The Aboriginal 8 Ways offers many insights into valid pedagogical practices which are often overlooked and underused in westernised classrooms.
Learning starts by understanding an overall concept/topic and the person-environment relationship. This is often done through story telling and having students sharing their stories/knowledge. It also relies on hands-on learning, involving the visual support of things such as “learning maps” – providing a concrete, visual reference point of the learning that is taking place.
Learning is then validated by connecting it to something of relevance to them in their everyday lives (local community uses/purposes/meaning) as well as links back to the land/environment.
Students are then encouraged and supported to investigate the topic by breaking down the broader story/information even further and socially support one another whilst they undertake learning that is appropriate to them (visually, kinaesthetically). This can be where each student has the time to investigate, reflect and test their new knowledge to give it personal meaning and relevance to them.
Students are then encouraged to recreate their own versions of the task, using their original knowledge and the new knowledge they have gained by investigating as both a group (learning community) and also upon personal testing and reflection. And finally, the work is designed to be given back to the group (community). The processes also involve the use of symbols, non-verbal communication and non-linear thinking to encourage higher-order, holistic learning outcomes.
So, how does this fit into learning spaces?
Firstly, it embraces the notion that the classroom is not the be-all-and-end-all of where learning occurs. In fact, this approach specifically requires students (and teachers) to consider and reflect on the implications and uses of their learning beyond the classroom (the community, the environment). Secondly, a variety of learning styles are both embraced and implemented within the classroom. Areas of visual support, areas of verbal interaction, areas for reflection and individual “testing” of information.
Students are encouraged to work collaboratively as they share knowledge and personal stories and begin to breakdown an overall topic into the specific components. Group learning situations are plentiful as the teacher can allow for whole class or small group discussion and sharing at many points of the learning. Co-operative learning is utilised, particularly in the “co-creation” of knowledge (8 Ways, 2015) and in the use of feedback for peers (whether that be verbal or non-verbal) as they consider and reflect on one another’s learning for a common goal but with their own individualised tasks.
Developing a robust Community of Practice (CoP) would certainly be expected following the 8 Ways practices, in particular one that includes and involves learning beyond the classroom, either by physical or perhaps virtual interaction with CoP members outside of the school community.
How does this fit into Curriculum as a learning space?
It would still be possible to deliver the requirements of the curriculum if a teacher chose not to collaborate or cooperate with their peers. However, an abundance of lost opportunities would lay in their wake. Opportunities to enrich their teaching experience by collaborating and sharing with other teachers, mentors and so on. Opportunities to work cooperatively with other educators whereby each teacher has their own individual goals to achieve yet they work together to assist, enhance and reflect on one-another’s learning and personal development.
Utilising the Aboriginal 8 Ways as a teaching practice requires a teacher to interact with not only the curriculum content but with others as well (educators, community members etc). For a teacher to present a lesson via 8 Ways, they themselves are required to at the very least consider their local community – ideally they would be collaborating with them to ensure that the lesson (and task) have local relevance. 8 Ways also models the use of a cooperative learning space each participant is contributing to each other’s learning experience and co-creation of knowledge. Ideally, the teacher would be utilising this as an educational resource for themselves, too.
Further information I found useful:
One of the simplest “check lists”
of how to use this approach also highlights the use of some of the learning spaces we have discussed so far:
“Can you do these things with the topic you have?:
Yarn and tell stories as a way into the learning.
Create a shared image (concrete or visualised) of the pathway the learning is taking.
Use non-verbal methods as well – reflection, demonstration, hands-on practical, etc. Encourage non-verbal systems of feedback from students – gestures, facial cues etc.
Create visual texts as well as print texts (e.g. mind-maps, diagrams etc.)
Locate the knowledge – where it’s from. Connect to country – use natural metaphors from the local landscape to reinforce the learning.
Bring together different cultural viewpoints to create a shared metalanguage of what you’re learning. Students co-create the knowledge. Take a roundabout route to learning outcomes. Innovate, create, exchange, adapt, synthesise.
Model assessment tasks before expecting students to do them. Balance instruction with independent learning.
Always relate content back to local community contexts and find the relevance for the students. Where possible, find ways to make the new knowledge benefit local community through presentations, projects, etc.