Operationalising Threshold Concepts in Indigenous Education Studies

Year: 2017

Author: Moodi, Nikki, Murphy, Bernadette

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Threshold Concepts (TCs) in Indigenous education is an emerging concept which has received little attention in the literature to date. Page's (2016) empirical work is the notable exception, identifying the basis for what may constitute TCs for Indigenous studies in higher education learning and teaching. This paper builds on Page's initial work by adopting an explicitly de-colonial position from which to interrogate the literature and operationalise TCs for Initial Teacher Education (ITE). To date, much research in Indigenous education focuses on curriculum and pedagogy, yet there is little clarity on the distinctions between Indigenous curriculum content, pedagogy or declarative and procedural knowledge in this field. Yet as a result of the inclusion of Standards 1.4 and 2.4 in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST), teacher educators are now grappling with the need for a more substantive engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and histories. In line with Page (2016), we suggest that Threshold Concepts provide a robust framework for the development of ethical mastery of content and process knowledge in professional contexts. This represents a move from 'teaching about' Indigenous content, to understanding the structural and agentic bases of engagement with Indigenous perspectives. Concepts which represent a 'threshold' have five features; once acquired, this knowledge is transformative, irreversible, integrative, transgressive, and counter-intuitive (Lucas and Mladenovic, 2007). Based on a review of the literature from Indigenous sociology, political science and education, we describe four concepts we have deployed in teaching an Indigenous education studies subject: race, relationality, policy and evidence. We describe the research base for the development of these ideas as Threshold Concepts, and provide an initial discussion of their operationalisation through curriculum design and student assessment. By stepping away from the ideas of culture and reconciliation deployed in the APST, and centring Indigenous prerogatives of place and relation we assert the necessity of a politically-informed engagement with perspectives which are often both minimised and essentialised in teacher education.