedagogy, methods of teaching and learning (Santoro et al, 2011). Teachers should being to
distinguish the ‘funds of knowledge’ that Aboriginal students draw on which will adopt a culturally
responsive pedagogy, and open up assessment to allow for Aboriginal students different ways of
knowing and being. As a teacher, we need to be able to find a way to value Aboriginal teachers’
knowledge and incorporate this within our classroom. Harrison (2011) states that ‘Aboriginal people

2403 words
Assignment 2: Essay
Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education
110169955
will always be your best teachers’, therefore it is vital educators take into account what we learn
from them and utilise this as much as possible.

There are so many issues to take into consideration when teaching and working with Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander students. It is vital that educators are culturally competent, include Aboriginal
students’ culture, history and values within the classroom. We need to remember that Aboriginal
students learn differently to non-Aboriginal students but do not make this so obvious that the
students can feel the divide. We are to include their families and communities within their learning,
related classroom activities to real life examples, promote Aboriginality within the classroom and
ensure our pedagogical practice is accepting of the cultural differences. Including these within our
teaching practice be the best possible way to successfully work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander students. Combating poor participation and low engagement rates is not only the students’
responsibility but the educators’ responsibility also.

2403 words
Assignment 2: Essay
Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education
110169955
Reference List
1. Aitsl.edu.au. (2016). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education | Australian Institute for
Teaching and School Leadership. [online] Available at: http://www.aitsl.edu.au/initial-
teacher-education/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-education [Accessed 11 Mar. 2016].

2. Beresford, Q. (2012). Separate and unequal: an outline of Aboriginal education 1900-1990s.


[ebook] Crawley, W.A: UWA Publishing, pp.85-119. Available at:
https://search.library.unisa.edu.au/media/readings/99189504801831/5386053850001831
[Accessed 27 Feb. 2016].

3. Buckskin, P. 2012. Engaging Indigenous students: The important relationship between


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their teachers. In: Price, K. ed. Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Education: An Introduction to the Teaching Profession. Port
Melbourne, Vic: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 11. pp. 164 - 180.

4. Cult of Pedagogy. (2014). Know Your Terms: Code Switching. [online] Available at:
http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/code-switching/ [Accessed 11 Mar. 2016].

5. Curriculum.edu.au. (2016). Curriculum & Leadership Journal | Helping teachers support


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education. [online] Available at:
http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/helping_teachers_support_aboriginal_and_torres_str
,36825.html?issueID=12826 [Accessed 11 Mar. 2016].

6. David, M. (2016). Student engagement: Attendance, participation and belonging. 1st ed.
[ebook] Canberra: Australian Government: Department of Education, Science and Training,
p.6. Available at:
http://www.whatworks.edu.au/upload/1250830979818_file_5Engagement.pdf [Accessed
11 Mar. 2016].

7. Det.wa.edu.au. (2016). Teaching Aboriginal students - Aboriginal Education - The


Department of Education. [online] Available at:
http://www.det.wa.edu.au/aboriginaleducation/apac/detcms/navigation/apac/implementin
g-apac/teaching-aboriginal-students/ [Accessed 11 Mar. 2016].

8. Engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. (2014). 1st ed. [ebook]
Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, pp.15 - 20. Available at:
https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/sites/default/files/public/Handbook_engaging_with_web.p
df [Accessed 11 Mar. 2016].

9. Evans, C. 2012. Your professional experience and becoming professional about working with
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and communities. In: Price, K. ed. Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Education: An Introduction to the Teaching Profession. Port
Melbourne, Vic: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 4. pp 52 - 63.

10. Gunstone, Andrew. Community Involvement and Education in the 1991-2000 Australian
Reconciliation Process [online]. Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, The, Vol. 36,
2007: 39-48.

2403 words
Assignment 2: Essay
Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education
110169955
Availability:<http://search.informit.com.au.access.library.unisa.edu.au/documentSummary;
dn=895376835208778;res=IELIND>ISSN: 1326-0111. [accessed 11 Mar 16].

11. Gollan, S. (2012). Teachers and families working together to build stronger futures for our
children in schools. [ebook] Crawley, W.A: UWA Publishing, pp.149-173. Available at:
https://search.library.unisa.edu.au/media/readings/99180139101831/5376333680001831
[Accessed 21 Feb. 2016].

12. Harrison, N. (2011). ‘Starting out as a teacher in Aboriginal Education’ in Teaching and
learning in Aboriginal education. South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press, Chapter 1,
pp.1-16.

13. Korff, J. (2016). Teaching Aboriginal students. [online] Creative Spirits. Available at:
http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/education/teaching-aboriginal-
students#axzz412dg2vDZ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2016].

14. Lucy, O. (2014). Positive learning environments for Indigenous children and young people.
[online] Aihw.gov.au. Available at:
http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129548208 [Accessed 11
Mar. 2016].

15. Make it Count. (2011). Teaching Pedagogies. [online] Available at: http://mic.aamt.edu.au/
[Accessed 11 Mar. 2016].

16. Martin, K (2008). ‘Childhood, lifehood and relatedness: Aboriginal ways of being, knowing
and doing’ in Education and diversity in Australia. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W.: Pearson Education
Australia, Chapter 3, pp.27-40.

17. Price, K. 2012. A brief history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education in Australia.
In: Price, K. ed. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education: An Introduction to the
Teaching Profession. Port Melbourne, Vic: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 1. pp 1 - 20.

18. Price, K. 2012. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in the Classroom. In: Price, K. ed.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education: An Introduction to the Teaching Profession.
Port Melbourne, Vic: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 10. pp. 151 - 163.

19. Reynolds, R. (2014). Teaching Humanities and Social Sciences in the Primary School. 3rd ed.
Australia: Oxford University Press, p.22.

20. Santoro, N., Reid, J., Crawford, L. and Simpson, L. (2011). Teaching Indigenous Children:
Listening To And Learning From Indigenous Teachers. AJTE, 36(10).

21. SCSEEC, (2014). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan. [online]
Available at: http://www.scseec.edu.au/archive/Aboriginal-and-Torres-Strait-Islander-
Education-Action-Plan.aspx [Accessed 26 Feb. 2016].

2403 words
Assignment 2: Essay
Teaching and Learning in Aboriginal Education
110169955

2403 words