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Learning Communities

The Learning Communities research group brings together academics who use a range of innovative and emergent culture, arts and place-based methodologies to examine Indigenous and cultural worldviews in order to develop new knowledge, and those who focus on family learning in order to identify educational insights that can progress social change in families through to whole communities

Our People

Associate Professor Deborah

Pino-Pasternak, Deborah 

Click to view Associate Professor
Deborah Pino-Pasternak's Research Profile

Assistant Professor David Spillman

Dr David Spillman

Click to view Assistant Professor David Spillman's Research Profile

Assistant Professor Ben Wilson

Benny Wilson

Click to view Assistant Professor Ben Wilson's Research Profile

Assistant Professor Rohan Nethsinghe

Rohan Nethsinghe

Click to view Assistant Professor Rohan Nethsinghe's Research Profile

Our Research

Current Projects

Writing for all: Studying the development of handwriting and keyboarding skills in the Early Years

Project team: Anabela Abreu Malpique, Margaret Merga, Deborah Pino-Pasternak, Susan Ledger, Debora Valcan

This project will investigate Year 2 students’ abilities, engagement and self-efficacy to write by hand and by keyboard and teaching practices promoting effective writing development, including practices for teaching transcription skills. This project has been funded by a grant from the Ian Potter Foundation and is part of the State Library of Western Australia Literacy Strategy for 2017-2027.

Building Cultural integrity with 'Country as Teacher'

Project team: Dr David Spillman, Ben Wilson, Dr Katharine McKinnon, Monty Nixon

This project will implement and assess the effectiveness of the ‘Country as Teacher’s professional learning approach, pedagogy and curriculum design, building on piloting of the approach during a Teachers as Researchers program in 2020. Based in Indigenous knowledge and ways of being the ‘Country as Teacher’ program embeds classroom practice in deep respect for place-focused, ecocentric pedagogies that have been part of teaching and learning in Australia for centuries. This project will assess the transformative impacts of participation in the program for teachers, students, and the school community, exploring how well it increases capacities to know, understand, and care for the places they inhabit. Learning from Country through encounter and story-telling are central to the educative processes practiced as part of teaching and learning in Australia for centuries. The place-focused, ecocentric Indigenous pedagogical approaches informing this project build skills for cultural integrity alongside capacity to address ecological challenges and nurture capacity for genuine reconciliation.

Teaching for Country: Exploring transformative opportunities in initial teacher education through enacting Indigenous ways of knowing being and doing

This research project works towards the strategic goal of facilitating the enactment of Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing within initial teacher education undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate units (PG). This is a concrete contribution towards two current UC imperatives: Indigenizing the Curriculum (including graduate attributes) and creating a place-based university. For us (chief investigators) this is an enactment of our cultural obligations, to know and care for the places we live and use our knowledge and capabilities to assist others to do the same. This research contributes to a broader educational vision; to prepare teachers to support schools in the ACT to rebalance their curriculum, teaching and learning to enable children to learn about, come to know and love, and care for the places they live.

Past Projects

SRL in Context: Contextual Supports for the Early Development of Self-Regulated Learning

Project Team: Deborah Pino-Pasternak, Anabela Malpique & Debora Valcan

This project investigated longitudinal changes in children’s self-regulation during the first two years of compulsory education in Western Australia and associations between SR and academic outcomes. The project also examined associations between parental behaviours and self-regulation. The following take-home messages have been identified through this research:

What parents do and the home environments they promote are associated with children’s emerging SR

SR is predictive of different academic outcomes of literacy and numeracy

There are strong associations between children’s handwriting automaticity and their writing and reading performance

Deficit Discourse in Indigenous Education 

From 2015-2018, Ben was involved with the ARC Research Project Deficit Discourse in Indigenous Education at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at ANU. The three year project aimed to investigate how strengths based discourses disrupted established patterns of deficit thinking around Indigenous students, their families, and their communities. The project collected data from across the Northern Territory, Victoria, New South Wales, and Victoria. Several publications and a book that is currently in press discuss the findings of the research team were produced from this project.