Title: Decolonising teacher education through Learning from Country

Year: 2019

Author: Thorpe, Katrina, Burgess, Cathie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper, we discuss how positioning Aboriginal community educators as experts in delivering professional learning for preservice teachers contributes to decolonising education through:

* Challenging western knowledge systems as superior and/or exclusive
* Privileging Aboriginal voices
* Mobilising Country as teacher

Preservice teachers participate in Learning from Country experiences in the Sydney CBD and inner-city fringe in order to experience, understand and reflect on what Country means in urban landscapes and how they might embed this into their own teaching. Relationships of power are repositioned as Country, through Aboriginal community educators , the land, culture, spirituality and history, reveal inspiring as well as difficult knowledges that challenge, teach and nurture preservice teachers to reorientate their thinking around teaching and learning, the role of Aboriginal families and communities in education and indeed the purpose of schooling.

Applying Guenwald’s (2003) critical pedagogy of place as a theoretical framework orientated towards decolonising schooling, data analysed from interviews, focus groups and surveys revealed the significance of place-based real-life experiences in challenging preservice teachers to understand the historical, cultural and political significance of where, how and why they teach. The preservice teachers cognitive and affective responses indicated a transformative impact on their conceptualisation of quality teaching, and many expressed a deep commitment to position the principles of Learning from Country front, centre and foundation in their future teaching careers.

The implications here are that Aboriginal community educators should be leading teacher professional learning across the country, not only because it is the ethical and accountable position to take, but because of the potential to decolonise schooling through significant Aboriginal influence over quality teaching in Aboriginal contexts.