What form(s) of pedagogy are necessary for increasing the engagement of Aboriginal school students?

Michael Joseph Donovan

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis was developed on the basis of Aboriginal educational practices that have been acknowledged in the field as best practice when engaging Aboriginal school-age students in their education. Within my history of engaging with Aboriginal school-age students and preparing pre-service teachers to work with Aboriginal students I have consistently supported many of the Aboriginal pedagogical theorists’ understandings of what stands for best practice when working with Aboriginal students. Some of these pedagogical understandings came as standard pedagogical practices as an Aboriginal person working with younger Aboriginal students. The recognition of these standard best pedagogical practices came from my working with Aboriginal students in a primary school setting as an Aboriginal Educational Assistant (AEA) and were later refined through exposure to other educational professionals and through my own studies as a teacher which I undertook whilst working as an AEA. I entered higher education as an academic in 1996 and started teaching pre-service teachers about working with Aboriginal students in 1997; this is a role I have continued to the present date. During this time I have extended my reading and my professional networks to include many of the authors who have developed the foundational understandings of what is considered best practice when working on the engagement of Aboriginal students in their schools. Whilst examining the existing research, I noted that many of these studies had been conducted on a small scale. The majority of them included single class or school samples, with some involving only teachers and administrative staff who were directly interviewed about which practices most effectively engage Aboriginal students in their schooling. There has been a more recent change in the approach to this process with Aboriginal parents now being interviewed about what they believe is best for their children. But, to date, there have been very limited research-based inquiries that have targeted Aboriginal students as the primary source of inquiry in gaining an understanding of what best engages Aboriginal school-age students in their schooling. This is where my research study fits within the current literature: it examines which form(s) of pedagogy are necessary for increasing the engagement of Aboriginal school students. I have used research practices that are grounded within Aboriginal cultural understandings that consider a culturally safe inquiry process and targeted school-age Aboriginal students from a variety of social, economic, geographical, and cultural settings and asked them what best engages them in their schooling. This study uses the Aboriginal students’ standpoint and understandings as the primary point of reference to ascertain which practices are most effective in engaging Aboriginal students.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Newcastle
  • Ladwig, James, Supervisor, External person
  • Gore, Jenny, Supervisor, External person
Award date18 Oct 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Aboriginal education
  • Aboriginal pedagogy
  • school-age students
  • Aboriginal voice
  • quality teaching
  • Indigenous education
  • pedagogy
  • Aboriginal standpoint


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