8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning


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.


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


Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids

This is one of my all time favourite Ted Talks clips. Adora Svitak has a lot to say about what adults can learn from kids beginning with irrational plans, hopeful thinking and imaginative ideas.

“You must lend an ear today, because we are the leaders of tomorrow.” – Something to think about…

Learning Spaces: Farmyard style

This weekend was spent visiting my cousins and their three young children out on their farm in Romsey. Growing up in the suburbs with nothing but a patch of fake grass and a swimming pool surrounded by concrete for a backyard, I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY by my experience over the weekend.

Upon arrival, I was handed a pair of gumboots by the oldest child (8 year old Brigitte) and a shovel by the two youngsters (3 year old Henry and 5 year old Will). I was overwhelmed by how much they knew (and could teach me) about gardening, looking after their veggie patches, taking care of their animals (chooks, horses, cows- the lot) but mostly I was incredibly AMAZED by their creativity.

I was taken for a tour around the farm where I was shown some of the many ‘shops’, ‘doctors surgeries’, ‘caves’, and ‘secret cubbies’ that the children had imaginatively created with as little as a bush, some rocks and a few twigs and sticks. At one point, Brigitte and Will pulled me aside into their doctors surgery and measured my heart beat with their stethoscope (made from a long stick with a leaf attached to the end) and checked my temperature with their wooden thermometer. I couldn’t believe how imaginative these children were and how enthusiastic they were about nature and making use of the environment.

I asked Brigitte the eldest, how she enjoyed  school and though she said that she LOVES reading, drawing and writing stories, she also admitted that her classroom “isn’t very fun because we just have to listen to the teacher all day and she screams a lot”. Brigitte and Will were then very quick to inform me that next year they would change schools to ‘Candlebark’- a school run by John Marsden, who has adopted the Fitzroy Community School approach to education. The school is situated in dense bushland in Romsey, teachers are all on a first name basis and there is no school uniform. The school has two friendly dogs, plenty of veggie patches and chooks, and provides excursions and incursions regularly. The curriculum is implemented in a creative and innovative way that steers away from learning mathematics and English out of a text book. Instead, a typical school day may involve engaging with the outside world from gardening in the yard to excursions off-campus, talking with guest speakers, conducting experiments, and singing and dancing.

What I gathered from these children about their “really fun”, “cool” and “adventurous” future school called Candlebark, was that the “2063 classrooms with direct access to the yard” is a learning space that isn’t as far away into the future as we think….

I think I can safely say I have now been officially converted into this farmyard lifestyle. A future of educating students about sustainability, nurturing the environment and teaching students in a hands-on and engaging way that is purposeful and enjoyable, is a future that I certainly want to be part of.