EdFounds Scenario: Jane

Jane’s experience as a new teacher in a rural/remote community raises a number of complex issues that may be better understood within the context of the history and philosophy of education.

There is a notable gap between the educational outcomes in rural/remote communities and those in urban centres, evidenced by regional differences in completion and retention rates as well as participation in tertiary education (HREOC, 2000).  Challenges remain to providing the kind of basic education to young people in these communities that would fulfil Australia’s basic obligations under human rights treaties and Australian law (HREOC, 2000).  Rural/remote schools often lack sufficient resources in terms of quality teachers and educational infrastructure and the relatively low number of schools over expansive areas of the Australian outback create accessibility issues for many students.  These issues are amplified further in very remote indigenous communities, where the classroom instruction is rarely in the native language of the students and the curriculum is often not accepted as relevant and/or culturally appropriate (HREOC, 2000).

In addition, historical injustices in the treatment of indigenous communities are a significant issue in remote Australia.  It is important for educators to be mindful of this and to remember the significant role that education had, both directly and indirectly in instituting the policies of the government which attempted to “eliminate the half-caste population through a process of biological assimilation.” (Austin, 2000, p. 61)  Some of the hostility towards the school from the community mentioned in the scenario may derive in part from the legacy of Australian settler-colonialism.

Another contextual element for Jane to acknowledge in this situation is that the priorities and values she grew up with are probably very different to those of the community in which she now works.  A constructivist viewpoint (more specifically, the idea of “anchored instruction” (Duffy, 1996)) argues that learning is “anchored” in a community context.  Jane is from a privileged background with well-educated professional parents.  She had access to good quality education and her parents most likely saw social and economic value in her academic pursuits, expecting her to attend university and enter a profession.  It is important to recognize that her students may not attach the same importance to some aspects of the education that she is helping to provide.  In a rural/remote setting the connections between a high quality education and economic success and better employment opportunities may not be as apparent to students and their families.  Subjects of more obvious and immediate relevance within these communities (e.g. vocational courses) are often unavailable or delivered in a culturally inappropriate manner (HREOC, 2000).

Jane is in a complex and difficult situation where, as a talented new teacher in a remote community, she aspires to be an integral part of the solution to closing the gap in educational outcomes for her rural/remote community, but may find herself perceived as a symbol for current and historical injustices in the provision of education for these communities – in that she is a representative for the school, and comes to the community as an outsider from a privileged urban background.  While Jane has little control over the availability of educational resources in terms of infrastructure and funding, she can play a role in the creation of a more relevant educational experience for the young people in her community.  As a first step in improving this situation, she could attempt to find ways to participate in the local community in meaningful ways.  Following this, she could work to develop a dialogue with the community and encourage its involvement in and support of the school.  McConaghy (2002) argues that the involving the wider community is fundamental to developing positive rural school/community relationships and hence to bettering educational outcomes in these settings.

Bibliography

Austin, T., 2000, “Genocide and schooling in Capricornia: Educating the stolen generation,” History of Education Review, 29 (2), pp. 47-66

Churchill, R. … [et al.], 2011, Teaching: Making a Difference, John Wiley and Sons, Milton

Duffy, T. and Cunningham, D., 1996, “Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction,” Handbook of research for educational communications and technology, 171 (4), pp. 170-198

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 2000, Emerging Themes: National Inquiry into Rural & Remote Education, www.hreoc.gov.au/pdf/human_rights/emerging_themes.pdf — accessed 11 Feb 2011

McConaghy, C.,  2002, Situated pedagogies. Researching quality teaching and learning for rural NSW schools. Occasional Paper, UNE and NSW Department of Education and Training, Armidale

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4 thoughts on “EdFounds Scenario: Jane

  1. This is an interesting reflection on the scenario that Jane finds herself. Evidently, the historical factors and the socioeconomic factors are very much at play in Jane’s scenario. Continuously, the “know your students” message becomes clearer and clearer. Poor Jane seems to be struggling with this, because although she thrived in her practicum and was a high achieving student, she needs to think about the other factors in play.

