Learning to be Kunwinjku
: Kunwinjku people discuss their pedagogy

  • Steven James Etherington

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    This study is a grounded ethnography describing and theorising the ideas and practices of teaching and learning in a small Australian Aboriginal group who continue to speak Kunwinjku as their first language. Their pedagogy is a core component of adult-child relationships developed in the hearth family, which is the most crucial venue for pedagogy. The Kunwinjku curriculum of moral values, ideas, language, social skills, survival skills and creative techniques was received from, and authorised by, previous Kunwinjku generations, with adults permanently obligated to teach it to the succeeding generation.

    Tensions between the intense endosociality of Kunwinjku family life and the relational demands of the wider Kunwinjku society are resolved through unique pedagogic features of the Ceremonies.

    The global intention of Kunwinjku pedagogy is the production of a socially and morally competent Kunwinjku adult; someone who lives by “the Law”.

    Pedagogic practice is built on comprehensive expectations about the mental processes of the child and the development of the child as an autonomous learner, and on strong adult motivation and responsibility to teach children. Teaching and learning are both intentional and their success is highly valorized.

    The range of instructional tactics includes scaffolded approximation, mutual questioning, mentored field practice, repetition, drill and explicit direction and revelation. These are applied in co-constructed dyadic relationships; teacher and child-learner interact collaboratively as to goals and processes.

    Schooling provided by non-Kunwinjku Australian society has been a problematic experience for Kunwinjku people. Kunwinjku people are alarmed at the failure of their younger generation to learn either the Kunwinjku curriculum (the Law) or to master the curriculum of the outside world. There is some evidence that the primary pedagogic relationship (adults as teachers and children as learners) is collapsing as adults surrender stakeholder status in the education of their children.
    Date of AwardJun 2006
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPaul Black (Supervisor)

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