Enhanced Teacher Training Through Indigenous Mentors: A Program to Improve Aboriginal Educational Outcomes

By Janette Long, Patrick Cavanagh, Marea Nicholson and John Maskell.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A significant report from the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) commissioned by the NSW Government in Australia in 2004, noted the difficulties beginning teachers had in developing positive relationships with Aboriginal parents and community members. To address this concern, a preservice pilot program was planned for small groups of final year students across several universities who expressed interest in working in schools with significant Aboriginal enrolments.
The pilot mentoring program was developed by Australian Catholic University (ACU) and NSW DET and implemented by a consortium of universities to immerse and facilitate the learning of non-indigenous pregraduate teachers in Indigenous communities. A key feature of the program was the mentoring of participating students by Aboriginal mentors. The rationale for this approach was premised on the belief that effective partnerships are built on knowledge, familiarity and equality amongst partners which are nurtured and developed through shared experience, respect, good communication, trust and stability.
This paper describes the structures of the mentoring process within the pilot project, and reports upon the learning the mentors gained as a result of their participation in the ‘Teach Our Mob’ program at ACU, one of several universities involved in the project. Indigenous mentors, who were themselves student teachers at ACU, were appointed to guide the learning and assist in exposing non-indigenous student teachers to new insights and understandings of Indigenous culture and issues that many communities encountered on a regular basis. The learning was an integration of formal academic study, coupled with an extended period of immersion in the mentor’s community, where it was envisaged that the pregraduate teachers’ preparation to teach Aboriginal children in rural and urban contexts would be enhanced.

Keywords: Indigenous Mentors, Beginning Teachers, Teaching and Learning in Indigenous Communities

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.7-16. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 780.695KB).

Dr. Janette Long

Assistant Head of School and Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, NSW, Australia

Dr. Janette Long is Senior Lecturer in Education at the Australian Catholic University, Strathfield and contributes to both primary and secondary teacher education courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Her research interests include professional development and learning, supervision, the practicum, mentoring, teachers’ professional knowledge, diversity in the classroom, curriculum, assessment and evaluation issues.

Patrick Cavanagh

Senior Lecturer, Education, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, NSW, Australia

Patrick Cavanagh is a lecturer in Aboriginal education who has worked closely with Indigenous people and their communities to enhance the learning outcomes for Aboriginal children. For many years he has liaised with Government agencies and educational institutions to facilitate change in teacher education for both Aborignal and non Aboringinal students.

Marea Nicholson

Head of School in NSW, Faculty of Education, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, NSW, Australia

Marea Nicholson is the Head of School at the Australian Catholic University(NSW). She has played a key role in planning and development of programs for teacher education which focus on Aboriginal education and equity for indigenous people.

John Maskell

Australian Catholic University, NSW, Australia

John Maskell has worked in Indigenous higher education for much of the past two decades. Currently John is coordinator of the Primary Indigenous education programs at the Strathfield campus of ACU National. As a non-indigenous researcher John is exploring the mentoring by Indigenous educators to enhance cross cultural understanding.


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