Evaluating and Critiquing an Indigenous Graduate Attribute: A (short) measure for holding universities accountable.

Year: 2018

Author: Bodkin-Andrews, Gawaian, Page, Susan, Trudgett, Michelle

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Although there is an increasing number of Australian universities committing to varying conceptualisations of Indigenous Graduate Attributes (IGA) across a wide range of academic disciplines, little research has sought to question how universities should be held accountable for any claims of realising IGAs for graduating students. This potential lack of transparency and accountability is a critical issue as the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Knowledges and learning content within disciplines has often been cited as a place of considerable epistemological tension that too often erases Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander standpoints (Judd, 2014; Nakata, 2002; Williamson & Dalal, 2007). When Eurocentric spaces potentially act as the foundations for IGAs, claims that all graduating students will meaningfully, respectfully, and productively engage with, and work for, the empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities should be treated with considerable caution. It is the purpose of this presentation to report on emerging findings within the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Indigenous Graduate Attribute Evaluation Framework. More specifically, the development of a short student survey designed to capture student experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learning content within specific subjects will be discussed. Within a sample of 276 students from subjects across five different disciplines, the results show variation across a range of measures (e.g., deficit discourses, misinformation, cultural safety, engagement with Indigenous authors, standpoints, and protocols, and confidence to work with Indigenous Australians). Further inferential analyses revealed that when students reported on experiencing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learning content within their subjects, not only were these experiences associated with higher levels of student engagement, but also were associated with lower levels of student burnout, and endorsement of racists attitudes. These results will be discussed in relation to the development of the UTS IGA, and how numerous Indigenous Standpoint Theories (Nakata, 2002; Rigney 1999) should be considered as powerful drivers for both evaluating and realising any IGA.