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04/29/2009

Maths model helps Indigenous students learn

A Griffith University-led research project aims to improve mathematical learning for Indigenous students in remote communities.

Six schools in the east Kimberley region have taken part in the project which is exploring quality learning environments for students, teachers and Aboriginal Education workers.

The schools, which range from 30 to 250 students, are located in self-governing communities.

Professor Robyn Zevenbergen from the Griffith Institute for Educational Research said the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians was still too high.

“We want to implement high quality, high demanding mathematics in these remote Indigenous communities, while at the same time recognising that learning mathematics demands a different cultural approach for students unused to western learning,” she said.

Using a teaching model developed by Stanford University in the US, the researchers have adapted the model to an Indigenous context.

 “This model was used in a Californian school class consisting of low-performing Hispanic, Asian and American students. The students’ knowledge and understanding vastly improved after being taught this way.

“The community elders want the kids to learn western mathematics, then attend university or further education and return to their communities and assume leadership roles within their communities.

“It’s very exciting because all the research shows we should improve learning outcomes and this is in communities where English is spoken as a second language,’’ Professor Zevenbergen said.

The Griffith team visits the remote communities every three months where they monitor the teachers’ progress. Teacher resources include an intranet and teaching by video feedback.

The Australian Research Council-funded project is a collaboration with Monash University, London South Bank University and Sussex University and industry partner, the Independent Schools of Western Australia. It is expected to be completed in 2011.


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