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Thu, 1 Jan 2015

Indigenous students help identify an “effective teacher”

Indigenous students and their communities are helping determine their most effective teachers and why they are effective in a new study by JCU researchers.

Indigenous students help identify an “effective teacher”

First published July 26, 2013

Indigenous students and their communities are helping determine their most effective teachers and why they are effective in a new study by James Cook University researchers.

Project leader Associate Professor Brian Lewthwaite said that the study addressed a critical need for an understanding of ‘quality’ teaching from the perspective of aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their parents.

The Federal Government has awarded $150,000 to the JCU team, as part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grant project, to be conducted in partnership with the Catholic Education Office in the Diocese of Townsville.

The project, Responding to Indigenous students’ and their communities’ voiced experiences regarding effective teaching practices: a catholic education initiative, will be funded for four years from this year.

The research team is made up on Associate Professor Lewthwaite, Dr Helen Boon, Adjunct Associate Professor Barry Osborne, all from JCU’s School of Education, Catholic Education CEO Dr Cathy Day and PhD students Lyn Nichols and Josephine Bourne.

Associate Professor Lewthwaite said the project would identify the actions of effective teachers through comments from Indigenous students and community members and their teachers.

“Using this information and the literature on culturally located practices, the project will determine the impact of these actions on educational outcomes,” he said.

“This project focuses on addressing the essential need for Australian-based empirically-grounded Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, or CRP, research on teaching practices consistent with the voiced concerns of Indigenous students and the communities they represent.

“Although there is much ‘generalisable’ information on effective practice, there is little known from a student’s perspective what influences their learning.”

Similar studies have been and were currently being conducted overseas and are influencing teacher education and induction processes, Associate Professor Lewthwaite said.

“Paralleling consequentially similar work in Canada and New Zealand, the study will tease out and test facets of quality teaching that are salient to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students for the purpose of improving achievement outcomes for Indigenous students and informing teaching and teacher education.”

Associate Professor Lewthwaite said that it was his experience that although we know much about ‘effective’ teaching generally, there are practices that need to be adjusted or emphasized to support Indigenous student learning.

“It’s not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ but it is being aware of general patterns that can be more prominent and frequent in a teacher’s practice,” he said.

“This may reflect in not simply adjusting the content of a curriculum, but more importantly adjusting, for example, the strategies that influence learning and the communication patterns of classrooms.

“Using this information and the literature on culturally located practices, the study determines through working with teachers the impact of these actions, both qualitatively and quantitatively, on educational outcomes.”

The Linkage Projects scheme provides funding to eligible organisations to support research and development projects which are collaborative between higher education researchers and other parts of the national innovation system, which are undertaken to acquire new knowledge, and which involve risk or innovation.


Brian Lewthwaite is an Associate Professor in the area of science education, professional practices and curriculum. He has a history of engaging with Indigenous communities in working towards their goals for education realized, especially in regards to the classroom practices of teachers.

Helen Boon is a Senior Lecturer in the areas of educational psychology, special needs and behaviour management. She has a strong research interest in climate change and the intersection of ethics, climate change and adaptation to climate change.

For interviews, Associate Professor Lewthwaite can be contacted on (07) 4781 6510.

JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175