Aligning the 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning with an Inquiry Unit of Work: ‘Sometimes I Feel…’ (F-2)

I have recently created a sample unit of work for year levels F-2. Without even realizing, while completing this task it seems that I have actually already attempted to merge particular aspects of the 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning (such as story sharing, land links and community links) into the unit of work to further enhance the prospective learning experiences.

The unit is called ‘Sometimes I feel…’ and focuses on children finding ways to appropriately and effectively manage and express their feelings, as well as be mindful of others’ and any actions that can negatively impact their feelings. In an attempt to align the 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning into this unit of work I have constructed a table, which clearly highlights how aspects of Indigenous perspectives to learning can be useful resources.

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References:

8 Aboriginal Ways of Knowing. 2009. Retrieved from http://8ways.wikispaces.com/

Things to consider when looking at Indigenous world views and their place in today’s education system…

I have recently come across some research on the issues surrounding the provision of a culturally appropriate science curriculum for Indigenous students. Having spent the last couple of weeks reading up on the very interesting 8 Aboriginal ways of learning, I found a particular journal article which sparked my interest in this area. The article discussed the importance of implementing a science curriculum that isn’t invariably based solely on Western culture, but rather considers the history, culture and beliefs of the Indigenous communities.

Something that was of particular interest to me was the concept of a Westernized curriculum inadvertently demeaning the beliefs of students from a non-Western cultural background, thus inhibiting opportunities for effective learning outcomes. This is something that I have always been somewhat oblivious to, because to be quite honest, I just never knew any better. It never occurred to me that an Indigenous student learning within a Westernized education system, could often face the dilemma of being forced to reject their own belief system and instead accept a scientific explanation for many situations.  The article provided an example of the very different scientific perspectives between the two cultures using a Venn diagram that an Indigenous student had completed on the topic of crocodiles. In the Indigenous (non-Westernized) loop there were facts such as “crocodiles are totems for some people”, “crocodiles are common in Indigenous laws”, “the first crocodiles travelled across Arnhemland – they created the landscape”. In the Western loop there were facts such as “a crocodile is a reptile”, “its brain is only as big as a man’s thumb”. The area which overlapped the two cultures’ beliefs included things like “they are dangerous” and “they live in freshwater and saltwater”. I found this example of diversity interesting as a Preservice teacher as it suddenly struck me that there is so much more significance to something that we often perceive as ‘simple’ as a crocodile, if you broaden the cultural context in which they are explored.

Ultimately, it is almost inevitable that a cultural bias is likely to develop in such an area like science where almost all subject matter is inextricably linked with the progressions and development of Western civilisations. However, it is important that today’s educators begin taking more consideration into the differing world views of the Indigenous cultures so all students can gain a broader and deeper understanding of the subject in authentic and distinctive contexts.

References:

Linkson, M. (1999). Some issues in providing culturally appropriate science curriculum support for indigenous students. Australian Science Teachers Journal45(1), 41-48. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=7&sid=d41b72b3-d1b2-4ee

8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning

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Having had such a large emphasis on Western education and pedagogies, it was pleasing to explore the diverse and rather unique ways of learning from a completely different cultural perspective.

Over the duration of the week I have read over the ‘8 ways’ wiki several times and have collaborated with a few peers on their thoughts and ideas on this interesting way of learning. I have been able to very easily compare and contrast these 8 ways to our Western pedagogy, specifically when looking at our good old buddy Bloom’s taxonomy. In short, it appears that the Indigenous ways of learning are much more focused on ‘processes’ and exploring the ‘why’ of learning by making rich connections particularly with the community and the land. Western pedagogies however are much more focused on attaining a particular learning objective- no matter the process. We tend to be very outcome based and as a result our focus is directed to content rather than process.

In exploring these 8 ways of Indigenous learning, I noticed a reoccurring pattern of vocab derived from their pedagogy: ‘relations, relationships, relate, relational, relating’. To me this meant that the ‘point of entry into this way of knowing’ is more or less about making authentic connections to and from things that are truly meaningful (land, people, language, culture etc). In many of my reflections about Western pedagogy, I’ve discussed the importance of collaborative learning, developing communities of practice, making real life connections and learning in authentic and meaningful environments in order to enhance learning. And from what it looks like, the Indigenous community have almost nailed it with these 8 ways: “Tell a story. Make a plan. Think and do. Draw it. Take it outside. Try a new way. Watch first, then do. Share it with others.” So how can we use these insights to compliment our own Western pedagogies?

We can start by looking at the WAY we learn in a less linear and rigid way by allowing for a constant flow of connections and emphasizing on the process rather than the outcome. Take the kids outside, allow them to share their ideas not just in a 10 minute ‘think, pair, share’ activity, but through a ONGOING flow of communication. Let the children learn THROUGH nature, provide opportunities for making connections to symbols, objects and the community. And lastly, don’t let the finished product/outcome of a learning experience be the end… allow for the learning to be endless by providing students with infinite ways they can use their new knowledge to help better their community.

References:

8 Aboriginal Ways of Knowing. 2009. Retrieved from http://8ways.wikispaces.com/