Topic 4: Improving classroom practice

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Many people harbour a romantic notion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as distant primitive people living in remote communities.

The reality is that more than eighty per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people actually live in urban settings.

Working with local communities to locate and identify suitable resources will enrich your teaching and make learning more meaningful and relevant for your students.

Get StartedExplore the concepts, activities and assessment tasks below or use the Get Started button to work through the content in the suggested sequence.

School and community partnerships

Partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities enhance schools’ capacity to  improve student learning and wellbeing.
Community partnerships allow for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives to be incorporated in the curriculum, resulting in a sense of pride and belonging for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, while giving all students the opportunity to learn about Australian histories and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Community partnerships also provide important avenues for consultation with the community about education matters. ‘Consulting with Aboriginal communities should always be seen as a two-way process, with both parties learning together and from each other’ (Board of Studies NSW 2008).

Resources

The following resources provide an introduction to school and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community partnerships:

References

Board of Studies NSW 2008,  Working with Aboriginal Communities: A Guide to Community Consultation and Protocols, revised edn, viewed 1 September 2016, <http://ab-ed.bostes.nsw.edu.au/files/working-with-aboriginal-communities.pdf>.
Image: Extract from banner of Same Kids, Same Goals website

Utilise local expertise

Indigenous Education Workers (IEWs) are known by a variety of titles depending on the jurisdiction in which they work. Their roles and responsibilities are many and varied.
Today, IEWs carry out much the same responsibilities as they did 50 years ago and work in schools where significant numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are enrolled. They promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, and in some jurisdictions IEWs work closely with teachers to develop culturally appropriate resources and programs. Importantly, IEWs are there as a support for the teachers, for the students and for parents/caregivers. IEWs work with the school and individual teachers in assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to achieve the best possible outcomes, as well as keeping members of the community informed about parent meetings, school activities, programs and any changes that might be taking place. They also are in a position to keep parents/caregivers informed in relation to students’ progress and other achievements. Where a teacher is not fluent in the local language, IEWs can translate from one language to another quickly and effectively. An IEW can assist a teacher with important knowledge about the school community; for example, whether the family has a phone; who is growing the child; where the child is living at present; the ability of family members to respond quickly; and if perhaps they are dealing with grief.  (It’s a good idea to make a note of this information so that you have the details to hand when developing a PLP [Personal Learning Plan]; that way you won’t risk insulting someone by making them think they are not important enough to be remembered.)  

Australian cross-curriculum priorities

The Australian Curriculum sets out the core knowledge, understanding, skills and general capabilities important for all Australian students from Foundation to Year 10.
It describes the learning entitlement of students as a foundation for their future learning, growth and active participation in the Australian community. It also makes clear what all young Australians should learn as they progress through schooling so they can engage effectively with and prosper in a globalised world. The curriculum, in providing relevance to the lives of students and addressing the contemporary issues they face, gives special attention to three cross-curriculum priorities, which are embedded in all learning areas:
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures
  • Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia
  • Sustainability.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander priority provides opportunities for all learners to deepen their knowledge of Australia by engaging with the world's oldest continuous living cultures. This knowledge and understanding will enrich their ability to participate positively in the ongoing development of Australia.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures priority has been developed around the three key concepts of Country/Place, Peoples and Cultures.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures priority provides the opportunity for all young Australians to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, deep knowledge traditions and holistic world views. This knowledge and understanding will enrich all learners’ ability to participate positively in the ongoing development of Australia through a deepening knowledge and connection with the world’s oldest continuous living cultures. Each concept contains a number of organising ideas that provide a scaffold for developing related knowledge, understanding and skills. These are embedded in each learning area according to the relevance of its content to the organising ideas. An organising idea may draw on content from more than one learning area. Taken as a set, the organising ideas provide a coherent framework for the priority.

The first key concept

highlights the special connection to Country/Place by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and celebrates the unique belief systems that connect people physically and spiritually to Country/Place.

