Aboriginal Inquiry: Lifting All Learners

An Impact Assessment of the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network (AESN)

2.4.1 Shifting teacher beliefs

One area of commonality in the literature is the need to find ways of shifting teacher beliefs. Aboriginal scholars emphasized cultural immersion and deep questioning of assumptions and ‘othering’ of Aboriginal peoples. Similarly, professional learning community scholars suggest a focus on inquiry related to student success/ achievement is necessary for sustained teacher pedagogical change. The discussion does not suggest that such approaches create transformational change, as the Aboriginal scholars suggest, but that sustained inquiry can cause changes to what teachers believe about learning and create a platform from which to continually consider and reconsider the ways in which professional decisions are made. By implication then, we may be able to tentatively suggest that teacher learning models needs to address both approaches: cultural immersion and ongoing inquiry. This is not meant to suggest that a particular structured approach needs to be used; as was stated in the first paragraphs of this summary of implications, the terrain of teacher learning is complex and situated in a range of contexts, with trajectories for action emerging from multiple locations. Both horizontal and vertical ties need to be considered; catalysts come from both locations, as Mitchell and Sackney (2009) document. We want to argue however, that non-Aboriginal teachers will need to have supportive and challenging critical partners in these activities; difficult questions must be asked if colonial mindsets are to be interrupted. Like Williams (2000) who emphasized flexible responses to successful Aboriginal program design, we suggest that the process of teacher learning is necessarily iterative, and that approaches should be flexible and respond to particular needs, contexts, and communities. A relationally based, partnership model provides the best evidence for how Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal educators can work to achieve a shared common purpose: helping all learners succeed.