Aboriginal Preservice Teachers Experiences in the Professional Experience

By Cathie Burgess.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the Professional Experience (formerly known as the practicum), preservice teachers occupy an unpredictable space between ‘novice’ and ‘real’ teacher. For Aboriginal preservice teachers, underlying factors such as socio-cultural background, life experiences and appearance as perceived by themselves and others as ‘looking Aboriginal’ may offer a different perspective to the Professional Experience. Within a post structural framework, a qualitative study using data from twelve semi-structured in-depth interviews with six Aboriginal preservice teachers and their cooperating teachers highlights key issues that may not be evident in the Professional Experience for non-Aboriginal teachers. The significance of lived experience, balancing expectations, identity ‘well-being’ and responses to Aboriginality highlight the complex, contradictory and transformative nature of ‘learning to teach’ for Aboriginal preservice teachers. Significantly, participants preferred to understate their Aboriginality in favour of identifying factors such as lived experiences and relationship building as the key to their success yet also deferred to the contextual and relational significance of their Aboriginality within this paradigm. The perception of themselves and others as ‘looking’ Aboriginal also contributed to the discursive spaces that individual preservice teachers occupied in their Professional Experience. The narrative construction of identity in this study provides the opportunity to reflect on the formation of teacher identity from an Aboriginal perspective.

Keywords: Aboriginal Teachers, Indigenous Education, Practicum, Teacher Education, Higher Education

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp.343-356. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 813.980KB).

Cathie Burgess

Lecturer Professional Experience Coordinator, Koori Centre, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Cathie Burgess has been a secondary-school teacher for over 20 years, teaching in a range of subjects with expertise in Aboriginal Studies Aboriginal perspectives across the curriculum and literacy. She is currently a Lecturer in Education and Professional Experience Coordinator at the Koori Centre, University of Sydney. Cathie’s academic interests include anti-racism and social justice education, supporting preservice teachers to include an Indigenous focus in all areas of their teaching, quality teaching and improving outcomes for Indigenous students in the school system.


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