Thursday, May 24, 2012

#fslt12 Reflective Writing

I feel that it is important that a number of points are understood before the following response is read:
  1. As my Introduction of Self indicates I come from a strong English heritage, yet my genealogy goes back almost 200 years in Australia.
  2. Since visiting Lajamanu in 2009 I have found myself questioning many assumptions underlying my undestanding of Indigenous cultures and my own English culture. A lot of what I write now looks at that space that I find myself in, between the two cultures in Australia.
  3. I see a strong correlation between MOOCs and Indigenous Ways of Learning.

Metaphors of two cultures of learning

Below are two different metaphorical views of knowledge and learning that will inform my response to the Reflective Writing activity in the First Steps into Teaching and Learning 2012 MOOC. The pyramid symbolises the Western view of knowledge, where knowledge is an edifice which is built brick by brick and stored as a separate place. Once built it becomes difficult to traverse. The aim of Western education is to collect building blocks with the goal of building a personal pyramid. The 8 Aboriginal Ways Ways of Learning diagram represents Aboriginal ways of learning where knowledge is continuously built and reshaped through interaction with others. These types of designs can be drawn in the dirt with fingers or a stick. It also views knowledge as a landscape that can be traversed and where context is important to understanding.

8  Aboriginal Ways of Learning - Yunkaporta 2009

Like much of Western educational symbols the UK Professional Standards Framework 2011 uses a triangle to symbolise a solid edifice that is meant to be long lasting. There are arrows symbolising links between the three dimensions but it seems to indicate that it is from a base of Core Knowledge and Professional Values that Area of Activities is built. Although it would be possible to analyse all three dimensions using the 8 Ways model, this reflection will focus on the dimension of Professional Values.

V1 Respect individual learners and diverse learning communities

Overall, respect for learners and their communities starts with a belief that there are many valid ways to view and interpret the world around us, that no single worldview is superior or inferior to other worldviews. The 8 Ways element of Story Sharing is the place for building respect for learners and their communities by building understanding of the different worldviews present in the place of learning. One way of achieving this is through introduction:
The protocol for introducing one's self to other Indigenous people is to provide information about one's cultural location, so that connection can be made on political, cultural and social grounds and relations established (Moreton-Robinson, 2000. Quoted in Martin, 2008.)
The above protocol for introducing one's self is much easier to achieve in an online environment than in a lecture hall. An online forum can allow space to be given for students and teachers alike to share stories to attain an understanding of each other's background. The lecture hall only gives this opportunity to the lecturer, creating a distance between the learner and the lecturer's knowledge from the outset. The opportunity to share stories online can spread beyond the forum to blogs and their ensuing comments, and social media tools.

Respecting diverse learning communities has the problem of either inviting the learner into the pyramid or of imposing the culture of the pyramid onto another culture. Traditional learning involves being indoctrinated into the ways of the dominant culture (Gramsci, 1971). The learning is a one-way transmission from expert to novice and the learning involves more than the transfer of ways of doing things, it also involves a change in the ways of being. This method of teaching poses problems for communities that are trying to preserve their culture. A way to overcome this problem involves the teacher taking a different stance in relation to the learning. By making links with the community on a basis of equality, the teacher can explain how they do things, leaving the community to integrate the new knowledge into their ways of doing things. The teacher also takes away what the community has taught them to integrate back into the pyramid.

V2 Promote participation in higher education and equality of opportunity of learners

This point seems to imply that higher education is something that someone enters, much like entering a pyramid and that the doors to the pyramid should be open for all to enter and be transformed. There does not seem to be a recognition of the part that the communities mentioned in V1 have to play in the development of human knowledge. It is almost like the point is saying, "Promote the imposition of higher education on communities equally." The point would be better worded to fit in with Indigenous Ways by saying, "Promote links between communities and higher education to better foster the development of human knowledge."

V3 Use evidence-informed approaches and the outcomes from research, scholarship and continuing professional development

My teaching has always been informed from these three areas but it also involves my own experience. I come to education with a range of experiences, both as a teacher and before teaching, which are my own. Although these experiences fall outside the purview of research and scholarship, they are informed by research and act as a lens through which I view any research I come across, and they form a large part of my continuing professional development.

MOOCs are a good example of learning practice that can take place outside of the pyramid. By accessing open resources and interacting with a range of teachers and researchers from around the world, I am able to use the outcomes from research and scholarship without having to subscribe to a certain way of seeing the world in order to attain recognition for my learning.

V4 Acknowledge the wider context in which higher education operates recognising the implications for professional practice

Living in Australia involves coming to terms with its Indigenous history. The biggest difficulty in doing this is the concept of progress and where this places Indigenous culture in the mind of teachers (Langton, 1993). The idea of progress presupposes the leaving behind a way of doing things because these ways are primitive or backward. This presupposition leads to a disrespect and dismissal of Indigenous culture, leaving the culture out of the conversation about human knowledge. Dismissing the culture of a student means dismissing the student, leaving them isolated from the learning. I believe there is a need for a deeper understanding and respect for Indigenous cultures in Australian higher education and professional practice.


Gramsci, Antonio. (1971). Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Edited and translated by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith. International Publishers  New York.

Langton, M. (1993). Well I heard it on the Radio and I saw it on the Television ...". Woolloomooloo, NSW, Australia: Australian Film Commission. Accessed 23/5/2012.

Martin, Karen L. (2008). Please knock before you enter: Aboriginal regulation of Outsiders and the implications for researchers. Post Pressed. Teneriffe, Qld.

Yunkaporta, Tyson. (2009). Aboriginal pedagogies at the cultural interface. PhD thesis, James Cook University. Accessed 19/5/2012. 


  1. I see a number of parallels here to teaching in rural NM where classes can have a fair number of indigenous students (many preferring Indian to Native American ). Also many if not most self-identifying as "Spanish" are and usually admit to being part or mostly native.

  2. Hi Allan - have you come across Etienne Wenger's work on landscapes of practice. It seems to me that it would be relevant to your work.

  3. Sorry to post as anonymous - but for some reason your blog doesn't like my url. Here is a recording of Etienne talking about landscapes of practice.
    Jenny Mackness

  4. the url =
    Getting there :-)

  5. Hi Alan,

    I liked the metaphor of the pyramid and the model of the 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning!

    I would be very much interested in learning more about the cultural differences. By the way, may I ask if your skin name means something?


    1. Hi Eleni

      The skin name doesn't have a meaning as such. It is used to place people in relation to everything else. It is one of 8 male skin names. I have no further knowledge than that I'm afraid.

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