Glenda Cain

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Richard Berlach


This research explored service-learning as a way of developing pre-service teachers’ pedagogical literacy skills and cultural perceptions with regard to Aboriginal education through involvement in an Aboriginal educational setting. The purpose was for pre-service teachers to gain a better understanding of Aboriginal education whilst developing their own literacy knowledge and instructional skills. Service-learning was the teaching method chosen as it involves experiential learning with structured opportunities for critical thinking and reflection.

A qualitative approach was favoured whereby investigations occurred in a naturalistic setting. As such, the direct experiences of pre-service teachers formed the basis of data gathering and analysis. Field notes provided extra information for the purpose of better understanding the process experienced by pre-service teachers. The approach was fundamentally phenomenological in nature in that pre-service teachers’ attitude, knowledge and pedagogy of Aboriginal education prior to, during and at the completion of a teaching experience within an Aboriginal educational setting, was explored in an ideographic fashion.

During the teaching session, pre-service teachers assessed, planned and tutored Aboriginal students for two hours per week for ten weeks, and then participated in a service-learning tutorial on site for one hour after each tutoring session. Data were collected using observations, interviews and reflective journals. Analysis of the data enabled the researcher to identify the impact of the service-learning experience on pre-service teachers’ knowledge, perceptions, cultural awareness and pedagogy of Aboriginal education. At the heart of the experience was the building of relationships that became the catalyst for change in the pre-service teachers’ attitudes and perceptions of Aboriginal people. The self-efficacy and identity of the pre-service teachers as iii effective teachers of Aboriginal students also increased throughout the experience. It is hoped that the research will provide further insight into how service-learning can be used as a pedagogical strategy within a teaching course enabling pre-service teachers to be better prepared and culturally competent to address the needs of Aboriginal students and help to Close the Gap (Australian Government, 2013).

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