Barriers to effective teaching of Indigenous students

Year: 1999

Author: Partington, Gary, Richer, Kaye

Type of paper: Refereed paper

A study of the classroom practice of a teacher of Aboriginal students in a metropolitan primary school in Western Australia demonstrated the way in which teacher intentions are hindered by the sociopolitical context of the school. Observation of classroom events and interviews with the teacher, students and other key participants were recorded. The data were transferred to Nudist software as a foundation for analysis.

The teacher had been identified by the school as a successful teacher of Indigenous students and was accepted by Aboriginal parents as such. The situation in which he worked, however, was not conducive to the establishment of effective strategies for communication or better relationships with parents and the community.

Findings indicated that the teacher was unable to translate good intentions into satisfactory outcomes for Aboriginal students because of the influence of four main factors:

(1) Background factors influenced student behaviour and attitudes at school;

(2) The teacher's own value system, which differed markedly from those of the students in the class.

(3) Power relations within the school which prevented the implementation of effective strategies for the education of Aboriginal students;

(4) Inadequate communication between the home and the school which exacerbated problems rather than resolved them

It is concluded that an individual teacher, working in isolation from a cohesive school approach, is unable to resolve key issues which contribute to the better education of Aboriginal students. It is suggested in the paper that success was contingent upon a more cohesive and collaborative effort by the school to develop policy and practice. This includes the involvement of Indigenous parents and community members in the planning of policy and school procedures, as well as establishing more effective communication with the parents of the children.