‘New localism’ in Australian schools : Country as Teacher as a critical pedagogy of place

David Spillman, Ben Wilson, Monty Nixon, Katharine Mckinnon

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This article reports on phase two of our school-based Country as Teacher research, focusing on teacher’s learning and experiences
through their efforts to enact Country as Teacher curriculum and pedagogy with students in ACT schools. Cultivating their own
practices of reciprocal Relating with Country (Phase 1, see Spillman, Wilson, Nixon & McKinnon, 2022) prepares teachers to
enact Country as Teacher with students. A yarning circle focus group and semi-structured interviews were again used to unpack
teacher’s reflections and learnings regarding their attempts to enact Country as Teacher curriculum and pedagogies through
units of work. Due to major disruptions in schooling caused by a long COVID lockdown, during Term Three 2021, participation
in data collection for Phase 2 of the Country as Teacher research was on a voluntary basis. Thirteen of the original twenty-six
teachers offered to participate. Despite the COVID disruptions, many teachers felt that the high levels of student engagement
with Country as Teacher, expressions of wellness through these experiences, and the emergence of inquiry approaches, conferred
‘permission’ to continue enacting these pedagogies in their day-to-day teaching and learning, even when perceived not to be a
direct enactment of the Australian Curriculum. This flagged a clear theme in the qualitative data, of teacher’s growing desire
to enact a ‘moral imperative’, to ‘do it for the students’. Teacher’s own experiences Relating with Country were also deemed
essential to the motivation and courage necessary to enact Country as Teacher pedagogies. This formative research suggests
that high levels of student engagement motivated teachers to reinterpret systemic accountabilities and imperatives. We propose
that in this way, among others discussed below, Country as Teacher operated as a ‘critical pedagogy of place.’
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-114
Number of pages12
JournalCurriculum Perspectives
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2023


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