Seeding Success in Indigenous Australian Higher Education: Volume 14

Subject:

Table of contents

(21 chapters)
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Purpose

This chapter critically analyses the current participation of Indigenous Australian students in higher education and identifies new directions for seeding success and enabling Indigenous students to flourish in higher education contexts.

Methodology

Statistical reports, government reports and the scholarly literature were analysed to elucidate the nature of participation of Indigenous students in higher education, identify strategies that are succeeding, identify issues that need addressing and explicate potentially potent ways forward.

Findings

The findings have important implications for theory, research and practice. The results of this study demonstrate, that while increasing numbers of Indigenous Australian students are accessing higher education, they still are not participating at a rate commensurate with their representation in the Australian population. The findings also suggest new ways to enable Indigenous Australians to not only succeed in higher education, but flourish.

Research implications

The findings imply that more needs to be done to seed success in increasing the numbers of Indigenous Australian students in higher education to be representative of the population and ensuring participation in higher education enables Indigenous students to succeed and flourish. The findings also imply that there is a dire need for further research to identify key drivers of success.

Implications

The study supports the need for increasing the number of Indigenous Australians participating in higher education and enhancing higher education strategies to enable Indigenous students to succeed and flourish.

Social implications

Enhancing the participation of Indigenous students in higher education internationally can help to contribute to the well-being of individuals, Indigenous communities and nations.

Originality/value

This chapter provides an up to date analysis of the nature of Indigenous Australian participation in higher education and identifies potentially potent new ways forward to seed success that have international implications.

Purpose

Emerging discourses focusing on the social, emotional, educational, and economic disadvantages identified for Australia’s First Peoples (when compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts) are becoming increasingly dissociated with an understanding of the interplay between historical and current trends in racism. In addition, it may be argued that the very construction of Western perspectives of Indigenous identity (as opposed to identities) may be deeply entwined within the undertones of the interplay between epistemological racism, and the emergence of new racism today.

Methodology

This chapter shall review a substantial portion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educational research, with a particular emphasis on the acknowledgment of the impact of racism on the educational outcomes (and other life outcomes) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with a focus on higher education.

Findings

This review has found that while there is evidence emerging toward the engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in all forms of education, there is also considerable resistance to targeted efforts to reduce the inequities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and all Australians (especially within the university sector). It is argued this resistance, both at the student and curriculum level, is clear evidence of preexisting epistemological mentalities and racism.

Implications

The implications of this review suggest that greater effort needs to be placed in recognizing unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences and perspectives, not only at the student level, but such perspectives need to be imbedded throughout the whole university environment.

Purpose

Aboriginal students experience disproportionate academic disadvantage at school. It may be that a capacity to effectively deal with academic setback and challenge (academic buoyancy) can reduce the incidence of academic adversity. To the extent that this is the case, academic buoyancy may also be associated with positive educational intentions. This study explores the role of academic buoyancy in Aboriginal students’ post-school educational intentions.

Methodology/approach

The survey-based study comprises Aboriginal (N = 350) and non-Aboriginal (N = 592) high school students in Australia.

Findings

Academic buoyancy yielded larger effect sizes for Aboriginal than non-Aboriginal students’ educational intentions – particularly in senior high school when educational intentions are most likely to translate into post-school educational behaviour.

Social and practical implications

Post-school education is one pathway providing access to social opportunity. Any thorough consideration of students’ passage into and through post-school education must first consider the bases of students’ academic plans and, by implication, their decision to pursue further study. Identifying factors such as academic buoyancy in this process provides some specific direction for practice and policy aimed at optimizing Aboriginal students’ academic and non-academic development.

Originality/value of chapter

Academic buoyancy is a recently proposed construct in the psycho-educational literature and has not been investigated among Aboriginal student populations. Its role in relation to post-school educational intentions is also a novel empirical contribution for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students alike.

Purpose

The aims of this study were (1) to examine the relationships among achievement goals, self-concept, learning strategies and self-regulation for post-secondary Indigenous Australian and Native American students and (2) to investigate whether the relationships among these key variables were similar or different for the two groups.

Methodology

Students from the two Indigenous groups answered questionnaires assessing the relevant variables. Structural equation modelling (SEM) was used to analyse the data. Structure-oriented analysis was used to compare the two groups in terms of the strengths of the pathways, while level-oriented analysis was used to compare mean level differences.

Findings

Self-concept was found to positively predict deep learning and self-regulated learning, and these effects were mediated by achievement goals. Students who pursued mastery and social goals had more positive educational outcomes. Both structure and level-oriented differences were found.

