Aboriginal Learning Styles

Marjorie Marsh


The distinctions below between Western and Aboriginal learning styles are not rigid. For example, farming is taught informally in western societies but with verbalization. Besides, an Aboriginal group might have some teaching about the law and its ceremonies as more formal teaching, but often this is reinforcing content that has been learnt informally over the years.


Western Preferred Style

Aboriginal Preferred Style



Institutional (buildings, administration, etc)

No building for the purpose

Trained teachers

Various relatives teach

Little application

Immediate relevance

Organized, compact courses

Time-consuming; skills learned over years with repetition and trial and error

Trouble shooting emphasized in problem solving

Persistence and repetition emphasized in problem solving

Highly conscious process

Usually not a conscious process

Oriented to future

Oriented to present. Planning for the future occurs, but is flexible

Extrinsic motivation "You must ..."

Intrinsic motivation "I want to ..."

Allows for questioning of authority

Pervasive trust in authorities; questioning not encouraged

Focus on scientific proof

Quality of thinking is okay

Learners are curious about technology

Learners are curious about familiar environment

More interest in knowledge for its own sake

Less interest in knowledge for its own sake

Focus on practice beforehand for real life

Learn in real life situations

More competitive

Less competitive

Focus on theoretical background and preparations

Focus on context-specific skills with less sequencing of skills

Information orientation

Person orientation