Best Practice Overview

The 8 Ways are about using Aboriginal perspectives in your teaching methods, rather than your teaching content. But this doesn't mean you should eliminate cultural content - you can still do this, but you should take the time to ensure integrity and relevance. Use the 8 ways framework for this. Currently most Aboriginal content is tokenistic, separated from the core content and treated as an interesting or fun activity. This only marginalises Aboriginal learners further from mainstream education.

For example, a biology unit on emu habitat might include an "Aboriginal myth" lesson with an emu story. This doesn't include our Aboriginal students - instead it excludes them, with cultural knowledge being shown to have no bearing on the serious business of science. But with a little extra effort, you could create content that is truly inclusive.



For example, here's a picture of the emu in the milky way. If you are working deeply with local community to build meaningful Aboriginal content, you might find complex astronomical and seasonal knowledge relating to the "myth" you were previously planning to use for your fun lesson in the emu habitat unit. You might find knowledge about how the position of this emu in the stars determines breeding times and signifies seasonal changes, indicating flowering and fruiting times of plants in the emu's habitat. You might find rules for group behaviour in the Dreaming stories that can inform your class rules. You might create a seasonal calendar and map that informs the timing of your classroom activities like excursions and prac lessons. You might go off the beaten track for information that proves to be linked to the central concepts of your unit, like looking to the stars to inform your emu breeding cycle project.

In this way you are working with the 8 ways. You're starting with Story, Community Links and Land Links, and the rest emerge from there.

Or you could ignore all that rich content and just study for the test and bribe the students with emu sausages. Distract them with an emu "legend" and hope for the best. Ha. If you're planning to do that, you'd be better off leaving out your "indigenised" content completely, as it will do more harm than good.



What about these bundis here? They're nice and "cultural". Could they be included in a lesson? Sure, as long as they were treated with the same respect and integrity that they were made with. These can't just be part of an extra "cultural" lesson with no link to deeper knowledge of the place, stories and protocols that were part of their making. And if they don't link to the core mainstream content in a meaningful way, then really they shouldn't be touched. It's not enough to say "these were used for hunting and fighting." That's no good. These are positioned in an economy as well as a culture - so it's better to see them explored in a subject on commerce than a history lesson on "primitive survival techniques". There is deep knowledge in cultural items, so if you're using them for content, then dig deep or not at all.

Maybe these things are prohibited items for some of the Aboriginal girls in your class. Do you know for sure? You need to do a lot of consultation and learning and planning with local people before you use specific cultural knowledge. This process is important and should be pursued, but it takes a long time and so is impossible to do every day at the level of content. However, Aboriginal ways of learning can be used every day, with any content whatsoever.

When you do use Aboriginal content, make sure you dig deeper, find the relevance and advanced applications of the knowledge and values that lie behind the cultural items you are including. For example:

Below is one of the didjeridoo creation stories any person can find on the internet. This is the most common version on the web. Most teachers include a Dreaming Story (often taken from the web) as a token bit of culture for students to read, a bit of extra content for Aboriginal perspective. But you might go further... You might ask yourself - What process could be drawn from the following story, for students to apply to a classroom project? Ecological protocol and protocols of community sharing and responsibility would be part of that process. You might notice that it was this hero ancestor’s following of ecological protocol that led to his initial discovery. It was his following of community sharing protocol that then made his invention a success. 



Below is a picture of a bundi being used by a student as part of a Design and Technology project. He had designed a new kind of bundi specifically for fishing, containing an entire fishing kit. He also developed a marketing plan and mass-manufacture process for his product. So the bundi was central to his assessment and higher order thinking, not just a fun extra lesson. Cultural knowledge also informed other aspects of the deep knowledge. For example, the class backward-mapped through the story of an Aboriginal man who had designed and mass-manufactured a new kind of shield 300 years ago, and from this exercise the class developed a procedural text showing the steps they needed to follow to conceive, design, manufacture and distribute a new invention.



One thing you can do in your school is an Aboriginal community profile display or space, working through the 8 elements in this framework. In your display you can include:

Story - Local Dreaming and oral history stories - written and even painted or drawn.
Learning Maps - Maps of places and sites
Non-verbal - hand-made objects and photos of cultural practices. Maybe even pictures showing examples of local gestures.
Symbol/Image - local paintings, pictures, symbols, logos of Aboriginal organisations etc.
Land Links - photos or real samples of plants, animals etc. Photos of significant places.
Non-linear - Information and images of a cross-cultural innovation or program (e.g. Indigenous scouts, cultural website)
Deconstruct/Reconstruct - whole-to-part breakdown of community - town, then groups, then families, then key individuals.
Community Links - Database or chart showing different community knowledge sets and who owns them (local knowledge contacts).