Indigenous education and reading proficiency to benefit from ARC grants

Australian Catholic University

ACU researchers Professor Rhonda Craven and Associate Professor Laura Scholes have received almost $3.26 million in Australian Research Council (ARC) linkage grants.

Professor Craven, the founding director of ACU’s Institute for Positive Psychology and Education (IPPE), was awarded two grants relating to the success of Indigenous students at university and in school.

The first $1.48 ARC linkage grant will be used to improve Indigenous students’ school attendance, engagement, and wellbeing.

It will see Professor Craven, an expert in Indigenous education and success, partner with the Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation, the traditional custodians of the Hunter region of NSW, and Catholic Schools NSW.

She will research outcomes that contribute to Closing the Gap and enable Indigenous achievement, increase teacher job satisfaction and retention, and strengthen the socio-economic fabric of Indigenous communities.

The second $1.24 million ARC linkage grant will also see IPPE researchers partner with the Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation to identify game-changers that enable Indigenous students to complete university.

Professor Craven said the project will generate new knowledge about enablers of university completion, leveraging research-derived interventions, and Indigenous voice and agency.

“We are thrilled to have received these two significant grants that will help our research focus on the success of First Nations people,” Professor Craven said.

“There will be many benefits of this new research including identifying drivers of university completion, designing effective interventions, advancing data-driven Indigenous higher education policies and practices, promoting Indigenous socio-economic wellbeing, and building research capability and capacity.”

Professor Craven said the two grants build on the strong body of research in IPPE’s current Indigenous Game Changers program, a reciprocal research partnership with an overarching mission to transform and enrich Indigenous lives.

Focusing on pillars of education, family and community, physical health, and psychological thriving, the partnership has seen the creation of a series of programs piloted in the Wonnarua community, including the ‘Deadly Home Reading’ parent-and-child program that helps families to teach their young children how to read.

Associate Professor Laura Scholes has been awarded a $539,705 ARC linkage grant to investigate the use of digital texts to advance students’ reading abilities.

Associate Professor Scholes, of ACU’s Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education (ILSTE), will lead the three-year research project in collaboration with the Centre for Literacy and Social Justice in the United Kingdom.

The project, which will involve several partner schools in Queensland, aims to enrich reading pedagogies and create a resource for schools to advance teaching expertise and the next generation student reading proficiencies required to learn, study and work in digital society.

Associate Professor Scholes said she was excited to be leading the project aimed at addressing the national problem of falling reading levels among students.

“This project aims to investigate how to use digital texts to advance student volitional, proficient reading – a strategy that has not yet been trialled,” she said.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to conduct large-scale work and collaborate with our partner schools and international colleagues to utilise digital texts to improve reading outcomes.”

ACU Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Zlatko Skrbis congratulated both Professor Craven and Associate Professor Scholes on their successful grants.

“Their groundbreaking research is another example of ACU’s commitment to fundamental, impact-focused research that benefits society,” he said.

“These grants are an endorsement of ACU’s research excellence in literacy and Indigenous education.

“As a leading Catholic university, our vision is to enable flourishing lives, foster thriving communities and forge an ethical future. Addressing issues of national significance such as Indigenous success and advancing students’ reading abilities is one of the tangible ways we are working to achieve this.”

The ARC announced $43 million in funding for 72 new projects under the ARC’s Linkage Project scheme 2023 Round 2 to support strategic research partnerships between researchers and industry.

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