01 SES 03 C, Professional Learning for Inclusive Practice
This paper contributes to the field of culturally-responsive professional learning design for teachers. It presents the findings from research into the development and successful implementation of a pedagogical leadership professional learning program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Early Childhood educators from three Australian states. Early Childhood education is a key focus of the Australian Government’s Closing the Gap strategy (Australian Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet, 2017) which aims to reduce disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Historically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia have been marginalised in relation to decision-making, including in how best to educate their children. This has resulted in pervasive and wide disparities in educational achievement between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It is also recognised that dominant, Western and exclusive ways of building capacity are unlikely to be effective and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people must be central to decision-making about the best ways in which to address these issues of inequity (Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet, 2017). The literature relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pedagogical leadership in early childhood education is thin. The literature that does exist is generally not written by, and from, the perspective of Indigenous people. This project provided the opportunity to contribute to new knowledge about professional learning for minority groups as well as document the attributes of the Program to inform the broader field of culturally-responsive professional learning design.
Three main research questions informed the study:
- What principles and approaches underpin a successful professional learning program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and why?
- How can professional learning design specifically address issues of marginalisation and empower participants to challenge and speak authoritatively into dominant, and predominantly deficit, discourses?
- How can the findings from this project inform the wider professional learning literature, particularly in relation to traditionally marginalised groups?
Methodology In consultation with participants, the Program focussed on developing capacity in research in and about early childhood education from an Indigenous perspective using a strengths-based approach, using an action research framework and Indigenous research methods, concepts and analytical frameworsk. Program design was informed by (Western) empirical studies in professional learning including Garet et al., 2001; Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012; Ingvarson, Meiers & Beavis, 2005; Kennedy, 1998; Kriewaldt, 2008; Meiers & Ingvarson, 2005; Supovitz, 2001; Thompson, 2003; Timperley, 2008; Timperley, Wilson, Barrar, & Fung, 2007; Wilson & Berne, 1999 and action research literature focussed on teacher development such as Timperley (2008). Importantly, and distinctively, it also focussed on approaches and methods described by Indigenous researchers such as Martin and Booran Mirraboopa (2003), Martin (2010), Nakata (2007) and Yunkaporta, (2009a,b; 2012). Concepts such as Ganma (Lowitja Institute (p.49) or genuine knowledge sharing, yarning (Bessarab & Ng’andu 2010, p.38) and Dadirri, a process of “listening to one another in reciprocal relationships” (Ungunmerr-Baumann, 1993, p.36) underpinned the way we conducted the professional learning, the methods we used to collect and analyse data about the Program.
Findings The findings of this project provide strong quantitative and qualitative evidence that the professional learning program enhanced participants’ capacity and confidence in pedagogy and practice that improve learning outcomes for Indigenous children. It clearly built proficiency in research and dissemination skills and significantly increased participants’ profiles as Indigenous ECEC leaders. Findings also resonate strongly with the Indigenist literature and point to deeper understandings of the enablers, barriers and attributes of professional learning programs for traditionally marginalised groups.
Bessarab, D. & Ng'andu, B. (2010). Yarning About Yarning as a Legitimate Method in Indigenous Research: International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies. 3(1) 37-50. Commonwealth of Australia, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. (2017). Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017 from: https://closingthegap.pmc.gov.au/a-new-way-of-working-together Garet, M., Porter, A., Desimone, L., Birman, B. & Yoon, K. (2001). What Makes Professional Development Effective? Results from a National Sample of Teachers. American Educational Research Journal Winter 2001, Vol. 38, No. 4, pp. 915-945 Hargreaves, A. & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. New York. Teachers College Press. Lowitja Institute. (2015). Researching Indigenous Health: A guide for researchers. Retrieved 10 September 2016 from: http://www.lowitja.org.au/researchers-guide Martin, K. & Booran Mirraboopa (2003). Ways of knowing, being and doing: A theoretical framework and methods for indigenous and indigenist research, Journal of Australian Studies, 27:76, pp.203-214. Martin, K. (2010). 'Indigenous research', in G. MacNaughton, S.A. Rolfe, & I. Siraj-Blatchford (Eds.), Doing early childhood research: international perspectives on theory and practice, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, NSW, (pp. 85-100). Nakata, M. (2007), Disciplining the Savages Savaging the Disciplines. Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, Australia. Timperley, H. (2008). “Teacher professional learning and development”. In The Educational Practices Series – 18. Ed. Jere Brophy. International Academy of Education & International Bureau of Education: Brussels. Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H. & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration [BES]. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education. Available at www.educationcounts.govt.nz/goto/BES Ungunmerr-Baumann, M. R. (1993). ‘Dadirri, A Spirituality of Catholic Aborigines and the Struggle for Justice’ in J. Hendriks & G. Heffernan (eds), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Apostolate, Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane, Brisbane, pp. 34–7. Wilson, S.; Berne, J. (1999). Teacher learning and the acquisition of professional knowledge: An examination of research on contemporary professional development. In: Iran-Nejad, A.; Pearson, P.D. eds. Review of Research in Education, no. 24, pp. 173–209. Washington, DC: Sage Publications. Yunkaporta, T. (2009a). Aboriginal pedagogies at the cultural interface. PhD thesis, James Cook University. Yunkaporta, T. (2009b). Our Ways of Learning in Aboriginal Languages. Department of Education and Training, New South Wales. Yunkaporta, T., & NSW Department of Education and Communities (2012). 8 Aboriginal Ways of Knowing. Retrieved 10 October 2017, from: http://8ways.wikis-paces.com
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