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Research Developments from ACER

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Indigenous
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ACER Indigenous Liaison Officer, Gina Milgate, and National Dare to Lead Schools Coordinator, Brian Giles-Brown, at AERA 2013.

Listening to the school community

The collated voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, their parents and carers and staff tell a very compelling story about the quality of schooling for our students, as Gina Milgate explains.

Engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their parents and carers can assist ‘places of learning’ to implement policies and practices that meet their needs.

However, the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are sometimes silent or not heard and, as a result, they may feel disengaged from the place of learning. Existing research provides minimal evidence focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents’ and carers’ insights into effective places of learning for their children.

Since 2011, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) has worked in partnership with the Principals Australia Institute on a Dare to Lead project that provides a culturally safe, engaging and empowering way for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and their parents and carers to share their insights into what makes an effective school.

The Dare to Lead Collegial Snapshot collects point-in-time data from the entire school community in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education. A confidential process conducted for the profession by the profession, it involves the school principal inviting Dare to Lead into their school to gather both evidence-based and anecdotal data to make informed decisions about planning in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education in their school.

To date, more than 670 Collegial Snapshots have been conducted across Australia, involving more than 2100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and carers, and around 5000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. ACER and the Principals Australia Institute have collated the findings of 173 of those Collegial Snapshots in order to share the research with the wider education community through professional learning events and resources.

The research illustrates that parents and carers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have a very high regard for their schools and the teaching that takes place in them.

Parents and carers want to see:

  • principals who are visible to the community;
  • teachers who are culturally sensitive and aware;
  • Aboriginal staff who connect and relate to the entire community;
  • a curriculum that contains the local cultural history and heritage;
  • open and honest policies about racism and behaviour management; and
  • aspirational approaches that provide students with career pathways and knowledge about their future destinations.

The research also clearly demonstrates that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students want to have strong relationships with teachers who care for them, understand their home and family connections, know of their heritage, recognise their likes and dislikes, and understand the way they
learn and their desires for the future.

The wealth of data collected from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and their parents and carers, complemented by the school data, has provided a foundation to build evidence to inform future analysis, policy and practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.

Collegial Snapshot professional development booklets

ACER in partnership with Principals Australia Institute has produced two professional learning booklets for school leaders, particularly leaders of schools with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student enrolments.

Titled The Voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students and The Voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Parents and Caregivers, these workshop-based activity books contain fascinating quotes from anonymous respondents to the Dare to Lead Collegial Snapshot.

Designed to be used in professional learning activities that focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners, perspectives and knowledges, the booklets illustrate the voices of the thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and their parents and carers who participated in the Collegial Snapshot process in 2011. While the information in the booklets is not representative of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, parents and carers, it does provide school leaders with insights into the visions and actions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples would like to see in their schools.

The booklets are divided into six themes that can support the improvement of outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students which emerged from the data collected through the Collegial Snapshots:

  • cultural environment
  • quality of teachers
  • community partnerships
  • health and wellbeing
  • curriculum
  • school leadership.

Each section of the booklets illustrates statements and recommendations from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and their parents and carers about each of the themes. There is also a series of ‘questions for reflection’ for school leaders to consider in light of the comments from the community to develop strategies and actions for their school contexts.

The booklets have been produced for staff development sessions including workshops facilitated by the Dare to Lead team across Australia. In producing the booklets, ACER and the Principals Australia Institute aim to develop an evidence base that will inform the development of appropriate professional learning resources and opportunities for leaders in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.

These resources are available for purchase through the Dare to Lead website. ■

Further information:
'Listening to the school community' draws on the paper presented at the 2013 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting, ‘Creating an effective school for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students,’ by National Dare to Lead Schools Coordinator, Brian Giles-Brown, and ACER Indigenous Liaison Officer, Gina Milgate (pictured above).

RD

About the author

Gina Milgate is an ACER Research Fellow with a focus on Indigenous and inclusive education.

More [rd] articles by Gina Milgate

View selected works of Gina Milgate

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