Department of Education

Aboriginal Education

Aboriginal Education

Working with AIEOs

Working effectively with the AIEO

It takes time and commitment to build a strong working relationship.  This is the foundation to the success of the AIEO program in the school.  It is important that teachers:

  • understand the AIEO role within the school;
  • communicate and make time to plan together;
  • clarify and negotiate how the AIEO will assist in the teaching and learning program; and
  • collaborate with the AIEO about how the students will be supported.

Student learning will be richer and more effective when teachers know the AIEO and know how to best utilise their skills and abilities and work collaboratively.

Schools in which the AIEO program operates most effectively are those in which the relationships between the AIEO and the rest of the staff are very strong. The program operates successfully when:

  • the principal is supportive;
  • teachers involve the AIEO in planning; and
  • the AIEO is a valued and respected member of the school team.
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Building a relationship with the AIEO

The manner in which teachers work with AIEOs is an important contributor to their satisfaction with the job and their perception of the quality of work they are doing. As with all working partnerships, positive relationships contribute to a productive work environment.

Successful relationships between the AIEO and the teacher should be based on communication, planning together, collaborating, sharing ideas, discussing student issues and exchanging feedback and guidance. Teachers can learn more about building relationships from the What Works: The Work Program website.

The ability to communicate effectively with colleagues is crucial in any professional relationship. Teachers offer the following advice:

  • Communication skills - the ability to get across curriculum imperatives and your needs as a teacher without causing offence or misunderstanding.
  • …be prepared to listen.
  • [You need] an ability to work collaboratively
  • Talk to your AIEO about your lessons. Let them know what is to happen in the class, advise them in advance what the lessons involve and provide explanations of the nature of tasks they are to perform.
  • Talk to your AIEO about your students. Advise them of the progress of students, behavioural issues, and any other relevant information.
  • Listen to your AIEO. They can help you with your lessons and they can help you with your students.
  • Acknowledge, praise and encourage your AIEO. Provide a welcoming atmosphere, thank and praise them for their contribution to a class or activity and acknowledge them in the classroom.
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Planning with the AIEO

  • Teachers and AIEOs improve learning for Aboriginal students when they spend time together discussing and planning the lesson and learning program.
  • AIEOs are able to share strategies and ideas which will make the lesson relevant to the Aboriginal students and all other students in the class as well. Teachers are encouraged to look for an opportunity to apply an Aboriginal perspective to the learning plan.

One teacher observed that:

In order for the AIEO program to be effective, the classroom teacher and the AIEOs must have constant communication and they need to collaborate to plan effective programs [for the students].

Clarifying responsibilities

  • A mutual understanding of the allocation of responsibilities between the teacher and the AIEO in the classroom is essential. It is important that teachers clarify with AIEOs their role in classroom support, behaviour management and parent/community liaison. This needs to be done in line with school policy. What Works: The Work Program (pdf) also provides guidance on the discussion of responsibilities.
  • AIEOs can add value to a lesson in many ways. This may include bringing an Aboriginal perspective to a lesson; telling a Dreaming story; or using illustrations that are based in the local community. This is important and educative for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students.
  • For many students whose first language at home is not Standard Australian English, AIEOs may also be able to interpret from and into Kriol or other dialects.
  • Teachers should be aware of the AIEO’s timetable in the school and the additional roles they perform. Support and mentoring will help them fulfil their roles in the classroom.
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Support and training

The review of the AIEO program identified some of the underlying causes that can lead to underperformance. These included:

  • inadequate support from staff in their jobs;
  • lack of planning time for preparation of lessons;
  • limited direction by teachers;
  • teachers did not listen to AIEO advice for working with specific students, so they lost heart and no longer provided support;
  • insufficient training for AIEOs;
  • poor selection processes; and
  • perceptions of the AIEO’s role.

Teachers play an important role in supporting and upskilling AIEOs. For the AIEO program to be effective, the AIEO needs to be actively involved in the teaching and learning program. This can include:

  • planning collaboratively with the AIEO and being open to any suggestions they may have;
  • involving the AIEO in the class activities, helping with language, leading sessions and groups and assisting students on a one-to-one basis;
  • explaining the aims and outcomes for the lesson, the kinds of support students may require and the AIEO’s role. They may have ideas that will increase the engagement of Aboriginal students;
  • valuing the AIEO in the classroom and in the school by collaborating, asking advice and seeking their contribution; and
  • assisting AIEOs to develop their skills for classroom support, such as questioning skills, collaborative learning strategies and motivational strategies.
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Welcoming the AIEO to the classroom

  • It is important that teachers introduce the AIEO to the students and outline their role.
  • Teachers can work with the AIEO in a way that demonstrates that they are a respected and valued member of the teaching team.
  • Teachers can facilitate classroom activities so that they work together with the AIEO. Each team member’s strengths and skills are used to lead different segments of the lesson.
Working with AIEOs

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