Removing the fear from teaching Traditional Ways of Knowing in science



cultural awareness, science and engineering, Indigenous perspectives, multiple knowledges


Incorporating Traditional Ways of Knowing (TWK) into science education has long been recommended (e.g., Meyer & Crawford, 2011; Rich, 2012; Zidny, Sjöström, & Eilks, 2020). While many students are unaware that alternatives to western knowledge exist (Rich, 2012), cross-cultural education can provide students with the tools for a multiple-knowledge approach to real-world problems and can increase the relevance of science education beyond theories and facts, contextualising learning in everyday life (Zidny et al., 2020). Embedding TWK into science education can also engage under-represented students and assist in the development of academic hospitality toward Indigenous peoples (Meyer & Crawford, 2011; Rich, 2012). However, it is important to not make this approach only a box-ticking exercise (Rich, 2012).

While TWK is best done in cooperation with Aboriginal people, the opportunities for this are limited. We have developed TWK with the assistance of Traditional Owners and have implemented cultural awareness training for all science students at Flinders University.  We have also developed a program of TWK embedded across an entire science degree in Conservation Biology.  We will discuss how we can build, facilitate, and embed Indigenous perspectives as non-Indigenous Australian lecturers, and how through experience, we can build confident and competent delivery of material.


Meyer, X., & Crawford, B. (2011). Teaching science as a cultural way of knowing: Merging authentic inquiry, nature of science, and multicultural strategies. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 6(3), 525-547.

Rich, N. (2012). Introduction: Why link Indigenous ways of knowing with the teaching of environmental studies and sciences? Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 2(4), 308-316.

Zidny, R., Sjöström, J., & Eilks, I. (2020). A multi-perspective reflection on how Indigenous knowledge and related ideas can improve science education for sustainability. Science & Education, 29(1), 145-185.

Author Biographies

Sofie Costin, Flinders University

Sofie has been teaching in the College of Science and Engineering for over three years, and during this time has received numerous teaching awards. She is passionate about equity and inclusivity in education and academia.

Karen Burke da Silva, Flinders University

Karen is the Indigenous coordinator and manages the Biodiversity and Conservation Degree within the College of Science and Engineering at Flinders University. Using her vast experience in science education Karen’s focus is on embedding Indigenous ways of thinking into science curricula.