Frequently Asked Questions about 8 Ways
(Actually, these are usually not questions so much as comments shouted in staffrooms and whispered in bathrooms...)
Will using Aboriginal pedagogies disadvantage my non-Indigenous students?
Will using these pedagogies prevent my Indigenous students from mastering mainstream learning skills?
How can Aboriginal pedagogies possibly prepare Indigenous students for the workforce?
How are Aboriginal pedagogies different from other pedagogies anyway? Don't all humans learn the same way?
Are you saying that all Aboriginal Peoples have the same learning styles?
Is 8ways a "proper" program?
I've spent time with "real Aborigines" in the Gulf, and they don't learn by telling yarns, so how do you explain that?
Is this all just somebody's opinion, or do you have some proof?
Why are you trying to remove Aboriginal culture from the school, when we've fought so long to have it included?
But the Aboriginal community in my town all... [insert stereotype and dysfunction anecdote here]... so how does that fit with your claim that Aboriginal cultures have pedagogies and intellectual traditions?
A response to these questions:
The best pedagogy for Aboriginal students is usually the same as the best pedagogy for all students.
However, the worst pedagogies (lazy, default teaching practices) actually do more damage to Indigenous students than to non-Indigenous students.
Aboriginal pedagogies usually have an equivalent in best practice pedagogies represented internationally in the corpus of education research (e.g. Murruwarri way of modelling and supporting skills mastery is similar to Vygotsky's scaffolding).
Utilising Aboriginal pedagogy can certainly improve mainstream learning outcomes for all students, where it aligns with proven best practice.
The 8ways research project has utilised the best available research methods and literature and has won both national and international academic awards.
Aboriginal pedagogies produce learners who are creative, cooperative self-starters. These are the qualities that employers are now asserting they want from graduates entering the workforce. They do not want passive rote-learners with neat hand-writing.
Be aware that Aboriginal pedagogies may vary from place to place and in different cultural activities. For example, some communities may place less emphasis on group yarns and more emphasis on deep listening. Also, pedagogies associated with learning traditional Law business will always be far less participatory or democratic than ways of learning associated with mundane knowledge.
8ways should not be seen as a universal Indigenous knowledge framework. It is particular to communities from Western New South Wales.
8ways is not a "program" to implement in a school. It is a paradigm and a model framework to help educators engage with community to produce a local model for learning that all school stakeholders can own, share and be proud of together.
This paradigm is supportive of including cultural items in curriculum, as long is these items are treated with the same respect as the rest of the curriculum. They should be assessed and they should be approached with the same high expectations and intellectual rigour as the mainstream curriculum items. Culture should not be trivialised as childish, fun or extra-curricular.
When we approach a cultural group, we seek the highest knowledge and strongest values - this is how we approach mainstream education research. We would ask that others approach our culture in the same way, and seek the best knowledge and values we have to offer, rather than highlighting conflicts and deficits. This is a more productive approach for all concerned. We build on strengths, rather than flogging away at areas of weakness.