Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)
The recruitment, retention and graduation of more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers is a key focus of the national and federally funded ‘More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative’ (MATSITI, 2012). The higher education sector is being urged to close the gap in Indigenous education by actively putting in place strategies which will increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teaching graduates and their preparedness to enter and stay in the teaching profession. In this paper, our aim is to showcase and report on the findings of a research project at The University of Queensland which seeks to evaluate the use and effectiveness of a mentoring program as a positive intervention for building and sustaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers in Australia. Recognising that “mentoring across cultural boundaries is an especially delicate dance” (Johnson-Bailey & Cervero, 2004, p. 7) which takes place on the boundaries between race, gender, class, learning and power, the program adopts a critically reflective (Harrison, Lawson & Wortley, 2005) and strength-based (He, 2009) approach to enable understanding of the socially, culturally and politically complex conditions in which the learning and acquisition of professional knowledge about teaching takes place. Drawing on evaluative surveys and individual and focus group interviews with students and mentor teachers, the paper examines the extent to which the mentoring program functions as a positive interface for building and sustaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pre-service teachers participation in tertiary education programs, their self-efficacy as teachers, their professional identity as teachers, and their readiness to teach in the future.
Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)
The pre-service teachers involved in the mentoring program tell us that the reasons why Indigenous students might want to enter the teaching profession are varied and complex. Family histories, prior negative and positive experiences in education, and a desire to participate in the exciting, challenging and rewarding process of teaching and learning with children are all factors which have lead them to this point. The uncertainty they face in navigating a profession as a teacher is linked closely to what their Indigeneity might mean in terms of the real life experience of being a real teacher in a real school. Their hope to become good teachers, and good Indigenous teachers, is what drives them and participating in the mentoring program is one step on this journey. While we are very much still in the early stages of our research, our hope for this program is that it will contribute in a number of ways to teacher education research and our theoretical understanding of mentoring through, around and across the boundaries of race, the experiences of mentors and mentees in a cross-cultural mentoring relationship, and the ways that mentoring is experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander initial teacher education students’ to develop their professional identities, self-efficacy and readiness to teach.