    I thoroughly agree with your suggestions about Jane’s greater involvement in the community and then bringing that back into the school environment. I think I recall someone in our tutorial referring to remote and rural communities as being “somewhat cliquey” and difficult to engage in, so perhaps one year simply is not long enough for Jane to truly engage in this. I also find it very interesting that you made the assumption that a remote rural community means that it must have a high Indigenous population. Although this is probably a fair assumption to make, it is important to remember that the word used in the scenario to describe the community is “disadvantaged”. Is this the actual state of the community, or is this the term used by Jane to describe it? Does it directly correlate to a high Indigenous population? This could mean very different things to different people and thus could skew our interpretation of the scenario as a whole.

    Being well aware that you couldn’t possibly cram everything into your post, I would have been interested to read more about your ideas on what you think Jane’s teaching philosophy is with regards to the categories outlined by Ornstein et al. (2011). I know that the scenario is a little vague at this point, but I think that we could maybe speculate that Jane might be taking a rather perrenialist or essentialist approach to her teaching. A shift in her philosophical standing to consider a more individualised approach to education, such as progressivism, might be the key to engaging her classes.

    Ornstein, A.C. et al (2011). Philosophical Roots of Education (Ch. 6). In Foundations of Education (pp.165-205). Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

  2. Josh What a good beginning, you have approached this just as I would have hope.You may want to think about the type of curriculum taught in the school and the relationship it has to what the community/is values. Similarly, how and why did these schools come about? the school community stuff is spot on!

  3. The post above analyses the same scenario that I considered (Jane) for my posting (http://robeywankenobe.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/education-foundations-philosophy-and-history/). It is very interesting to see how the author has reflected on the same scenario and provided an eloquent analysis of his considerations. Each of our posts share similarities in the consideration of the historical and philosophical context of the community including: the educational gap in remote/rural communities, differences in educational values between remote rural and urban communities, and cultural relevance of education for indigenous Australians. However the author has also addressed a number of interesting issues that I did not consider including that perhaps Jane is a symbol of social injustice or that she could improve the people’s attitudes towards herself and education by increasing her participation in the community.

    In a comment above, Phil suggests that an additional consideration of Jane’s scenario could be the relationship between the values of the community to the type of curriculum that is taught at the school. In my mind the values of Anglo rural communities are based on self-reliance, religious faith, morality, traditional ways of life, and family. In a disadvantaged rural community these are likely to be the values that are reflected in the school’s curriculum. The values of the indigenous Australian’s in the same community may be quite different. A study comparing values of university students showed that indigenous Australian’s place greater emphasis on tradition, conformity, and security and less emphasis on achievement, self-direction, stimulation, hedonism, and benevolence (Fogarty and White 1994, pg.8). If the curriculum at the school does not incorporate these values then it is no wonder that Jane has struggled to engage some of her students. A disengaged students is probably an unhappy student. As many indigenous parents value the happiness of their children over academic progress this may also be the source of some of the hostility she is experiencing (Doecke 2008, pg. 50).

    A very interesting article by Carnes (1995) explains the dangers of ignoring the values of a traditional community in introducing new philosophies of pedagogy. In her experience introducing contemporary educational concepts to a community that is not ready for them will only result in the alienation of the teacher from the community. Jane may have unsuspectingly created a similar situation given her progressive urban values and modern views of education. In order to improve her relationship with the community Jane should amongst other things: gain an understanding and respect of the history of the community, recognise that contemporary educational philosophy may be viewed as a threat to traditional values, and involve the community in education as much as possible (Carnes, p.85).

    References:

    Carnes, W.J. 1995. Unleashing the Kraken: The perils of ignoring community values. Educational Leadership. November 2004. P.84-86.

    Doecke, M. 2008. More than just teaching : educating indigenous young people from remote communities. Teacher; n.188 p.48-51; February.

    Fogarty, G., & White, C. (1994). Difference between values of Australian Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal students. Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology, 25 (3), p394-408.

  4. Pingback: Ed Foundations response to posts | robeywankenobe

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