The second key concept

examines the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ culture through language, ways of life and experiences as expressed through historical, social and political lenses. It provides opportunities for students to gain a deeper understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ ways of being, knowing, thinking and doing.

The third key concept

addresses the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies. It examines kinship structures and the significant contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on a local, national and global scale.

Further information

www.acara.edu.au/curriculum/cross_curriculum_priorities.html www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/

Illustrations of practice

Illustrations of Practice showcase teaching practice from across Australia at the four career stages of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. The Illustrations include a range of different pedagogical approaches, and are not intended to be prescriptive or exhaustive. http://www.aitsl.edu.au/australian-professional-standards-for-teachers/illustrations-of-practice/detail?id=IOP00043

Ilustrations-icon Example: Sharing our Indigenous nation

Illustrations of PracticeA graduate teacher aims to use a variety of digital tools and resources to engage students and enrich their experience in attempting to answer the question ‘Who are Indigenous Australians?’ The teacher explores how a range of digital tools and resources can be used to collaboratively build students’ knowledge of Indigenous cultures and histories in Australia and internationally. Further detail on this Illustration of Practice
List of Australian Professional Standards for Teachers: Graduate (PDF)

Readings

Suggested readings for Topic 4, Improving classroom practice
Aboriginal Services Branch 2009, Working with Aboriginal people and communities: a practice resource, NSW Department of Community Services, viewed 1 September 2016, <http://www.community.nsw.gov.au/docswr/_assets/main/documents/ working_with_aboriginal.pdf>[1] Phillips, J & Lampert J (eds) 2012, Introductory Indigenous Studies in Education: Reflection and the importance of knowing, 2nd edn, Pearson Education Australia, NSW. [The section on community engagement is useful in establishing culturally appropriate language]
[1] Suggested by Shirley Gilbert, University of Western Sydney Image: Extract from cover of Introductory Indigenous Studies in Education

Evaluating texts

Activity: Evaluate texts and media used in the classroom.

Activity 1: Evaluating bias

Students will be advised in a previous tutorial to bring texts they know are used in classrooms. (This means that they have seen them when they are on professional experience, their kids have brought them home from school, they have knowledge of them from elsewhere.) At the beginning of the tutorial, students are each given the 'criteria to evaluate bias' made into a PDF handout and each of the criteria (below) are discussed. Then, working in groups, students use the criteria to evaluate bias contained in three texts used in classrooms. During the last half of the tutorial, volunteers are asked to discuss one of the texts. Whole group discussion can follow in relation to the importance of the criteria. A follow up activity could centre around how the texts could be used in the classroom, if there is bias present.

Criteria to evaluate bias

  • Omission: selecting information that reflects credit on only one group, frequently the writer/s group.
  • Defamation: calling attention to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s faults rather than their virtues and misrepresenting their nature.
  • Disparagement: (disparagement: something that lowers a thing or person in worth or importance): denying or belittling the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to Australian culture.
  • Cumulative Implication: constantly creating the impression that only one group is responsible for positive developments.
  • Validity: failing to ensure that information about issues is always accurate and unambiguous.  (Ambiguous: having more than one possible meaning.)
  • Inertia: perpetuation of myths and half-truths by failure to keep abreast of historical scholarship.
  • Obliteration: ignoring significant aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.
  • Disembodiment: referring in a casual and depersonalised way to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander “menace” or representing the annihilation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures as part of the march of progress.
  • Concreteness: dealing with a race or group in platitudes and generalisations (applying the shortcomings of one individual to a whole group). To be concrete, the material must be factual, objective and realistic.
  • Comprehensiveness: failing to mention all relevant facts that may help to form the opinion of the student.

Activity 2: Selecting resources

Prior to this tutorial, negotiate a space with your Librarian and seek his/her cooperation in being available for the duration. Give each student a PDF handout which contains the following key questions for evaluating resources:

Accuracy and support 

  • Is the material accurate: truthful, exact and free from error?
  • Do illustrations and photographs portray Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people positively?
  • Are stereotypes avoided?
  • Is the material accurate?
  • Does the material over-generalise?

Balanced nature of material

  • Are illustrations and photographs positive and accurate portrayals of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people, and relevant to the text?
  • Are photographs accompanied by captions which name the Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander persons/Language Groups and where they come from?
  • Are stereotyping and racist connotations present?
  • Is the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies acknowledged?
  • Does the resource emphasise sacred and profound aspects of Aboriginal cultures and Torres Strait Islander cultures to the exclusion of other cultural groups?
  • Does the material use derogatory terms that offend Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people?
  • Does the resource trivialise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander technologies?
  • Is the material biased/does it distort the real issues?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation

  • Is the author an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person?
  • Does the resource acknowledge Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander participation in the research, writing and presentation process?
  • Has the material been endorsed by local, regional, state or territory AECGs or endorsed by other Indigenous groups?
  • Is the material acceptable to the local community?
  • Does the material use appropriate terminology?

Exclusion of content of a secret or sacred nature

  • Does the material show and/or talk about secret or sacred items?
  • Does the publication use the name of a deceased person?

(National Aboriginal Studies and Torres Strait Islander Studies Project 1995)

Students work in groups of two (or three if there is an odd number), preferably in the Library, and select three resources suitable for teaching Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures. Students have the opportunity to discuss these in the tutorial or on the discussion board. As a follow up, or as an assessment item, students could write a lesson plan using these suitable resources. Remember: it does not have to be a text specifically about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Resources

'Questions teachers need to ask when evaluating texts' (PDF), adapted from Qualifications and Curriculum Authority 2003, Respect for all: valuing diversity and challenging racism through the curriculum, QCA, London. National Aboriginal Studies and Torres Strait Islander Studies Project 1995, Resource Guide for Aboriginal Studies and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Curriculum Corporation, Carlton, Vic. Kenworthy, C & Kenworthy, S 1997, Changing places: Aboriginality in texts and contexts, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, WA.

References

National Aboriginal Studies and Torres Strait Islander Studies Project 1995, Resource Guide for Aboriginal Studies and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Curriculum Corporation, Carlton, Vic. pp. 120.

Digital content in your classroom

Activity: Use digital content in your classroom.
The Scootle repository of digital learning content at www.scootle.edu.au contains over 1500 resources on Indigenous Australia.

Activity

  • Register with www.scootle.edu.au using your university .edu.au email address
  • Search Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content
  • Refine your research by learning area, year level or content type.

Advanced activity

Using Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resources from Scootle, create a Learning Path that you could use with your students.

Working with IEWs as teaching partner

Activity: Seek advice from Indigenous Education Workers.

Background

Perso & Hayward (2015) suggest that you ask for an IEW’s advice in planning and decision-making. You can read storying from Indigenous Education Workers here: http://www.whatworks.edu.au/dbAction.do?cmd=displaySitePage1&subcmd=select&id=38

Activity

If you have the opportunity, ask an IEW the following questions about your learning activity/event:
  • What is the [local] Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander perspective on this topic or event?
  • How do you suggest I teach this?
  • For this activity, will children work best in groups or individually?
  • Which children cannot sit or work together for cultural or family reasons?
  • How do you suggest I deal with this student?
(Perso & Hayward 2015) From your reading, can you identify other questions you might add to the above list?

References

Perso, T & Hayward C 2015,  Teaching Indigenous Students: Cultural awareness and classroom strategies for improving learning outcomes. Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.
 

Cultural protocols in your first school

Activity: Observe cultural protocols at your school.
Imagine that you have graduated from your course and you are working in a new school. You need to establish a relationship or network with the people of Zenadth Kes:
  • You will make initial contact and then visit.
  • Select the relevant organisations for your field of work.
  1. With whom will you make contact?
  2. Outline the steps that you take to make contact and organise your first visit.
  3. What cultural protocols will you need to observe in your preparation i.e. when writing to individuals and groups, or speaking with them by phone?
  4. List the cultural protocols that you will need to observe when you are in Zenadth Kes and
    1. organising meetings;
    2. opening meetings;
    3. visiting places;
    4. organising transport;
    5. staying in a community;
    6. deciding what to wear;
    7. speaking with individuals and groups;
    8. speaking with groups in which there are members of the opposite gender; and
    9. receiving a gift.

