CAIK’s Professor Susan Page ran an LX.lab session with academics recently on creating safe spaces for learning and teaching for Indigenous Graduate Attributes. Professor Page – Aboriginal academic, educational researcher and self-described ‘bit of a dreamer’ – led us through the Deconstruction Exercise to frame the discussion.

What is The Deconstruction Exercise?

The Deconstruction Exercise is underpinned by Ngarrindjeri and Malak Malak perspectives and was developed by David Sjoberg and Professor Dennis McDermott of Flinders University for use with health students. The core of the exercise is a set of anonymous student questions about Indigenous issues, generated by the students in the class. Students are asked to unpack each of the questions and what lies behind them. Rather than trying to answer the question itself, they are asked to ‘articulate the sociological space from which the question is asked’. Students will identify assumptions, racialised language, privilege and power imbalances in the questions, and point out omissions or blind-spots.

Unstructured, free-ranging classroom discussions about issues like colonisation can become emotive, confrontational, and culturally unsafe. As well as creating dialogue in a way that mitigates this, the Deconstruction Exercise also has the benefit of encouraging student learning and shifting thinking through critical reflection and inquiry.

Some tips from the workshop for using The Deconstruction Exercise

  • Be aware that your class will include Indigenous students. They might be offended by the anonymous questions, ashamed to speak, or feel pressured to take on the role of voice of Indigenous people.
  • Students are a diverse group; knowing who your students are is one way to help create a culturally responsive classroom.
  • Prepare students ahead of the exercise by talking about the idea that the content might be uncomfortable.
  • Make sure you’re emotionally and mentally prepared to manage the classroom if there are very tricky questions. If something very difficult comes up, try to create some space between yourself and the conversation, and examine it with some distance.
  • Seek advice from the people and resources available to you at UTS.


Find out more

  • Contact the CAIK team, who are available to consult with academics and faculties about teaching for the Indigenous Graduate Attributes. Email
  • Email if you would like to request more workshops on topics like this in the LX.lab.


Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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