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Recently Completed Thesis

Sharon Gierus

Thesis titleMathematics and Indigenous preschoolers:
Connecting home–community practices with mainstream curriculum

Awarding institution: School of Education, Charles Darwin University

Award: Doctor of Teaching DCTEAC

Supervisors: Professor Sue Shore, Professor Michael Christie, Dr Cris Edmonds-Wathen and Dr Gregory Smith

Abstract

An imbalance in literacy and numeracy achievements of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children is of ongoing concern to educators, families and governments. The documented dissonance between backgrounds of Indigenous children, non-Indigenous teachers and school/kindergarten culture contributes to this. The early years provide foundations for future schooling; enhancing existing practices occurring across home to kindergarten is one way to approach dissonance and potentially to combat the imbalance.

Despite kindergartens and schools, and by association, teachers, knowing about cultural discord, pedagogical approaches may tokenise cultural diversity. Through ethnographic fieldwork and action research this Doctor of Teaching adopted an in-depth holistic view towards dissonance by focusing on embedding Indigenous children’s cultural and social practices in kindergarten curriculum and everyday pedagogy.

Extending Boomer’s (1992a) concept of teacher-learner curriculum negotiation, this study places family and culture at the centre of curriculum and pedagogical decision-making. A collaborative process with Indigenous children, families and staff at one South Australian kindergarten produced knowledge about children’s everyday language and mathematics experiences.

An investigation of similar home–community and kindergarten practices revealed the important place of relationships and interactions as cultural and social practices, where non-physical artefacts and daily lived experiences—family-ness, making choices, family roles and responsibilities and Ngarrindjeri language use—provided home-Kindergarten continuity. These, and identified mathematics practices were considered in an examination of curriculum documents which found insufficient examples of relevant local-level and explicit everyday mathematics language. This led to aligning home–community practices with mathematics in the documents and developing learning resources that showcased existing practices. This thesis is only a partial requirement of this course and the development and use of these resources accounts for the practical component.

 The study demonstrates that drawing on family expertise from home and curriculum expertise from kindergarten can strengthen continuity and localise the curriculum. Learning at kindergarten becomes relevant, meaningful and familiar through families, culture, prior knowledge and curriculum flexibility. It illustrates how teachers and on-site curriculum teams can share ownership of learning with Indigenous children and families by utilising their way to enrich formal learning.

 

 

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