Amazingly resilient Indigenous people! Using transformative learning to facilitate positive student engagement with sensitive material

  • Jackson D
  • Power T
  • Sherwood J
 et al. 
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Abstract

If health professionals are to effectively contribute to improving the health of Indigenous people, understanding of the historical, political, and social disadvantage that has lead to health disparity is essential. This paper describes a teaching and learning experience in which four Australian Indigenous academics in collaboration with a non-Indigenous colleague delivered an intensive workshop for masters level post-graduate students. Drawing upon the paedagogy of Transformative Learning, the objectives of the day included facilitating students to explore their existing understandings of Indigenous people, the impact of ongoing colonisation, the diversity of Australia's Indigenous people, and developing respect for alternative worldviews. Drawing on a range of resources including personal stories, autobiography, film and interactive sessions, students were challenged intellectually and emotionally by the content. Students experienced the workshop as a significant educational event, and described feeling transformed by the content, better informed, more appreciative of other worldviews and Indigenous resilience and better equipped to contribute in a more meaningful way to improving the quality of health care for Indigenous people. Where this workshop differs from other Indigenous classes was in the involvement of an Indigenous teaching team. Rather than a lone academic who can often feel vulnerable teaching a large cohort of non-Indigenous students, an Indigenous teaching team reinforced Indigenous authority and created an emotionally and culturally safe space within which students were allowed to confront and explore difficult truths. Findings support the value of multiple teaching strategies underpinned by the theory of transformational learning, and the potential benefits of facilitating emotional as well as intellectual student engagement when presenting sensitive material.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Indigenous
  • Nurse education
  • Transformational learning

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