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102085 Individual Reflection

The unit Aboriginal and Culturally Responsive Pedagogies has greatly enhanced my

ability as a future educator through increasing my understanding and cultural

competence when working with Indigenous Australian students. The Australian

Government is pushing to improve the outcomes for Indigenous Australian students

and future teachers such as myself need to be able to implement appropriate

pedagogical strategies, engaging and culturally respective lessons in order to

enhance learning for these students (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet,

2019). When reflecting on this unit, it has specifically increased my understanding of

the 8 ways pedagogical framework, APST standards relating to education,

specifically standards 1.4 and 2.4 as well as the strong historical and cultural links

Indigenous Australians may have to the land through the site visit to Nurragingy

Reserve. DiAngelo (2011) describes the notion of White Fragility in America, which

can directly be applied to an Australian context. This ultimately hinders the

empowerment and opportunities Indigenous Australians may have due to societal

influences placed upon them, which will be further examined throughout this critical

reflection.

Indigenous Australian students are behind the average population in terms of

academic achievement, school attendance and behaviour issues, and this negative

deficit model of describing them accelerates the self-perpetual cycle of failure

(Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2019). Organisations such as the

Stronger Smarter Institute pioneered by Dr Chris Sarra, aim to challenge this notion

and put forth the high expectations model, which I will employ as a future teacher

and all teachers should use this in their daily practice for all students, as this leads to
higher engagement and overall satisfaction when learning (SSI, 2014). Negative

deficit conversations within the staff room about certain students and even in the

playground can be challenged by incorporating a strengths-based approach focusing

on what individuals are currently succeeding in will be applied in my professional

career. According to DiAngelo (2011), cultural competence training such as that

found within this unit is the only time an individual’s racial understandings may be

challenged throughout their life time. This statement resonates strongly with me, as I

poorly understood the reality of Indigenous Australian education within this country

prior to this unit, but now I am better equipped with tools and skills that will help me

contribute and become a more culturally competent teacher.

Incorporating indigenous education through teaching about culture and perspectives

has been identified as an important area nationally in order to improve the outcomes

for Indigenous Australian students (Department of Education and Training, 2011).

Through the Melbourne Declaration, educational goals were set to benefit individuals

and the country as a whole. This is evident through the implementation of cross-

curriculum priorities, specifically Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and

cultures. This process involved consultation with Indigenous Australian educators,

elders and community members in order to give both Indigenous and non-

Indigenous students a greater understanding and appreciation of the world’s oldest

living culture (Barr et al., 2008). By familiarising myself with policies and strategies

relating to Indigenous students, this gives me the ability to professionally develop,

become more accountable and become an agent for change when I begin my

career. By comprehending and understanding perspectives of Indigenous Australian

culture, it helps to bridge racial divides, ultimately challenging racism at an individual

level (DiAngelo, 2011).


A key approach that I learned throughout taking part in this unit is the eight-way

pedagogical framework. The eight-way framework brings Indigenous ways of

knowing and being, consisting of eight interconnected pedagogies (Yunkaporta &

Kirby, 2011). An interesting aspect to note is how different this it compared to the

mainstream approach to education in Australia, specifically how it is the opposite of a

‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that caters to a variety of learners and abilities. An

advantage of this model is how it is more contextualised, relevant and meaningful for

learners (Halse & Robinson, 1999). Eight-ways is an approach that I first thought

would be very difficult to implement, but throughout the knowledge gained in the unit,

it starts by making a connection with mainstream pedagogies as a foundation for

learning.

As a future PDHPE teacher, as part of my group assessment task, I implemented a

lesson with strong links to the eight-ways framework. In this lesson, students learned

the origin stories relating to the activities of Keentan and Buroinjin. Yarning circles

were formed during this story telling, which is an important part of Indigenous

Australian culture, allowing the building of trust, enriching learning experiences and

improving student-teacher interactions (Yunkaporta, 2007). Students identified ways

of constructing sports equipment that linked back to the site visit and materials they

may have encountered e.g. constructing balls from materials such as bark, earth or

animal skins. Even though students did not physically create the equipment as this

lesson was a post-site activity, allowing them to think about it and apply these

concepts was sufficient in order to increase their knowledge and understanding of

Indigenous Australian culture. Sports and activities for Indigenous Australians prior

to colonisation were generally inseparable from everyday life as they were linked

closely to rituals, hunting and contests (Clearinghouse for Sport and Physical
Activity, 2018). The created lesson was a unique way for me to showcase my

knowledge gained from both my key learning area and this unit. It allowed me to

create an engaging and meaningful lesson for students, which also improves their

health through being physically active.

