Aboriginal peoples perceptions and beliefs about quality teaching

Year: 2009

Author: Burgess, Catherine, Berwick, Cindy

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Quality teaching has increasingly been cited as a major factor in improving student outcomes at school. Certainly, the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) has invested extensively in the notion of quality teaching. The implementation of the Quality Teaching Framework and organisation of numerous professional learning opportunities for teachers remains a major theme.

For Aboriginal* students whose educational disadvantage is generally higher than any other student group, quality teaching takes on greater importance as a potentially key strategy in bridging the achievement gap. Significantly, the Report of the Review of Aboriginal Education (AER) cited the work of teachers as the 'make or break' element in improving Aboriginal student outcomes (NSW DET & NSW AECG, 2004, p 189).

The NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) has subsequently undertaken a research project to elucidate Aboriginal parents and community member's perceptions and beliefs about quality teaching. The project aimed to find out what aspects of quality teaching make a difference to Aboriginal student outcomes. Using a mixed methods approach of workshops, focus groups, surveys and interviews, parents and community members were asked to identify key issues around the notion of quality teaching. Additionally, members were asked to rank the NSW Institute of Teachers' Professional Teaching Standards and statements on quality teaching from the AER.

Preliminary findings have indicated that Aboriginal parents and community members believe that above all teachers need to understand, know and build trust relationships with their students. Crucial to this, is the individual teacher's knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal culture, particularly local community culture. Authentic engagement with student's families and the community is seen as essential to building this trust and learning about local culture. From their own school experiences, Aboriginal parents identified that it was a particular teacher; their personality rather than their knowledge of curricular and the way that they taught, that gave them a sense of belonging and feeling of worthiness to continue with their education.

This paper seeks to present the research project findings including implications for Professional Teaching Standards, teacher education training and current approaches to teacher professional learning.

* Note: the terminology Aboriginal is used in recognition of original land ownership in NSW and is inclusive of Torres Strait Islander students (as per NSW AECG and DET policies).

Key Phrase: Indigenous Education