Reframing Indigenous Education Pedagogies

September 13, 2023
Dr. Kevin Lowe (left) and Dr. Greg Vass (right).

On Monday, September 11, 2023, Australian academics, Dr. Kevin Lowe from the University of New South Wales, and Dr. Greg Vass from Griffith University came to the Faculty of Education to present their research paper and engage in a discussion about creating a new pedagogic framework for teachers in Indigenous education.

This new framework is delivered through the Culturally Nourishing Schooling (CNS) project, a collaborative research endeavour involving four leading Australian universities, eight schools, and local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities.

Dr. Kevin Lowe specializes in policy and educational attainment for Aboriginal students, and he spearheads the Culturally Nourishing Schooling program (CNS) to provide support to Aboriginal families and students. Dr. Greg Vass' research focuses on the cultural dynamics of schooling and the formation of knowledge-making practices that influence teacher and learner identities in the classroom.

The Faculty of Education had an opportunity to engage in a conversation with Dr. Lowe to gain deeper insights into the CNS project.

Q: What were your expectations (if any) for your talk at SFU? 

A: Our overarching expectation for the series of presentations was to be able to enter some deeper conversations about the many common issues that we feel affect the educational experiences and success of First Nations students. Greg and I looked forward to presenting the investigation of the existing curriculum and how it was structured to impede the engagement and learning of Indigenous students. Additionally, we discussed the project's impact on assisting teachers and school administrators in re-orientating their practices and policies.  

Q: Could you please give us a few insights into the Culturally Nourishing Schooling (CNS) Program?

A: The CNS project aims to work comprehensively within schools, fostering meaningful interactions with students, their families, and the broader community. It operates concurrently with school leaders, teachers, Aboriginal staff, families, and community elders to transform the dynamic between local schools and Aboriginal students.

The project team coordinates efforts throughout each school term, engaging teachers in gaining a deeper understanding of local communities, their histories, cultural perspectives, and educational aspirations for their children. Concurrently, the research team collaborates with project staff to collect data, enabling us to gauge the impact of various program components and adjust based on local conditions. 

Q: In the spirit of relational pedagogies, do you have a teacher from your own past who had an unusual or unique teaching style that left an impression on you?

A: Greg and I discussed this, and we concurred that [our] schooling was characterized by teachers employing traditional, often ineffective methods like Socratic instruction. Schools were structured for curriculum transmission rather than fostering meaningful relationships between students and teachers. We found that influential teachers tended to emerge in our later years of schooling.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring educators who are passionate about fostering inclusivity and cultural understanding in their classrooms?

A: This is a challenging question. On one level, we talk to our initial teacher educators about the qualities of relational pedagogy and provide them with the skills to ask challenging questions of curriculum and professional practice. We also open them to the possibilities of developing longer-term relationships between themselves, students, and their families. At the same time, we look to work with students so they can understand why schooling has been constructed to develop certain outcomes that are often against the interest of marginalized students.

Missed the talk? Dive into the CNS pedagogy by checking out their research paper, "Reframing a relational pedagogy to re-orient teachers’ classroom practices".

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