Closing Our Gap: Stories of decolonising our teaching in schools and in teacher education

Year: 2019

Author: Davidow, Shelley, Dwyer, Rachael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Very few white Australians have anything resembling the broad knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of being and knowing that would enable them to meet the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers 1.4 in any but the most tokenistic of ways. The so-called achievement gap for Aboriginal students in literacy and numeracy is widening and this may have everything to do with the gap in ‘white’ understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of being and knowing. Of note is that Aboriginal stories and deep literacy has been in process on this continent continuously and longer than anywhere on earth. In this workshop, we explore with participants as a ‘performative’ and investigative real-time shared narrative, the use of qualitative auto-ethnographic reflections to engage with the concept ‘Closing the Gap’ and to step out of the paradigm in which the gap exists for Original Australians and yet not for the white descendants of immigrants. From this perspective, we underscore the problems inherent in trying to meet the criteria of APST 1.4. We reflect on how, if we are to educate in Australian schools and universities for a truly socially just world, we might need to identify the gap that prevents many of us from reaching out in de-colonial ways. We share some examples of how we have entered into creative, auto-ethnographic dialogue as white academics and educators reaching out to our local communities to broaden our own understanding and involve our students in that reaching, and we share stories and reflections from our work in schools and in teacher education courses. We discuss our perceptions and the impact we have witnessed in our own and our student’s shifting perspectives and invite participants to share their thoughts and responses. We offer a forum for engaging in illuminating discussions and exchanges in order to address the gap in white Australian understanding of +70K years of Aboriginal knowledge that precedes the dominant narrative of our time.