Tuesday, 9 Aug 2011

A focus on engagement, attendance and retention could help improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, Australian Council for Educational Research researchers Dr Sarah Buckley and Ms Stephanie Armstrong will tell delegates to the ACER Research Conference today.

“We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students on average have a lower level of participation in education than non-Aboriginal Australians, but we need to know more about why,” Ms Armstrong said, speaking ahead of the conference.

“Attendance is the end result, but it’s only part of the story. We need to know why students go or don’t go to class,” she said.

“We need to better understand what engagement and success look like for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students,” Ms Armstrong said.

Dr Buckley said that while there are some programs in place that aim to improve engagement, attendance and retention, few of these have been formally evaluated, and that more community input was needed.

The researchers aim to spark community discussion about proposed strategies to improve engagement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, including:

  • whole-school and whole-community approaches to education
  • linkages between agencies responsible for education, health and housing, and
    • comprehensive, ongoing professional development for teachers.

“We are seeking the input of teachers and community leaders who are engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in education, so we can better understand what works. This community input will inform directions for research and new strategies,” Dr Buckley said.

“We need to look at education through different cultural lenses to find solutions,” Ms Armstrong said.

The ACER Research Conference 2011, on the theme Indigenous Education: Pathways to success, takes place in Darwin from 7 to 9 August.

Further information is available from http://research.acer.edu.au/research_conference/RC2011/

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