Designing higher education curriculum in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders : a study in visual arts education

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2014
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The consultative frameworks between higher education and Aboriginal stakeholders and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders are routinely evolving (Behrendt, Larkin, Griew & Kelly, 2012; Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council, 2008; Universities Australia, 2011). Effective consultation is necessary to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders to participate not only in curriculum dialogue about what knowledge is of most worth (Apple, 2004; Pinar, 2011; Toohey, 1999; Williamson & Dalal, 2007; Young, 1998) but also in dialogue about what knowledge is most appropriate for particular audiences and how that knowledge is represented. This study responds to the under representation of research about higher education curriculum renewal processes for incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge or ways of knowing, doing and being (Behrendt et al, 2012; IHEAC, 2008; Nakata 2007a; Williamson & Dalal, 2007). The inquiry builds on the work of Craven and others in primary education and in other higher education programs (Behrendt et al, 2012; Craven, 1996; Craven, Marsh & Mooney, 2003; Williamson & Dalal, 2007) by shifting the focus to a strand of mainstream secondary teacher education at one Aboriginal community and higher education site. This action research study used an overarching Indigenist research methodology (Page and Asmar, 2008; Rigney, 1997) to privilege the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders in mainstream teacher education curriculum renewal. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants, drawn from local community, education, Visual Arts, cultural heritage and legal sectors, provided their advice about a selection of Visual Arts secondary teacher education curriculum documents and about aspects of the research itself during focus groups or interviews. Some provided advice about Visual Arts secondary teacher education curriculum through a ‘blue skies’, arts-based process. An Aboriginal cultural mentor provided advice throughout the study and permission to use a collaborative, arts-based process (Evans & Skuthorpe, 2009). The significant of this study resides is the way that it investigates, through the lens of an Aboriginal academic, the curriculum overlap (Figure 1) between a subject-specific strand of a mainstream teacher education course, in this case Visual Arts secondary teacher education, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge (Behrendt et al, 2012) or ways of knowing, doing and being. Also significant is the effect of the cultural customizing of the methodology particularly that of the arts-based component (Burridge et al, 2009; Evans & Riordan, 2012; Evans & Skuthorpe, 2009). ‘How can we, as teacher educators, provide respectful consultative engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander local and professional communities to enhance teacher education?’ was the overarching research question. More specifically the research asks ‘How does an experience of engaging with external Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders in secondary Visual Arts teacher education inform curriculum renewal?’ and ‘How might an experience of engaging with external Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders in secondary Visual Arts teacher education contribute more broadly to engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to inform teacher education?’ Outcomes of this study include confirmation of and improvements to content in the selected teacher education curriculum documents, the formulation of knowledge about representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, doing and being in Visual Arts secondary teacher education curriculum generally and, importantly, the emergence of a model of consultation for the higher education site. The model of consultation articulates a flexible, authentic approach that takes into account several enabling conditions. The findings also provide new insights into research practices when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
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