Amazingly resilient Indigenous people! Using Transformative Learning to facilitate positive student engagement with sensitive material

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Publication Type:
Journal Article
Contemporary Nurse, 2013, 46 (1), pp. 105 - 112
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If health professionals are to effectively contribute to improving the health of Indigenous people understanding, of the historical, political, and social disadvantage that has lead to health disparity is essential. This paper describes a teaching and learning experience in which four Australian Indigenous academics in collaboration with a non-Indigenous colleague ran an intensive workshop for masters level postgraduate students. Drawing upon the pedagogy of Transformative Learning, the aims of the day included facilitating students to explore their existing understandings of Indigenous people, the impact of ongoing colonisation, the diversity of Australias Indigenous people, and developing respect for alternative world views. Using a range of resources including personal stories, autobiography, film and interactive sessions, students were challenged intellectually and emotionally by the content. Students experienced the workshop as a significant educational event, and described feeling transformed by the content, better informed, more appreciative of other world views and Indigenous resilience and better equipped to contribute in a meaningful way to improving the quality of health care. Where this workshop differs from other Indigenous classes was in the use of an Indigenous teaching team. Rather than a lone academic who can often feel vulnerable teaching a large cohort of non-Indigenous students, a teaching team implied Indigenous authority and created an emotionally and culturally safe space within which students were allowed to confront and explore difficult truths. Findings support the value of multiple teaching strategies underpinned by the theory of transformational learning, and the potential benefits of facilitating emotional as well as intellectual student engagement when presenting sensitive material.
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