Date of Award
Master of Philosophy (School of Education)
Schools and Centres
Professor Marguerite Maher
Commitment to enhancing the educational outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people has long been the aspiration in Australia. Research over many years has, however, noted inequitable outcomes between these children and their non-Indigenous counterparts. The groundswell of support for reconciliation and the ongoing determination to enhance the educational outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people more recently has seen the inclusion of two new Standards in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers that teachers have to meet to gain and retain registration as a teacher in Australia. The first Standard required teachers to provide evidence of being able to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; the second to provide evidence of their knowledge of Aboriginal histories and cultures such that they can use these to assist all children in their classes to work towards reconciliation.
The single most important determinant of educational outcomes for children is the teacher (Hattie, 2008) and research on effective teaching for learning has been extensive. There is a growing body of research regarding effective strategies for meeting the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners specifically. There has been little research, however, on teachers’ perceived capacity to meet the two new Standards and investigating what they would like to see in a professional learning program that would enhance their capacity in these two areas. The current study makes a contribution towards filling this gap in the literature.
In this current research, an Aboriginal research paradigm underpinned the design of the study which took place in a theory of interpretivism. A multiple case study methodology was utilised and data were gathered using group interviews.
The meta-themes that derived from the study were: (i) teachers’ efficacy in providing opportunities for students to develop understanding of and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and languages; (ii) teachers’ efficacy in identifying and utilising effective teaching strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students; and (iii) teachers’ efficacy in demonstrating responsiveness to the local community and cultural settings.
Several sub-themes emerged in the findings in the current study. These were as follows:
- Teachers’ perceived efficacy in providing opportunities for students to develop understanding of and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and languages is discussed in Chapter 4. The most significant factors noted by participants in this section were (i) teachers’ lack of training, (ii) their fear of causing offence, (iii) participants’ current practice being of variable quality, (iv) teachers feeling inadequate, and (v) participants identifying a lack of suitable resources as being problematic.
- Teachers’ perceived efficacy in identifying and utilising effective teaching strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students is discussed in Chapter 5 where the subthemes identified were (i) teachers’ lack of knowledge of students’ cultural background, (ii) teachers having little confidence in developing quality teaching relationships, (iii) teachers noting that they have little insight into Aboriginal pedagogy in the classroom, (iv) variable implementation of recognition of Country, (v) how teachers value learning from cultural educators in the classroom, (vi) the need for high expectations, and (vii) the need for recognition of Aboriginal languages and Aboriginal English.
- Teachers’ perceived efficacy in demonstrating responsiveness to the local community and cultural settings is discussed in Chapter 6 and which includes the subthemes of (i) teachers being uncertain about how to be responsive to the local community, (ii) the need for observing cultural protocols, (iii) the need to have “a conversation”, (iv) understanding of kinship-roles and responsibilities being lacking, (v) cultural miscommunication frequently arising, (vi) the need for input into positive ways to achieve parental engagement, (vii) the vital role of Aboriginal Education Workers (AEWs), and (viii) teachers seeking assistance with celebrating days of significance.
One of the outcomes of this study is that it offers a different perspective on the links between culture and wellbeing and the potential impact this relationship can have on Aboriginal education (Nakata, 2008). A sense of cultural identity, and active recognition and validation of Aboriginal cultures by school leaders and classroom teachers can be crucial to student wellbeing and success at school. The aspects participants in the current study identified important to include in a professional learning program will form the basis of such a program under development in 2015.
Buxton, L. (2015). Classroom teachers meeting the new National Professional Standards for Teachers specifically standards 1.4 and 2.4 (Master of Philosophy (School of Education)). University of Notre Dame Australia. https://researchonline.nd.edu.au/theses/107