QUT students are forging strong connections with Indigenous communities with language and culture a key focus ahead of starting their professional teaching careers, says education researcher Grace O’Brien.
Dr O'Brien, from QUT’s School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, has worked in partnership with First Nations communities in Queensland for much of her 20-years’ teaching experience.
Dr O’Brien says a recent trip to the Eidsvold State School in Wakka Wakka country has provided unique opportunities for some QUT students to solidify their learning and there are plans to try to make the trip an annual event.
As a lecturer in Culture Studies as well as Unit co-ordinator for the Professional Experience for Education Masters’ first year students, Dr O’Brien said by gaining “on the ground experience” students could engage with their learning authentically.
“My understanding is QUT is the only university in Queensland offering opportunities within their education training programs for pre-service teachers to develop the knowledge and skills associated with planning and implementing Indigenous languages programmes in schools,” Dr O’Brien said.
The pre-service teachers joined in Wakka Wakka language classes learning the nicknames of the children who also decorated their faces in celebration of their visit to the school.
Student teacher Zeb Davy said he was honoured to be involved with cultural practices such as observing ochre markings, scar trees and engaging with the local language.
“As a pre-service teacher I hope to integrate the knowledge gained into my practice,” he said.
Mr Davy and six other students were invited to the school, based in the state’s North Burnett region, by award-winning Eidsvold State School Principal Preston Parter, who is well known for his advocacy for Indigenous languages at schools.
Mr Parter’s invitation followed a lecture at QUT about his Indigenous language in schools’ program and other programs that were engaging students in their learning.
He said the group of student teachers camped in the school’s library and had a full day of Indigenous language classes, joining in dancing and learning on Country.
“We took them into the bush and explained the properties of ochre and markings in different language groups,” Mr Parter said.
“They also participated in rich discussions involving planning, direction and future events.”
Mr Parter said teaching students, keen for a genuine experience, would be welcomed at the school.
Dr O’Brien said she hoped the connections made during the trip would be a step toward QUT working directly with Education Queensland to formalise and implement an Indigenous Education languages program for teacher preparation and training programs.
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