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership have created two focus

areas within the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) that all

teachers need to know and be able to do in order to be able to teach all students

about Indigenous Australian history and culture (AITSL, n.d.). The first standard is

1.4 ‘Strategies for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students’. A way in

which this was applied within this unit was by implementing the eight-ways pedagogy

framework which was discussed in sufficient detail earlier in this reflection. It allows

the educator essentially to make learning more meaningful and engaging for not only

Indigenous students, but all learners. Standard 2.4 ‘Understand and respect

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to promote reconciliation between

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians’ was also applied in this unit and within

the second assessment task. Yarning circles, sharing stories, understanding the

history and cultural significance of land such as that learned on my group’s field trip

to Nurragingy Reserve all demonstrate how I specifically met this standard. By

applying this knowledge to practice, it aims to bridge the gap between Indigenous

and non-Indigenous people, as education is a very powerful force in reconciliation

and relationship building.

The site visit to Nurragingy Reserve was enlightening to me as it made me want to

delve deeper into the historical and cultural significance of the site. It is a site with a

rich history, stretching much further than two centuries to where the first grant was

given to two Indigenous Australians, both of which have structures within the reserve
named after them such as the Colebee Centre and Nurragingy Reserve itself.

Encompassing this historical aspect into story telling makes the learning more

engaging and relevant to students. By working closely with members of the

Aboriginal community, they share stories, answer questions and build on knowledge

which emphasises the importance of involving these individuals during site visits.

This is especially important as during our site visit, information was quite limited at

the site in terms of written plaques describing the history and significance of the

location. The nature of contested spaces hence formed an important part of our ten

hour unit. This visit improved my ability to be a culturally competent teacher and

work in an interdisciplinary team of future educators. Our group designed a cross-

curricular unit of work in order to educate students about Indigenous Australian

histories and cultures. The KLA’s of History, English, Geography, Music and PDHPE

were embedded in a sequential way with lessons being conducted before, during

and after our site visit. The eight-ways pedagogy was the framework which our unit

was constructed around.

In conclusion, this unit has played a very important role in my professional growth

and ability to be a culturally competent teacher. Knowing, understanding and relating

to Indigenous Australian histories and cultures are a large step in allowing for

reconciliation and relationship building in schools. The eight-ways framework,

applying high-expectations for all students and meeting the APST standards are key

aspects that will form part of my professional identity as an educator.


References

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (n.d.). Aboriginal and Torres

Strait Islander Education. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/deliver-ite-

programs/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-education

Barr, A., Gillard, J., Firth, V., Scrymgour, M., Welford, R., Lomax-Smith, J., ... &

Constable, E. (2008). Melbourne declaration on educational goals for young

Australians. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and

Youth Affairs. PO Box 202 Carlton South Victoria, 3053, Australia.

Clearinghouse for Sport and Physical Activity. (2018). Australian Sport History.

Retrieved from

https://www.clearinghouseforsport.gov.au/knowledge_base/organised_sport/v

alue_of_sport/australian_sport_history

Department of Education and Training. (2011). Embedding Aboriginal and Torres

Strait Islander Perspectives in Schools. Retrieved from

http://indigenous.education.qld.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/eatsips-

docs/eatsips_2011.pdf

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. (2019). Closing the Gap: Report

2019. Retrieved from https://ctgreport.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/ctg-report-

2019.pdf?a=1

Halse, C., & Robinson, M. (1999). Towards an appropriate pedagogy for Aboriginal

children. Teaching aboriginal studies, 199-213.


Stronger Smarter Institute (2014). High-Expectations Relationships: a foundation for

quality learning environments in all Australian schools. Stronger Smarter

Institute Limited Position Paper.

Yunkaporta, T. (2007). Indigenous knowledge systems: comparing Aboriginal and

western ways of knowing.

Yunkaporta, T., & Kirby, M. (2011). Yarning up Aboriginal pedagogies: A dialogue

about eight Aboriginal ways of learning. In Two way teaching and learning:

Toward culturally reflective and relevant education (pp. 205-213). ACER

Press.