Empowering female Indigenous students: Promoting engagement at school through the arts

Year: 2019

Author: Morris, Julia

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

While the latest Closing the Gap report shows improvements in education one of the key areas for further development is student attendance, as the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous student attendance widens at secondary school (Closing the Gap, 2019). This case study was situated in Western Australia (WA), which has the second poorest attendance of Indigenous students compared to all States and Territories (Closing the Gap, 2019). Poor attendance has been linked to behavioural disengagement in students (Fredricks, Blumenfeld & Paris, 2004; Lovelace, Reschly, Appleton & Lutz, 2015); consequently, this case study aimed to improve student engagement through an arts workshop model that integrated arts skills with learning about culture. The workshops ran on a weekly basis over two years in one metropolitan secondary school, and mixed methods were used to evaluate the impact of the workshops on engagement generally, including student motivation and its impact on attendance and academic outcomes. The evaluation draws on sub-theories of self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) to explore students’ extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, as well as the internal and external factors that affected their engagement and outcomes. The findings of this study have implications for both cultural arts programs in schools and broader principles for engaging Indigenous students in ways that embed cultural knowledge at the centre of schooling.