Listening to pictures looking for voices: revealing a Yolngu assistant teacher narrative

Walta, C 2014, Listening to pictures looking for voices: revealing a Yolngu assistant teacher narrative, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Education, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Listening to pictures looking for voices: revealing a Yolngu assistant teacher narrative
Author(s) Walta, C
Year 2014
Abstract In the majority of remote Arnhem Land schools in the Northern Territory of Australia, non-Aboriginal teachers, supported by local Aboriginal assistants, deliver the National Australian Curriculum. The language of instruction is English and Aboriginal assistant teachers provide first language support. Long-term research as well as personal experience observing cultural and classroom dynamics in remote areas have made clearer the obstacles to delivering curriculum objectives and effective uptake by Aboriginal students. The study developed a tool to capture the lived experience of assistant teachers, who are seen as essential in facilitating effective education delivery in remote, bilingual communities. I have called the tool, Listening to Pictures Looking for Voices (LPLV). It was derived from adaptations of: Withers’ (2006) Interactive Drawing Therapy; a feminist understanding of listening (Gilligan et al., 2003); a drawing taxonomy proposed by Farthing (2010), a visual grammar developed by Kress and van Leeuwen (2006); and a rhetorical analysis conceived of by Burke (1969). This study follows an ethnographic approach. 77 drawings were composed by 11 Aboriginal assistant teachers from two remote locations: Galiwin’ku, a mixed clan community and Mäpuru, a single clan homeland community. Drawings were done during six 45-minute sessions each beginning with a different starting cue. The analysis looked at five representative cases, three from Galiwin’ku and two from Mäpuru as well as the drawing set as a whole. The analysis used a three-step process: firstly, isolating elements within individual drawings; secondly, describing visual and rhetorical aspects; and thirdly, interpreting themes woven through drawings.

Further analysis looked at commonality in narratives from both communities. A mapping technique allowed an examination of the individual’s drawings and facilitated three different analyses for group voices. The first being the strongest voices, followed by general voices distinguishing four themes encompassing: describing how we live; defining what it is to be educated; suggesting the way things ought to be; and reflecting on the Project. The third analysis looked at the responses to drawing cues. These analyses reveal that Aboriginal assistant teachers in both communities want schooling to incorporate first language and to be closely connected to the nurturance of traditional ways and contemporary clan lives.A major and exciting outcome of this study is a new methodology. The LPLV approach enables listening in intercultural, linguistically complex contexts. The findings highlighted in this thesis offer new insights into prerequisite understanding for education providers in remote contexts in particular, and for policy makers and others working in remote Aboriginal contexts. The ongoing, below average education outcomes in remote schools highlights the need to listen to Aboriginals working in remote schools, to work with education providers in establishing ways of changing how education standards and delivery should be measured and achieved.

Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Education
Keyword(s) Aboriginal
Aboriginal languages
Aboriginal teachers
assistant teachers
non Aboriginal teachers
remote community
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Created: Fri, 31 Oct 2014, 10:29:25 EST by Denise Paciocco
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