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With schools today facing an array of complex challenges and perhaps the crucial issue is to address the educational needs of children who come from culturally and linguistically different backgrounds. In the upcoming years, not only teachers will have many students from diverse cultural backgrounds but many of the students will also have diverse language backgrounds. Therefore teachers require professional development opportunities in many areas to teach these young children effectively.
For most of the past two decades, the main emphasis of the Australian government in terms of improvement strategies for educational setups, has fallen on augmenting the standards of the curriculum; this focus is now falling towards augmenting the standards of teachers and their teaching form. Since the last ten years, teacher education has remained the subject of many overseas governments' report and enquiries. The reports aimed to discuss and outline method through which teacher education could be improved in its initial phase. Quality teaching requires attention as it is more complex issue than curriculum standards.
A direct relation is observed in terms of indigenous student learning and the quality of teaching, thereby making teaching an important element when it comes to the performance of indigenous students in early childhood services and schools. Recent studies undertaken to look at the education of indigenous students illustrated that teachers can speed up the accomplishments in terms of the equality by ensuring that there are persistent high expectations, combined with excellent learning practice and instruction; this can be achieved by focusing on indicators for performance such as numeracy, literacy and attendance.
In successful education reform professional progress has a key part to play. Professional development acts by bridging the gap between experienced and prospective educators, in terms of the current progress and future goals. The teachers will have to look into new aims and challenges in terms of guiding their students in order to achieve the highest standards of learning possible. Good pre-service training for teachers does not prepare teachers for all the challenges they will face through their careers. Both pre-service and in-service teachers require specialized training which help them in understanding and instructing the increasing number of children with different needs and from different socioeconomic and cultural background.
In education, "any improvement must start with improvement of the teachers already in the classroom" (Wu, 1999, p.535). Education professionals can elevate their learning through professional development which helps them to enrich and remediate their knowledge. So an effective professional development program will be more advantageous both for the teacher and students.
The professional development plan intends to sustain and augment teachers' professional growth by implementing a collegially constructed opportunity for learning that consistently supports the strategic goals of the institution. The plan for professional development is meant to create a new career ladder for educators that will do the following amongst others;
Enhance the professionalism of teaching in teaching settings as a career choice.
Promote teachers' retention in education sector.
Offer teachers an attainable incentive for moving up a recognized career ladder and find better financial opportunities in the process.
encourages educators to think outside the box
Indigenous Pedagogies and Learning styles
To date there is considerable progress in improving indigenous edifying successes in Australia, however, the height of the disadvantage is higher in indigenous people. Generally, aboriginal people take efficient learning in the sense that it is something interdependent where the learners learn because of the motivation they feel due to their commitment and obligation to their community. They own and exchange knowledge in terms of responsibilities and rights along with the fact that truth is taken as something relative and subjective. In contrast, learning is theoretical and fragmented for non-aboriginal. Knowledge is commodity for them and they find motivation due to their own personal ambitions.
In Western societies, learning, teaching and knowledge are all fixed into their own compartments which are completely opposite to the manner in which aboriginal learners take knowledge i.e. fluid and de-compartmentalized (Clancy & Simpson, 2002). Mainstream schooling practices do not correspond with the needs or wants of the indigenous people (Santoro & Reid, 2006; Santoro, 2007). Language differences are one aspect that indigenous students face however they are often troubled by the actual daily procedures and expectations of schooling. For example when they are asked to complete a task within family setting, they are not bound by time limits however the school setting is time bound and if they are unable to complete the task in a given time then they may get frustrated resulting in behavioural issues (Clancy & Simpson, 2002).
Galloway (2003) comment on another dimension of learning of indigenous students as indigenous families rely on oral traditions through which they teach young generation, so indigenous students grow up in environment that focus on family relationship and spatial knowledge. On the contrary, the use of written instruction and the privileging of formal literacies in classroom are modeled on a non-indigenous culture learning environment which gives a feeling of 'foreignness' to indigenous students (Galloway, 2003). This feeling of 'foreignness' and/or 'outsiders' do not allow indigenous students to get involved in the processes that shape them as learners. Education professionals who work with indigenous children are facing significant challenge to create feelings of connectedness in indigenous children.
In Australia, the culture and practices of classrooms are built on non-indigenous concepts of communication. For example, direct questioning between teachers and students and students and students is integral part of learning and communication while indigenous students have grown up in an environment where they have often restrictions in regards to with whom and how they should speak. Mostly indigenous people consider direct questioning to be rude and an inappropriate way of gaining information and knowledge (Crozet, 2001). Therefore teachers need to allow indigenous students to willingly share their knowledge rather than demand responses by direct questioning.
