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Place Based Education

murray darling river

Full Project Title: Towards Place Based Education in the Murray-Darling Basin

Theme 4 : Synthesis - integrating water, communities and environment

This project was led by Philip Roberts                                                                                                                                                                             

A snapshot of research results: Improving rural and regional representation in the Australian curriculum                   

Kids-skipping_educationThe key to the successful implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) Plan is to develop well-informed dialogue among the various stakeholders in the Basin, facilitated and encouraged by the MDBA.  Fundamental to this is quality community and school based education programs that provide the prerequisite local knowledge and skills.  However, a central concern is how sustainability is understood and currently taught in schools under the new Australian Curriculum. Evidence suggests that it focuses too much on the environmental aspect and not enough on the socio-cultural and economic aspects. This project explores the ways in which sustainability is understood in MDB communities (including Indigenous, rural, small towns and regional centres); how it is presented in MDBA education programs, and the ways it is currently taught in schools in the MDB region. Upon identifying the various perspectives on sustainability the project will examine how MDBA education programs and the Australian Curriculum, including its cross curriculum priorities of Sustainability and Indigenous perspectives, can best be adapted through place-based education to incorporate local knowledge in education.

The Project will be conducted in two phases: Initially a mapping of existing understandings and approaches to sustainability within the basin, and then a collaborative action research cycle of curriculum implementation in selected schools.

The first phase utilises an innovative multi-layered mapping of the various perspectives on sustainability within MDB communities and schools. A large scale survey across the Basin will map the distribution of similar and diverse understandings and existing approaches to sustainability.  This phase will map the distribution of similar understandings and existing approaches. This will enable the identification of related spatial characteristics that influence both community understandings and initiatives. Importantly, this phase will uncover the existing knowledge and understandings within the basin from which education and community programs need to begin. This mapping phase will also include a literature review on place-conscious education approaches and a mapping of existing MDBA education programs.
The second phase utilises an action-research process of collaborative development from the community development sector. Following the identification of sustainability perspectives in phase one, a sample of communities with distinct perspectives on and approaches to sustainability will be identified. These communities will be invited to participate in curriculum projects that will explore the approach of collaborative action-research as an approach to implementing a place-conscious curriculum. Broadly speaking, in this phase, selected schools will develop curriculum from the existing understandings in their communities and work towards shared, yet critical, understandings of local sustainability practices and knowledge rather than merely teaching the predominantly metropolitan version of sustainability. The process developed and refined in this phase will inform the development of future MDBA education projects, and place-conscious curriculum more generally.

The key outcome for this project will be the development of the MDB education programs, resources, and principles for working with MDB schools and communities to introduce more nuanced understandings of sustainability in the curriculum. Specifically, an understanding of the diverse perspectives of sustainability will be uncovered, and as such the variety of views will be able to be engaged with productively. Specifically MDBA education programs will be evaluated against these perspectives and new approaches to engaging schools and communities will be developed.


MDBfutures is supported by the Australian Government's Collaborative Research Networks program.