11. Utilise personal experience

 In Indigenous teaching across many disciplines, the personal backgrounds and experiences of both teachers and students are often drawn upon to encourage critical reflection.

11.1 Link your own personal experience to the topic

Not every teacher feels comfortable with sharing their own personal experiences and backgrounds with students (see, for example, 1.1.3). For some, however, that sharing is integral to their teaching philosophy. The Approaches below (11.1) reflect a range of views on this quite personal issue.

11.1.1 'Some Indigenous lecturers foreground their personal experiences in their teaching - and I use that sometimes - but I don't make it a focus of my teaching… Generally I try to make a place where students can argue their own positions. By nature I'm a private person. It relates to my own Aboriginality… Having said this, I will talk about some [more personal] things that are useful for them to know, and I'm willing to share that…' (Melbourne)

11.1.2 'My connection to community is critical to how I teach - and that's what we should be promoting. It's my philosophy - and it's how I live it - and then share it.' (UNSW)

11.1.3 'We need more reflexivity as researchers - particularly with white Australians working on Indigenous Australia. I show myself to be a foolish naïve character in the field. I talk about my own upbringing in rural Victoria, where it was really racist. It's making an archetype of yourself - so students can see a person who has gone through a transformation. It is anecdotal, I tell my own stories. It encourages people to do the same.' (La Trobe)

11.1.4 'I hope that one of the outcomes [of having an Indigenous teacher] is that they've been able to meet me and engage in a safe environment with at least one person who has an Indigenous background: Jilda, who's Kamilaroi, is like a text… They can ask questions, they can say things that other people might think are silly… One thing they can't say, then, is that they've never met an Indigenous person.' (UNSW)


11.2 Ask the students to relate their own personal background to their current learning

Providing opportunities for students to draw on their own backgrounds and histories, and to relate those to their learning (11.2), is perhaps more widely practised as a valuable method for encouraging systematic student reflection. The Approaches here can be read in conjunction with those in 12.2, where structuring student reflection on their ongoing learning is discussed.

11.2.1 'We draw on students' parents' issues, including parents who may have been migrants from other countries. "We ask students to think about, what knowledge did your parents have, that you inherited?" We use this to get them to go back to the true history of this country.' (Monash)

11.2.2 'I walk in, we spend time on asking how they are - it can be personal things, how they are feeling. I try to link new material back to previous material we have done. I try to use learners' own experiences. I use advance organisers with them. I demonstrate ways in which they are already masterful, and I use their own experiences.' (Sydney)

11.2.3 'If a discussion is rolling, I tend to let it go, even if it is a bit off the topic. I figure the kids need a chance to open up, to share their stories, so I let that happen, I push it along. For many of them, no one has ever been interested in hearing what they have to say.' (ASHE)

11.2.4 'I deal with the topic of museum collections by inviting students to talk about their own collections - and then I try to help them draw comparisons with the course material. (UNSW)


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