Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

The Reproduction of Historical Relations in the Crosscultural Classroom at University

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

The Reproduction of Historical Relations in the Crosscultural Classroom at University

Article excerpt

This paper is based on research conducted with indigenous students at a university in the Northern Territory. It examines crosscultural theories of education which explain the problems of teaching and learning in indigenous contexts in terms of the cultural mismatch between the home and school environment These theories position the teacher as the condition of knowledge and learning in so far as he or she is responsible for transmitting the knowledge and skills to students. The teacher's methodology becomes the means through which students learn. But in the context of indigenous education, in positioning indigenous students in relation to a non-indigenous teacher's methodology, crosscultural theories of education unconsciously perpetuate an unequal historical relation in the university classroom. I conclude that good teaching and learning at university are not only a consequence of a good methodology but the product of an unconscious influence of the teacher's sty/e upon the student; the crucial factor that brings the two together is how the pedagogue speaks.

Introduction: Crosscultural theories of indigenous education Over the last 30 years or so, the production of knowledge and learning in indigenous classrooms has been explained historically in terms of the cultural differences between the indigenous students and their non-indigenous teacher. Theorists in crosscultural education have taken the position that students from different cultural backgrounds have different ways of processing and producing knowledge, and they are motivated by a different set of rules. For example, Christie (1984) explained, at the time of his research, that the learning processes at work as Aboriginal children at Milingimbi, Northern Territory grow are determined by the methods of socialisation their people employ and their view of the world. Malin (1989) followed in Christie's footsteps to find that the Aboriginal children's worldview disadvantages them in the classroom, and Fludspith (1996) replicated Malin's methodology to conclude from her research that the social and cultural practices which Aboriginal children learn at home do not fit with the assumptions and expectations of the classroom teacher. In summary, crosscultural theories of education explain the problems of teaching and learning in indigenous contexts in terms of the cultural mismatch between the home and school environment. (1)

Crosscultural theories of teaching and learning also position the teacher as the condition of knowledge and learning in so far as he or she is responsible for transmitting the knowledge and skills to students. The methodology becomes the means through which students learn and so the teachers focus on developing good teaching methods in classrooms containing students from a diversity of backgrounds (e.g. see Eckermann, 1994; Matin, 1998; Rose, Gray, & Cowey, 1999). This paper begins by examining the search for good teaching methodologies in the crosscultural classroom (2) and, in particular, some of the literature is reviewed in crosscultural education, to find out how indigenous students learn these methodologies at university. By investigating how a non-indigenous teacher can account for the unequal power relations in his or her classroom practice, some insight into this dilemma is gained through the two selections of interview data presented in this paper? The data are important not only because they provide practical insights (see below) into learning and teaching in indigenous higher education, they also raise questions which could not be answered by the current theories in crosscultural education, questions which led me to investigate psychoanalytic theories of education, including the work of Britzman (1998) and Salecl (1994).

How can indigenous students learn through a methodology?

Murray (1995), Hudspith (1996), Malin (1998) and Rose et al. (1999) draw on the theories of Vygotsky to show how the student can learn from the teacher in the crosscultural classroom. …

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