Research implications

Drawing on two distinct research traditions – self-concept and achievement goals – this study explored the synergies between these two perspectives and showed how the key constructs drawn from each framework were associated with successful learning.

Practical implications

To improve learning outcomes, interventions may need to target students’ self-concept, mastery-oriented and socially oriented motivations.

Social implications

Supporting Indigenous students in their post-secondary education is an imperative. Psychologists have important insights to offer that can help achieve this noble aim.

Originality/value of the chapter

Research on Indigenous students has mostly adopted a deficiency model. In contrast, this study takes an explicitly positive perspective on Indigenous student success by focusing on the active psychological ingredients that facilitate successful learning.

Purpose

Generally, theory and research investigating the effectiveness of mentoring has offered little resounding evidence to attest to mentoring programmes being a strategic initiative that make a real difference in reducing the educational inequities many minority students endure. In contrast to this existing research base, the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) has often been cited as one of the most successful mentoring initiatives within Australia. It is the purpose of this chapter to examine how AIME may impact on the educational aspirations and school self-concept of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Methodology

A series of multi-group analyses were centred around Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) and structural equation modelling techniques that sought not only to explore the psychometric validity of the measures utilized within this study, but also to identify how the measures may be related after accounting for background variables (e.g. gender, parental education).

Findings

The results found that the measures utilized held strong psychometric properties allowing an increased level of confidence in the measures used and the conclusion that may be drawn from their use in analyses. Overall, the results suggested that AIME is an effective tool for increasing not only the educational aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students but also their levels (and utility) of School Self-concept and School Enjoyment.

Implications

The implications suggest that not only is AIME an essential tool for closing the educational gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal students, but also our understanding of mentoring must be extended well beyond simplistic notions of role-modelling.

Purpose

Whilst there has been some growth in the number of Indigenous Australians completing Higher Degree Research (HDR) over the past decade, the parity rate remains significantly behind that of other domestic Australian students. The bulk of research which investigates strategies to improve Indigenous Higher Education participation and completion tends to focus on undergraduate students, leaving a significant void of knowledge in how the sector can better cater for, and support, Indigenous postgraduate students.

Approach

This chapter proposes a set of strategies to seed the success of Indigenous HDR students. It draws on the findings of three separate studies undertaken during 2006 to 2013 in order to provide a detailed overview of the current challenges Indigenous HDR students regularly face.

Value

It outlines various support mechanisms available to this cohort as well as those that are desired, but not necessarily available. An important component of the chapter is the inclusion of the voices of Indigenous Australians who were undertaking their postgraduate studies at the time they were interviewed, as well as a group of Indigenous Australians who had successfully completed their doctoral degrees. Through generously sharing their postgraduate experiences, participants provided important insight into this area which remains significantly under-investigated.

Purpose

Recent research into the nature and impact of racial discrimination directed at Aboriginal Australian children and youth has revealed how such a stressor can negatively impact upon varying physical health, emotional well-being and education outcomes. Despite the strength of these findings for identifying need for action, such research has been largely limited by either a lack of consideration as to the potentially complex nature of racism targeting Aboriginal Australians or alternatively offering little in identifying sources of resiliency for Aboriginal Australian students. It is the purpose of this investigation to identify the voices of high-achieving Aboriginal Australian post-graduate students with regard to their experiences of racism, how they may have coped with racism and their advice to future generations of Aboriginal youth.

Methodology

A series of in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with seven Aboriginal Australian PhD students within an Australian University. The interviews were designed to capture the perceptions, experiences and coping strategies used when faced with racism. The data was carefully and repeatedly scrutinized for emerging themes that were shared by the majority of participants.

Findings

Numerous themes emerged with issues pertaining to the veracity of racism and conceptualizations of racism across historical/cross-generational, contemporary, verbal, physical, institutional, cultural, political, electronic, personal, reverse/internalized and collective/group dimensions. In addition, the negative impact of racism was identified, but more importantly, a series of interrelated positive coping responses (e.g. externalization of racism, social support) were voiced.

Implications

The implications of these results attest to the need to understand the many faces of racism that may still be experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders today. In addition, the coping strategies identified may be seen as valuable agents of resiliency for future generations of Aboriginal youth.

Purpose

The aim of the research was to gather information about Indigenous and non-Indigenous students’ classroom experiences. This chapter examines what made the classroom environment in this course, Balancing Worldviews, different to other classroom experiences. It was also undertaken for students to provide their standpoints on how safe classroom environments are created for students and lecturers to share their views and perspectives.

