Department of Education

Aboriginal Education

Aboriginal Education

Working in the classroom

AIEOs working in the classroom

Working collaboratively with teachers can make a significant difference to the engagement, attendance, achievement and retention of Aboriginal students.

Back to top

Working with teachers

It is important that the AIEO and the teacher are clear about what is expected in each lesson, as different teachers operate differently.

To work effectively as a classroom team, AIEOs can:

  • establish a time and a meeting place for regular communication with classroom teachers as appropriate;
  • request written instructions prepared by the teacher if there is no time to discuss lesson planning;
  • be involved in planning together with the teacher so that expectations are clear and the resources are identified;
  • prepare work and resources prior to the lesson to enable a smooth start;
  • follow the teacher’s lead in the lesson;
  • speak to the teacher about what is expected or which students to work with;
  • communicate with the teacher in a positive and respectful manner as a model of best practice to students; and
  • observe the class if there are no specific instructions to
    - identify students who are off task or need help and assist them
    - acknowledge those who are busy completing tasks
    - show initiative.
Back to top

Supporting student learning

The AIEO’s primary role in the classroom is to support the students. Effective AIEOs encourage students to work well and achieve by: asking questions; offering help; praising success; and acknowledging good behaviour.

AIEOs provide encouragement by:

  • building students’ confidence by working alongside them and encouraging them; and
  • focusing on the positive and ensuring a balanced view is held of students in the class. As one AIEO said:

When you come up here and you have the teacher say something negative and I’m here and I’m right on that teacher. ‘Yeah but don’t forget what he did today. He’s capable of doing this, you’ve got to continue to allow him to be able to be the person that he is’.

AIEOs are a strong supporter of education. They:

  • promote education and discuss its link to improving life opportunities;
  • encourage students to strive for success;
  • support regular student attendance; and
  • encourage students to stay on at school until the end of Year 12.

AIEOs mentor students. They are a role model and mentor for students.

We mentor these kids, we mediate them in situations going on between parents and kids and parents and teachers.

AIEOs provide classroom support. The table of AIEO tasks shows that there are many ways AIEOs can assist in the classroom. Under the guidance of the teacher, some of the specific tasks may include:

  • working with individual students;
  • working with small groups of students;
  • correcting students’ work;
  • reading to students;
  • administering or supervising tests;
  • assisting in presenting a range of lessons in collaboration with the teacher, including:
    - English language development
    - bilingual education
    - development of communication skills
    - storytelling
    - numeracy
    - sport, art and music
    - library activities; and
  • assisting in classroom behaviour management.

The extent to which AIEOs are able to assist in the above activities may depend on their skills. Training programs are available for AIEOs who wish to expand their range of skills for classroom work.

Back to top

Assisting in behaviour management

While it is the classroom teacher who has the key responsibility in managing student behaviour, it is part of the AIEO’s role to assist in behaviour management. This may include:

  • participating in the school’s behaviour management meetings;
  • participating in the development and implementation of individual behaviour management plans;
  • working with students to help them understand and achieve appropriate school behaviour;
  • mentoring students;
  • liaising between the school and parents, and the school and students;
  • advising schools of cultural and family contexts relevant to individual students; and
  • providing cultural information to teachers that may help them to better understand Aboriginal students and manage conflict effectively.

The level of support required of AIEOs in relation to behaviour management will depend on the needs of the school, the number of AIEOs in the school and the student population. Some AIEOs have limited behaviour management responsibilities, while others may be more involved in this role.

The job description [Sign In] identifies behaviour management as an important task of AIEOs. It is important that principals and teachers clarify the student behaviour management policy and negotiate the role of AIEOs in implementing the policy within the school. Many AIEOs are engaged in advisory and communication roles in relation to implementing behaviour management plans for students at risk.

AIEOs have a duty of care responsibility when working with students:

We’re all responsible really. If you see something happen, we’ve got that duty of care… With the system that we’ve got in place, if you think that [a child’s behaviour] is escalating to that next level, well you deal with it. And then if it needs to be that if you send that kid off out of a class to a buddy class or timeout or whatever, we do it because we’re all a part of that process. The classroom teacher isn’t just responsible for that. Everyone shares that equally.

To be more effective in managing behaviour, AIEOs may be involved in:

  • supervising student behaviour in the playground as part of a general duty of care;
  • helping Aboriginal students engage in school activities and encouraging them to stay at school;
  • assisting teachers to manage the behaviour of students in the classroom. This has to be a partnership with the teacher and the AIEO;
  • providing support for teachers or school administrators when a student becomes particularly agitated. The AIEO may be the only person an agitated child will respond to. If an AIEO is called away from classroom duties to attend to such an incident, the school administration should advise teachers that the AIEO will be absent from the scheduled class; and
  • participating in the development and implementation of behaviour management plans. As one AIEO noted:

To assist in a behavioural management plan to be put in place for some Indigenous students, follow up to see if it is impacting the student’s behaviour, assist in making changes if needed, also meeting and informing parents of the student’s progress while they are on a behaviour plan.

Working in the classroom

All contents copyright Government of Western Australia, unless otherwise stated.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this site may contain images of people who are deceased.

Copyright material available on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence
Exclusions may apply: