Pedagogical challenges and opportunities: Health educators’ perspectives on teaching Indigenous health to international students

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 39: The Shape of Higher Education

July, 2016, 391 pages
Published by
Melissa Davis & Allan Goody

Indigenous health education is an established part of curricula in many health disciplines in Australia and New Zealand. These curricula include content about history and socio- political factors which have affected the health status of Indigenous peoples over several centuries. Teaching health within this socio-political context and with a strongly domestic focus to international students, who bring their own perspectives, cultural understandings and experiences raises unique challenges for the educator. In this paper we explore these challenges and the strategies that educators use to address them. We draw on qualitative interview-based data from a bi-national study examining the experiences and methods of teaching of educators who teach Indigenous health content in the health disciplines. Interviews were conducted with 41 educators from nine universities. The data identify that educators believe international students perceive the content is not relevant to them but is instead aimed at domestic students, and that they often lack a basic understanding of Australian history and culture. Several strategies for overcoming these challenges were described by academics. We argue that educators need to draw on these and other strategies to ensure that international students receive an effective education in this area that they perceive as relevant. International students will continue to be ongoing recipients of Indigenous health education, and many will remain in Australia and New Zealand to practice after they graduate and need the required skills to provide effective care to Indigenous peoples.

Keywords: Indigenous health education, health sciences, international students