Methodology

The study employed a Collaborative Community Participatory Action Research (CCPAR) model. The praxis and sequencing of action requires practical, reflective engagement focused upon solution development, as identified by the collaborative community (Indigenous and non-Indigenous students). Qualitative data was collated via focus groups and individual in-depth interviews with students.

Findings

We learnt through the research Classroom experiences of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students: Building safe engagement by sharing stories that demonstrated a particular theme and situations of the week; the stories were about family, political issues, working experiences. These stories supported student learning and transformed the learning space into a place that was safe for students to share their experiences. This way of learning was acknowledged as personal, non-hierarchical and relational, establishing connections between the learner and sharer of the story.

Value

This research focused on how students’ experience of safety shaped the nature and level of their engagement and their ability to provide peer support. The stories shared by students are indicative of the necessity of growing safer classrooms. The emphasis was on story-telling and knowledge sharing, which is circular and takes time to develop within a group. The focus group discussions established a number of themes that were taken up and explored further in the in-depth interviews.

Practical implications

We believe this research interaction is vital in cultivating an effective progressive evaluation process incorporating students' input (knowledge, experiences and voices), rather than through the systemic university model of student survey that demands a limited response. With the findings of the research we hope to share these experiences with our peers.

Purpose

This research project was an inquiry into the experiences of Aboriginal women who have undertaken higher education degrees as mature-age students. The main focus of this research was to gain an insight as to why mature-age Aboriginal women enrolled in a higher education degrees and why they did not undertake this study straight from school or at a younger age.

Methodology

This chapter is based around the method of narrative inquiry of auto-ethnographical and autobiographical methods.

Findings

This research has found that although there were many differences in the lives of these women. They had different educations, family lives and financial situations. There was, however, one key component and that was their communities and families as well as their responsibilities to those communities and future generations.

Implications

The implications of this review suggest that the future benefits of this research will be that the participants will be able to assist their communities to ensure that all women who wish to attend higher education have the support they need. The participants are now in a position due to their education to develop a further network of mature-age Aboriginal women who they can call on for assistance in their communities by way of information sessions and contacts within the university setting.

The more we, as Aboriginal women, are involved in education, the better our families and communities will be in regards to health. It is my belief that, if we as Aboriginal women can gain a good education we can provide a much better environment for our families and communities. In providing educational opportunities we then provide better employment prospects leading to the advancement of health and wellbeing for our families and communities.

Purpose

Australian Universities have struggled to achieve higher education outcomes for Indigenous students. Rates of retention, attrition and withdrawal characterize the Indigenous higher education participation profile. An emerging Indigenous leadership within the academy provides universities with access to Indigenous standpoints. This chapter promotes the necessity of Indigenous standpoints if universities are to achieve transformation in Indigenous higher education outcomes.

Social and practical implications

The opportunities available to Indigenous Australians to enjoy a quality of life commensurate to non-Indigenous Australians are hampered by disproportionate rates of poor health, education and employment. A higher education qualification positions Indigenous people to access sustainable employment. Improving rates of Indigenous retention, decreasing attrition and increasing the number of graduates can transform current Indigenous experiences of disadvantage. Accessing Indigenous standpoints is integral to universities achieving these results.

Originality/value of chapter

While the concept of Indigenous standpoints has been proposed by other Indigenous scholars, these discussions have not contextualized the operations of this standpoint specifically within the milieu of university administration, management and governance. The intrinsic value of Indigenous standpoints has not gained traction within university executive management and is not readily understood in strategic planning or academic corporate cultures.

Purpose

This chapter outlines the successful community engagement process used by the authors for the Kinship Online project in the context of Indigenous methodological, epistemological, and ethical considerations. It juxtaposes Indigenous and western ways of teaching and research, exploring in greater detail the differences between them. The following chapter builds on and extends Riley, Howard-Wagner, Mooney & Kutay (2013, in press) to delve deeply into the importance of embedding Aboriginal cultural knowledge in curriculum at the university level.

Practical implications

The chapter gives an account of an Office for Learning and Teaching (OLTC) grant to develop Indigenous Online Cultural Teaching and Sharing Resources (the Kinship Online Project). The project is built on an existing face-to-face interactive presentation based on Australian Aboriginal Kinship systems created by Lynette Riley, which is being re-developed as an online cultural education workshop.

