AARE Symposium : The Culturally Nourishing Schooling Project
Dr Keiko Bostwick (UNSW), Associate Professor Kevin Lowe (UNSW), Dr. Greg Vass (Griffith), Professor Annette Woods (QUT), Dr. David Coombs (UNSW), Mrs. Candace Kruger, Dr. Tracy Durksen (UNSW), Dr. Rose Amazan (UNSW), Professor Andrew Martin (UNSW)
It was a full house for this symposium which shared progress and initial insights from the first year of the Culturally Nourishing Schooling (CNS) project – an ambitious, collaborative school reform project involving researchers across a range of institutions with a focus on improving schooling for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through deepened connections between schools and First Nations families, educators, and Communities.
Associate Professor Kevin Lowe commenced the symposium by outlining the impetus behind the Culturally Nourishing Schooling Project, drawing together findings from recent Australian research to argue for the establishment of a new model of schooling for Aboriginal Students and Communities. Lowe shared the foundational conceptual underpinnings of the Culturally Nourishing Schooling program – Learning from Country, curriculum workshops, professional learning conversations, culturally nourishing pedagogies and cultural mentoring. Lowe shared how these five integrated, Indigenous and critically informed strategies interlock in a holistic professional learning program to support a whole-school approach to the education of Indigenous students.
Dr Greg Vass then shared insights from the intensive two-day curriculum workshops for CNS participants in which teachers work with notions Learning from Country and apply different analytical frameworks in their curriculum work. Participants shared how the workshops developed greater critical consciousness and supported teachers to move beyond tokenism in their practice to develop deep and purposeful reflection on knowledge and their own influence. The workshops represented a hopeful, energising and positive influence for the teachers.
Paper 3 in the symposium from Professor Annette Woods shared findings from the first culturally nourishing pedagogical cycles undertaken by teachers across eight public schools in New South Wales. This model of locally-designed, research-supported professional learning was designed to engage educators and researchers alongside community educators and Cultural Mentors to shift the relations of pedagogy and curriculum in classrooms.
Dr Tracy L. Durksen and Dr Rose Amazan then shared another dimension of the CNS project – the use of professional conversations to develop a common language and build a cultural body of knowledge within a Community of Practice amongst researchers and participants. The conversations highlighted the importance of relationality in designing and implementing professional learning with the goal of improving schooling for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in ways that are sustainable for communities in the longer term.
Finally, the symposium concluded with Dr Keiko Bostwick exploring quantitative research on teachers’ self-efficacy for teaching First Nations perspectives and curriculum in their classrooms. Findings from this research demonstrate that participant CNS teachers tended to report significantly higher self-efficacy beliefs for teaching First Nations perspectives than non-CNS teachers within the same schools – demonstrating the exciting potential of the CNS model to influence practice and schooling in the long term.
Discussant Professor Bob Lingard drew together the presentations in his final reflection – noting that the idea of ‘nourishing’ means the promotion of growth, health and conditions for flourishing. Professor Lingard noted the capacity and potential of the CNS model for the future – in forging powerful relationships between schools, researchers, communities and families in ways that make a meaningful difference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students.