Teacher knowledge about indigenous culture
A teacher must have knowledge about indigenous cultures and histories in order to teach effectively to indigenous students. It is believed that indigenous students work well with those teachers who understand and respect their cultures (Johnson & Mancer, 2001). Delpit (1995) asserts "If we do not have some knowledge of children's lives outside the realms of paper-and-pencil work, and even outside their classrooms, then we cannot know their strengths" (p.173).
Teacher Knowledge about language and literacy
Indigenous students often speak Aboriginal English at home rather than Standard Australian English. Disregarding Aboriginal English as valid language form may put indigenous students at the risk of language deficit or speech impediments which will demand for intervention or remediation (Clancy & Simpson, 2002). If a teacher values languages other than Standard Australian English then indigenous students will be feeling more positively about school and will get fully involve in learning (Malcom, 2003). Teachers are required to be acquainted with the patterns and processes of the home languages of indigenous students so that they can more easily make explicit, connections to Standard Australian English (Malcolm, 2003).
Using the profile - in proportion to other developmental aspects
Profile is basically a tool that educators for early childhood can utilize to gauge the numeracy and literature understanding and awareness of indigenous preschool children. The profiling practice helps educators to find out the levels preparedness and progress in particular areas of educating indigenous children.
Children's growth has many facets which are very significant and influence all manner of positive learning. A significant link exists in terms of the cultural and social development of indigenous children, their wellbeing along with their health, in addition to their awareness of numeracy and literacy.
Profile of indigenous children provides an extensive set of data about their start at school. To record their preschool information and report their progress in the relevant focus area of education. As everyday experiences can help outline a singular instance of the manner in which numeracy and literacy outcomes can be mapped out for each child.
Literacy Awareness and Understandings
The literacy practices of young children during their early years at home and community needs to be recognized and valued that provides the basis for the school program. During their time at school, children learn to expand on their mother tongue and further construct concepts and meanings through words thereby learning to effectively communicate important information. They begin by observing the link between shared meaning and personal forms.
A child creates meaning through his/her home language; the home language or mother tongue also acts as a gateway to other languages. Teachers manipulate their students' capacity to send and receive information through oral communication in trying to expand their range of lingual ability along with sustaining the initial phase of their print literacy.
Through following profiling activities educators can find out a child's literacy ability which will support in working out the literacy awareness plan.
Awareness levels of the print literacy they see in their home
â€¢ Discussing experiences in home and community in their cultural language prototype.
â€¢ Portrays and builds stories from their culture such as tapestry, collage.
â€¢ Discussing the meaning of symbols in own cultural artifacts.
â€¢ Communicating and playing with peers (such as sand pit and home corner) in own language.
â€¢ Identifying familiar labels and brand names of goods (e.g. to know the jar/label).
Expressing literacy awareness as see in community
â€¢ Allowing children to interpret individually what gestures and facial expressions mean.
â€¢ Connecting school culture and home culture.
â€¢ Deduces information relating to daily routines and rules and sometimes from different sources.
â€¢ Locating and naming favorite items/places such as Cinema and Town pool etc.
Awareness about printed text variation according to purpose
â€¢ Adjusting speaking tone and pattern according to the context including people.
â€¢ Prefers to write on papers rather than other surfaces.
Awareness about the link between experience, oral language and written text
â€¢ Awareness about the constant nature of print meaning.
â€¢ Portrays and builds symbols and re-read it.
â€¢ Re-telling story from shared book experience and from symbolic picture (e.g. dot art work or other cultural picture).
Knowledge about reading patterns
â€¢ Teaching them that texts are 'read' from left to right and from top to bottom of the lines.
â€¢ Telling a story in 'pretend reading' of a book and pointing to words and telling detailed story through role plays.
â€¢ Starting to employ forms of conventional alphabets symbols.
â€¢ Re-telling story from drawings while maintaining meaning.
Recognition of English/Skin/nickname
â€¢ Showing understanding with different kinds of text
â€¢ Following words on page with finger.
â€¢ Making differentiation between words and sentences.
â€¢ Start to teach them how to read puzzles.
â€¢ Writing and recognizing own name.
Knowledge about writing patterns of English/Skin/nickname
â€¢ Identifying whether a child knows some titles and genres.
â€¢ Applying letter knowledge from own name.
â€¢ Hearing oral sounds of rhymes.
Awareness about use of past experience
â€¢ Re-telling popular rhymes, songs, stories when seen in print.
â€¢ Identifying and using first letters of word.
â€¢ Using the picture to 'guess the story'.
â€¢ Innovation on a popular rhyme.
Numeracy Awareness and Understandings
Children take on ideas of numeracy in unique ways which stem from the community that they originate from during their childhood. This fact can be used as the basis for constructing applications of numeracy. Identifying the level of depth and complexity of young children's understanding is one of the difficulties with this practice. Therefore, educators would find it helpful to communicate with a student's family in order to come to a collaborative solution which will extend children's numeracy skills and their understandings. This relationship enables teachers to determine better the means of understanding that one has due to their place within a cultural group, community or a family.