Value

A key consideration of the researchers has been Aboriginal community engagement in relation to the design and development of the project. The chapter delves deeply into the importance of embedding Aboriginal cultural knowledge into curriculum at the university level. In doing so, the chapter sets out an Aboriginal community engagement model compared with a western research model which the authors hope will be useful to other researchers who wish to engage in research with Aboriginal people and/or communities.

Purpose

Rural Australian patients continue to receive inadequate medical attention. One potential solution to this is to train Indigenous Australians to become medical doctors and return to their community to serve their people. The study aims to examine whether Indigenous medical students have a stronger intention to practice in underserved communities.

Methodology

A sample of Indigenous (N = 17) and non-Indigenous students (N = 188) from a medical program in Sydney was surveyed about their medical self-concept and motivation. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted, group differences were tested, and correlation patterns were examined.

Findings

CFA found seven distinct factors – three medical self-concepts (affective, cognitive, and cultural competence), one motivation factor, and three work-related variables – intention to serve underserved communities (intention), understanding of Indigenous health (understanding), and work-related anxiety (anxiety). Indigenous medical students were higher in cultural competence, intention, and understanding. Both the affective and cognitive components of medical self-concept were more highly correlated with intention and understanding for Indigenous students than for non-Indigenous students.

Research implications

It is important to examine medical students’ self-concepts as well as their cultural characteristics and strengths that seed success in promoting service to underserved Indigenous communities.

Practical implications

The findings show that Indigenous medical students tended to understand Indigenous health issues better and to be more willing to serve underserved Indigenous communities. By enhancing both the affective and cognitive components of medical self-concepts, the “home-grown” medical education program is more likely to produce medical doctors to serve underserved communities with a good understanding of Indigenous health.

Purpose

This chapter outlines an audit process that led to a group of non-Aboriginal academics, and professional staff embarking on a journey to explore insights into Aboriginal knowledge and culture. It presents a compelling account of the benefits of a project devised by a creative Aboriginal teacher and community arts practitioner, The Embedding Diversity: Towards a Culturally Inclusive Pedagogy.

Findings

The Embedding Diversity project allowed a reflective and process-based deep learning to occur which enabled practical and meaningful Reconciliation to transpire between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff at an Australian University. Within the Faculty of Education and Social Work, staff collaborated with, listened to, and were taught by Aboriginal people in a range of contexts. Through this partnership, training, engagement, and conversations were had that shifted perspectives and changed thinking.

Practical implications

The outcome of this project was a commitment to change and advocacy for cultural competence to embedding stronger and more informed Aboriginal education, Aboriginal Studies Units of Study (subjects), and perspectives in teacher education curriculum. We present this project as it is reflective of the meaningful Reconciliation and educational reform which may be possible in other learning communities.

Purpose

The aim of this chapter is to critically analyse multiple stakeholders’ self-perceptions of the value, nature, success and impact of core Aboriginal Studies subjects in primary teacher education university courses.

Methodology

Participants were drawn from two universities in New South Wales which taught a core Aboriginal Studies subject as part of their primary teacher education degree. The methodology was informed by Yin’s (2003) multiple-case study replication design. This replication presents a picture of the perceptions and events which have impacted on the participants in the study.

Findings

The findings have important implications for theory, research and practice. The results of this study demonstrate that core Aboriginal Studies subjects in primary teacher education courses can make a positive difference in changing the perceptions of many pre-service teachers about Aboriginal people.

Research implications

The purpose of this study was to assemble an evidence-based rationale, which includes the voices of multiple stakeholders, to test the extent to which core Aboriginal Studies subjects in primary teacher education courses are vital to improving educational outcomes for Aboriginal children, advancing reconciliation and creating a more socially just Australian society.

Implications

Undertaking professional training through a core Aboriginal Studies subject builds pre-service teachers’ self-concepts, attitudes, commitment, knowledge and skills, and ability and understandings to teach Aboriginal Studies, incorporate Aboriginal perspectives and to be committed to effectively teaching Aboriginal students.

Social implications

The study supports the need for the inclusion of core Aboriginal Studies subjects in all universities with teacher education courses.

Originality/value of the paper

Research on Indigenous students has mostly adopted a deficiency model. In contrast, this study takes an explicitly positive perspective on Indigenous student success by focusing on the active psychological ingredients that facilitate successful learning.

About the authors

Pages 343-350
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DOI
10.1108/S1479-3644(2013)14
Publication date
2013-11-20
Book series
Diversity in Higher Education
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78190-686-6
eISBN
978-1-78190-687-3
Book series ISSN
1479-3644