TRANSCRIPT: Tales of Teaching Online ep. 55 – Embedding First Nations Knowledges and Ways of Knowing into the curriculum
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Intro: Digital, student-centred, creative, innovation, imagination, initiative, stories that matter.
Barbie: Hi, I’m Barbie Panther.
Tiffany: And I’m Tiffany Gunning.
Barbie: And this is Tales of Teaching Online brought to you by Deakin Learning Futures. I’m joined today by Tiffany Gunning, who’s a Senior Lecturer in Curriculum Design and Development in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment. And Tiffany’s working with staff across her faculty in building First Nations knowledges and ways of knowing into the curriculum.
Tiffany: Hi and indeed we are Barbie. It’s been a really interesting ride over the last couple of years. I’ve been with Deakin for a number of years now. And I guess I’ve been always interested in building in awareness of First Nations knowledges. But I wasn’t quite sure where to start, and I think the biggest blocker for me was just I lacked the confidence to actually just get started and have a go at this. So around 18 months ago, I was really lucky to be involved in our faculties project that is basically building our students capabilities around employability. I was privileged to lead a project called authentic assessment. Now, part of authentic assessment, it doesn’t sound like it would link to First Nations knowledges. But what these project gave me the opportunity to do was talk to unit chairs across all of our courses. And as part of our authentic assessment strategy, we wanted to embed authentic assessment at three touch points in all of our courses. So what this allowed me to do was have conversations with key unit chairs across all of our courses. And what was really interesting is that so many of our unit chairs were also keen to build in First Nations knowledges, but they weren’t sure where to start either. So we had this I’m going to say everything was coming together all at once to be able to start work in this area. And we’ve been able to make some pretty serious footsteps towards getting this built-in. We’re not there yet, but we’re definitely heading in the right direction.
Barbie: I think the biggest challenge for non-Indigenous people to move into this space is just not knowing where to start and what to do. So how did you approach that?
Tiffany: It was really interesting. Obviously, I’ve been having conversations with my colleagues within my own team about how we would think about building it in. Because we’ve got some great examples. Obviously, NIKERI does some fantastic work with working with First Nations students’ and they create really awesome resources. And we’ve got Janine McBurnie in our Life and Environmental Sciences School who has made some amazing whole units that focus heavily into that space. But when it comes to try and build it across the course, we will never quite sure how you would actually do it. And so we were looking at ways. How do you scaffold it? What do you what do you focus on? So we were really privileged to work with a first-year Unit Chair in Engineering. We together, we figured out that there was a definite gap in the unit she was developing, which was Engineering in Society. And we went well, we need to be inclusive of all society and have all perspectives in here. So we sit together to create a module that would actually sit within her course content. That would be the first step for our first-year students to actually engage in this sort of information.
Barbie: That sounds very fantastic. I think engineering is one of those disciplines that people would say it’s really hard to put First Nations knowledge in. What sorts of things that are in that course?
Tiffany: Well. It was a really interesting one. The, the actual unit itself had a focus on design and on environment. And the context that they were doing that in was they were looking at I suppose, big arenas. And so one of the ideas that came through was if you had a focus on the Olympic games, e.g. then we could actually draw on the history of how Indigenous people, how First Nations was represented over time through our Olympic Games. So we started off going ok. Obviously we know that Welcome to Country is important. We had an introductory module on that and what the underlying meaning and purpose for that was. But then we segued in and said, as far as history is concerned, let’s have a look back at our previous Olympic Games. So we actually sourced information from archives from the late fifties. And we found artwork and resources that were created for the 56 Olympics in Melbourne. And then we compared them to images and the way First Nations Peoples were represented and celebrated at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. And the contrast was unbelievable. So this was something that we were able to demonstrate to students. And show them how society has grown and move from the late 50s to where we are today. And obviously there’s still a huge room for improvement here. So we asked students, why is it so important for engineers to have an awareness of First Nations knowledges and perspectives. And we will able to present them with a case study that was based in South Australia where they were building a bridge from the mainland to an island. But with no consultation with local First Nations People or community. And of course, that we’re building in a space where they just shouldn’t have been building. It was in a sacred area. And so there was this massive court case. We were able to show students that consultation with community and traditional owners in the Australian context is just so vital to get things right. And although this was a really long drawn-out court case, at the end of the day, there was change. So there were outcomes that came from the court case that opened people’s eyes and made change it in relation to how engineering structures are created and located in the Australian context. Now we were really privileged to have Melinda Kennedy, who’s actually a Deakin student a very strong and proud Wadawarrung woman. And she was able to talk to us about the work she was doing on a Healthy Country Plan for this area. She gave a lecture to engineering students about her perspective on where Deakin is located and her connection to the land. And she shared stories about her connection to our help students gain an appreciation of what knowledge is already here and known about this part of the country and how our students can tap into that information. So as a result, we were able to create four major modules that were able to fit really well within the context of this unit. Now we started with the School of Engineering. And the outcomes from this unit have underpinned the design for second and third year units that we’re now building. But we were also really keen to make sure that all first-year students had an equivalent experience in this subject matter. So we’ve also built a using the same concept a unit for another first-year engineering unit. But this one is more focused on environmental engineering. So we used a case study that focused on bush fire in the Australian environment and how First Nations Peoples manage the ecosystems to present to prevent wildfire. So this way we could ensure all of our first-year engineering students had a same or similar messages coming through their units but with different contexts. So in the authentic assessment space, in architecture and the built environment. And they would like, we would like that as well. So we’ve taken a similar structure, but again, built-in something that was very specific to that particular unit. So that all of the first-year in Architecture and Built Environment have had a very similar grounding. Now we started working with first year Life and Environmental Sciences. And we are slowly moving across all of our courses, building from first-year up. So we’re aiming to scaffold the same sort of messages for students as they progress through their course. And doing our best to avoid repetition. And this becomes really important because the authentic assessment strategy is part of a bigger employability strategy. We’re now working with work placement units.