Within the school setting a child will learning to explore numbers and the development of patterns and symbols while he/she is playing- where they attempt to understand, analyze and respond critically to mathematics in terms of varying social contexts. Similar to literacy, numeracy is constructed on the basis of cultural elements where assessment and program mechanisms are needed for reflection.
The below profiling activities can aid educators to picture a child adequacy relating to numeracy criteria.
Showing understanding of time
â€¢ Role plays utilizing shopping and shopping lists.
â€¢ Recognizing and pointing out daily routines such as school time, home time and feeding time of pets.
â€¢ Show and realize children a sequence of events (e.g. bath time).
â€¢ Taking part in pattern work such as threading shells.
â€¢ Awareness about the times of the year (seasons) - when particular trees bear fruit and cyclones are prevalent.
â€¢ Awareness about sports seasons such as football, cricket, and hockey.
â€¢ Awareness about business hours (e.g. shops, pools, banks and schools) are open to public for specific times.
Showing understanding of measurement
â€¢ Taking part in rhythm and pattering in music
â€¢ Identifying whether a child has understanding of half, full, more than, longer than etc and can use these in context.
â€¢ To look into whether a child can use metric measurement language in context but in exaggerated terms.
Showing understanding of number
â€¢ Talking about self in relation to being a baby, and being at school.
â€¢ Participates in and foresee center-based routines
â€¢ Talks about sequenced events in books, dreamtime stories.
â€¢ showing and discussing about longer, wider, taller in relation to self or objects (e.g. blocks, box construction).
â€¢ Discussing the best fit of materials when involved in art and craft.
â€¢ Using number terms in the context of candles on a birthday cake, and role play with money.
Identifying and using symbols appropriately
â€¢ To look into numbers on birthday cards.
â€¢ Chalk out the use of speed signs.
â€¢ showing hand signals/gestures.
â€¢ Taking part in card games.
â€¢ Identifying the animal tracks they see.
â€¢ Singing the Alphabets song and has understanding that these symbols are for writing words such as their names.
â€¢ Relying on knowledge of local environment and past experience to locate bush tucker and gathering the same food with family members.
Using spatial awareness in different contexts
â€¢ Effective use of position words for explanation or directions "I have left my bag next to the table".
â€¢ Responding appropriately to directions "Stand next to the door" or "walk around the circle".
â€¢ Allowing them to negotiate independently about their local environment without requiring assistance from adults.
Experience based predictions
â€¢ Using local language for comparing height, weight etc.
â€¢ Talks about relative size of things in stories such as characters in cultural stories.
â€¢ Identifying and discussing changes in weather by noticing changes in clouds, drop and rise in temperature and then able to predict onset of rain and seasons changes.
Doing things in group
â€¢ working out family groups according to local kinship system.
â€¢ Taking part effectively in pack-away.
â€¢ Putting on painting smoke clothes on self.
â€¢ To make and play in cubbies.
Purposeful use of art and craft materials
â€¢ Takes part in art work.
â€¢ Self-positioning on mat for group time.
â€¢ Puts effectively artwork/belongings into school bag.
Implications for teachers' practice
The focused areas of professional development will result in a qualitatively better groundwork for instruction, not only in terms of instructing students that come from indigenous backgrounds - even though this is basically the issue at hand - but also in terms of different elements of race and culture and their impact on pedagogical practices and the development of curriculum in schools. The incorporation of aboriginality content into pedagogies and teaching styles needs high level support which is not always forthcoming, so the participating teachers will play proactive role in future policy and program initiatives as will be needing to redress this lack.
At the end of the day, the teachers who would have participated, may perceive as having more knowledge of not only the subject in terms of current issues, pedagogy and history of the aboriginal tribes, but also in terms of having the know-how to instruct indigenous students - as opposed to teachers who did not get the chance to participate. The professional development relating to focused areas will be helpful in terms of aiding teachers in their preparation to collaborate with local indigenous communities and to instruct indigenous students in comparative indigenous studies; hence they will be able to meet the special interests or needs of the indigenous students in a better way.
In addition the participating educators may find the activities that can be helpful for those that do not belong to an indigenous background to comprehend the harmony of the experiences that indigenous people undergo. The participating educators will see the activity as a significant method by which reconciliation can be achieved along with informed citizens. Through these activities the participants will get additional support which will help them to improve students' learning outcomes. The participating teachers will recognize that incorporation of aboriginality content into their teaching is critical irrespective of the presence of aboriginal students in the class. This will ensure the effective transfer of aboriginality into applied context.