Working with challenging demographics in Greater Western Sydney: Recognizing and building on strengths in pre-service teacher education

Year: 2016

Author: Naidoo, Loshini, D'warte, Jacqueline, Arthur, Leonie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The population of Greater Western Sydney is heterogeneous with a history of disadvantage in several domains, including education and employment. In this paper, we document the effect of working with challenging demographics such as high poverty and the impact on educational attainment in different student communities. The disadvantage experienced by students from Greater Western Sydney in terms of entry into and completion of early childhood education and subsequent schooling can be linked to poverty, differences in social economic status and characteristics of neighbourhoods. The challenges for different student groups and the overarching cycle of poverty are important factors in explanations of educational life chances. The disparities in educational attainment require a theoretically driven contextual and spatial (Soja, 1996) understanding of educational opportunity and educational achievement that highlight the structural and systemic inequalities that exist to widen the gap between the rich and the poor and limit social and economic mobility for disadvantaged students in schools. This paper will focus on the strategies that support and improve pre-service teacher learning of disadvantaged schools and centres by bridging the theory practice divide and creating meaningful and beneficial partnerships with disadvantaged communities. Moreover, the authors’ show how they build on their pre-service students’ strengths and funds of knowledge of disadvantaged communities in Greater Western Sydney, since it is the demographic from where many of them are drawn. By providing an analysis of programs and teaching pedagogy within the School of Education at Western Sydney University, the authors discuss how the approaches attempt to disrupt the effects of poverty on educational outcomes to make a difference in the lives of their students. References:Soja, E.W. (1996). Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Blackwell Publishing: Oxford.