"I stopped to think" Aboriginal anti-racism pedagogy in middle school

  • Adam Paul Heaton

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    This thesis seeks to address the ongoing problem of racism in Australian society, particularly towards Aboriginal Australians, through facilitating an anti-racism program of learning to middle school students, and researching these students’ perceived outcomes. Social and media discourse often present Aboriginal people, who comprise 2.4 per cent of the population, with pejorative images that inevitably shape attitudes—including those of young Australians. 

    Learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures has recently become a priority of Australian state and National Curriculum Framework. These inclusions provide opportunities to ameliorate race relations. With only 1 per cent of Australian teachers identifying as Indigenous, all educators must contribute to ensure that students engage in learning about Aboriginal peoples.

    This study explores how I, a white, non-Aboriginal, middle school teacher, in consultation with Aboriginal elders, designed a program of learning with anti-racism education as the core agenda. The program engaged students in my English classes with discourses drawn from Aboriginal peoples’ experiences, past and present. These provided cause for students to reconsider some of their assumptions, and view Aboriginal peoples in a more contextualised and empathetic light. The students produced reflective, critical and creative narratives and expositions in response to these materials.

    This study seeks to identify if engagement in critical thinking, reflection, imagination, empathy and emotion led them to question any stereotypes and opinions they may have at first held. This study seeks to expand middle school pedagogy by finding strong reverberations with transformative learning theory drawn from adult education. Keeping in mind differences between adolescents and adults, this theory provides a platform from which to understand how learning about Aboriginal cultures and social experiences inevitably involves unsettling dilemmas, but can also provide students opportunities to re-evaluate their views toward Aboriginal Australians.
    Date of AwardDec 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGreg Shaw (Supervisor) & Sue Erica Smith (Supervisor)

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