Resources

TSRA Cultural Protocols Guide for TSRA Staff, February 2011 http://www.tsra.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/1778/tsra20cultural20protocols20guide.pdf Whilst this guide has been written for TSRA staff, it is useful for anyone wanting to do business with the people of Zenadth Kes, as is the next document. Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and Development 2001 Mina Mir Lo Ailan Mun: Proper communication with Torres Strait Islander People. Available at https://www.datsip.qld.gov.au/resources/datsima/people-communities/protocols-torres/tsi-protocols-for-consultation.pdf

Plan a unit on reconciliation

Assessment objective

A unit of work: reconciliation in learning units.

Assessment Assessment

Prepare a unit of work for one or more of the key learning areas which aims to give students the opportunity to better understand the impact that colonisation has had on the rights, recognition and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the importance of reconciliation in present day Australia.
You may wish to draw on the following resources, produced by Reconciliation Australia, to support you in completing this activity:
  • The State of Reconciliation in Australia report (2016), which highlights what has been achieved under the five dimensions of reconciliation—historical acceptance, race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity and unity—over time, and makes recommendations on how Australia can progress reconciliation into the next generation.
  • The 2016 Reconciliation Timeline (PDF file), which outlines some of the key events that have made an impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and Australia’s reconciliation journey.
  • The 2016 National Reconciliation Week themeOur History, Our Story, Our Future—which helps to explore the significance of acknowledging and addressing the past, present and future of reconciliation alike.

Profile your school

Assessment objective

Select a school where you would like to be posted, then prepare a 15 minute peer presentation. You are preparing to achieve your goal; you will soon be teaching in an Australian school. Four years of hard work is about to pay off. Two all important questions are; where will you be posted and what will your students be like?

Assessment

AssessmentYou are required to access the following websites to prepare a presentation: The Our languages website http://www.ourlanguages.net.au/ and the My Schools website http://www.myschool.edu.au/ Select a school where you would like to be posted, then prepare a 15 minute peer presentation. In your presentation you will need to provide the following information:
  1. School profile
  • name of school
  • school profile: geographical location, main language (and other languages) spoken, access (road, air, boat), education provision (e.g first year of schooling to post primary)
  • school facts
  • school staff
  • school finances
  • student background including Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA)
  • distribution of students
  • students - boys, girls, FTE enrolments, percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, language background, attendance
  • summary of school satisfaction information.
After presenting the school profile, conclude the presentation with the following:
  1. Possible challenges
Identification of possible challenges (educational as well as personal – capacity and ability). The challenges will be in terms of the pre-identified characteristics of culturally responsive pedagogy, i.e., in terms of identity, diversity, multiculturalism, race-related issues, etc.
  1. Possible responses
After identifying the challenges, creatively and critically imagine how you would respond to them. You can be as creative as you like in preparing a Power Point Presentation, remembering the need to engage and inform your audience.

Topic review

Improving classroom practice

Working with local communities to locate and identify suitable resources will enrich your teaching and make learning more meaningful and relevant for your students. In this topic activities included evaluating texts, profiling your school, fostering community partnerships and planning a teaching unit on reconciliation.

Questions for review:

  • Reflect on your ability to improving classroom practice. What areas did this topic extend your knowledge in?
  • Outline some practical strategies to improve classroom practices for your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
  • What is the relationship between working with local communities and reconciliation in schools?

Choose one Focus Area of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers where you could apply the knowledge and skills you have gained from Topic 4, such as:

6.1 Identify and plan professional learning needsProfessional knowledge

Demonstrate an understanding of the role of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers in identifying professional learning needs. (Graduate level)

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (Graduate teachers)


Congratulations! You have now completed all topics in Module 3.