Exploring student learning in Indigenous Studies through overlapping theoretical learning spaces.

Year: 2017

Author: Page, Susan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Student 'resistance' is commonly noted by Indigenous Studies educators when teaching Indigenous Studies. This resistance can manifest in a range of student behaviours from racist comments to disengagement. To date Indigenous Studies pedagogy has focused on curriculum, and the inclusion of Indigenous Knowledges (for example Sefa Dei, 2008, Gair, 2007) . However, while there is an extensive body of literature on student learning in general, there is less empirical research, on student experience of learning in Indigenous Studies. The threshold concepts framework (Meyer & Land, 2006) offers a discipline focused approach, for exploring how students learn or resist, in this environment. Threshold Concepts are 'jewels in the crown' of a curriculum; the critical ideas which students need to fully grasp the discipline or think like discipline experts (Land, Cousin, Meyer & Davies, 2006). A key element of the Threshold Concepts Framework is the 'liminal space', in which learners may struggle or encounter troublesome or counter-intuitive knowledge (Perkins, 2008) as they develop broad discipline understanding. The largely non-Indigenous student audience in Indigenous Studies may encounter both a liminal space and a Cultural Interface (Nakata, 2007). Vygotsky's (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86, cited in Wersch & Tulviste, 1992) 'zone of proximal development' is another theoretical space in which students learn. The paper will explore the relationship between Nakata's (2007) notion of the 'cultural interface', Myer & Land's concept of 'liminal space' and Vygotsky's Zone of proximal development, to explore fresh insights into student learning in Indigenous Australians. The paper reports on preliminary findings from a qualitative research study designed to identify threshold concepts in Indigenous Studies, bringing into sharper focus ideas familiar - but sometimes fleeting - to many Indigenous Studies academics.