Mutual cultural responsivity: towards a framework for contemporary school science

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This PhD thesis discusses and realigns the way in which we view the theoretical space that exists between Western and traditional Indigenous knowledge systems within school science. The middle-ground approach is defined as an entity in its own right, is a shared space containing legitimate perspectives, informed awareness of alternative cultures, and a vessel that provides the necessary knowledge that is relevant to the individual. To illustrate how educational projects might work in this contested third space, an Australian-based middle-school science program that blends both perspectives, and which is focused on astronomy, is described and investigated. The program was implemented in 30 schools across New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Interview, questionnaire and observational data were collected from participants together with information posted on a project social media site. These data were used to investigate the impact of the cross cultural Sky Stories program on students, teachers and the wider community.
The findings indicate that the cross-cultural science program appears to have generated positive engagement for both Indigenous students and their non-Indigenous peers. Furthermore, results show that educators used the program to implement fresh teaching approaches that involved the local community. The research also suggests that Western educational systems can and should adopt knowledge diversity and cultural relevancy to promote a socially just learning space by offering multiple points of entry.
This research offers a new framework that positions where and how cross-cultural science education programs might work in the contested space between the two knowledge systems. The theory allows for the inclusion of Mutual Cultural Responsivity as each culture must exchange and respect knowledge and perspectives. Moreover, researchers need to develop programs that reach the higher levels of the Mutual Cultural Responsivity framework in order to move towards a contemporary understanding of school science for all Australians. The Cultural Competency matrix is extended from a capacity to a response model. The new framework provides the means by which one can assess and develop a response using three stages: Awareness, Becoming and Being. A framework that allows science educators to reflect, and operate, in the middle-ground between two equally valid knowledge systems. In doing so, new, contemporary methods of teaching and science learning can emerge.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Danaia, Lena, Principal Supervisor
Award date23 Sept 2019
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2019


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