In the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, the focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students is evident in only two of the standards:
- 1.4 – Strategies for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and
- 2.4 – Understand and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
In the National School Improvement Tool, Indigenous or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are only mentioned twice, and in the same sentence as ‘students at risk of disengaging from school or requiring individual learning needs’.
The Stronger Smarter Approach (SSA) puts an Indigenous lens across the Standards for Teachers and the National School Improvement Tool. At the Institute, we see transformational change for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students as a different way of thinking about every aspect of the school. It is an inclusive school culture that promotes high expectations for all students. It is quality teaching.
We describe below a few aspects of the standards which come together as ‘quality teaching’ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. These are supported by the Stronger Smarter Approach and the Institute’s professional development programs.
Engaging with colleagues and leading change
Teacher Standard 6.3 – Engage with colleagues and improve practice
The National School Improvement Tool describes the need for schools to have an explicit improvement agenda and a culture that promotes learning. Leading this transformational change for Indigenous education means engaging all staff in the process.
In the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program (SSLP), we explain how educators can use High-Expectations Relationships to implement the professional dialogues needed to bring all staff on this journey.
High-Expectations Relationships build a space of mutual trust and support, with feedback and open exchange of ideas. In this space, with deep reflection on teaching practice, educators can challenge the ‘disabling practices’ of deficit conversations and low expectations, and recognise their own ‘responsibility for change’.
When High-Expectations Relationships are implemented across a school, we see school staff coming together with shared commitment to the school improvement strategy and high aspirations for learning. This is a school culture of innovation and collaborative leadership which builds commitment and optimism amongst staff.
Knowing the students and how they learn
Teacher Standards 1.3, 1.4, 2.4 and 3.1 – strategies for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, promoting reconciliation, and ensuring high expectations
A ‘culture of learning’ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students will only succeed if it incorporates a sense of cultural identity in the classroom. This ‘strong and smart’ classroom is built around High-Expectations Relationships with students.
Knowing the students and how they learn may involve thinking beyond the western values and structures of the education system to understand different cultural identities and linguistic backgrounds. In the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program, participants explore and reflect on personal underlying cultural values and Australia’s attitudes to a range of challenges and issues in Indigenous education. This is a starting point to really understanding our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
When we understand the students and how they learn, we can start to bring in the teaching and learning strategies and culturally responsive curriculum that support a ‘culture of learning.’ This becomes a positive learning environment where students can be proud of their culture and hold a strong sense of belonging and connectedness and belief in their own ability to succeed.
Engaging with parents and communities
Teacher Standards 3.7 and 7.3 – Engaging with parents and caregivers in the educative process
As described by the National School Improvement Tool, a culture of learning also means high levels of trust across the school community. The Stronger Smarter Approach and Metastrategies describe innovative school and staffing models where schools embrace the Indigenous leadership in their school communities.
High-Expectations Relationships provide the strategies to develop collaborative and trusting relationships with families and communities. This provides a space where all cultural groups can have a strong and meaningful involvement in the school. This might be through involvement in school planning, special events, or through classroom activities where parents and community members can play a role in developing and delivering a culturally-responsive curriculum.The Stronger Smarter Leadership Program supports the following AITSL Teacher Standards at the Lead level: 1.3, 1.4, 2.4, 3.1, 3.7, 6.3, 7.3, and 7.4, and the National Professional Standard for Principals. In the program we explore how the Stronger Smarter Approach and Metastrategies support the Teacher Standards.