10-2 Winter 1998 “Assessing Student Learning in a Cultural Environment” Resource Guide

Nov 15th, 1998 | By | Category: 10-2: Assessing Student Learning in a Cultural Environment, Resource Guides
By Elizabeth T. Blue and Priscilla A. Day

Research to date has largely ignored higher education institutions’ assessment of their ability to serve American Indian students. This article will provide an overview of the literature in this area and some internet sites that may be useful.

Reviewing the literature about assessment and American Indian students, one can find articles about the need for culturally relevant assessment of American Indian students in the classroom and some examples of schools (mostly elementary and secondary) that are attempting to evaluate American Indian students in meaningful ways. Quite a bit of the literature focuses on what is missing in higher education in relationship to American Indian recruitment and retention and on the characteristics of American Indian students who are persisters in a college setting. Additionally, there are articles on the need to develop culturally relevant curriculum and teaching methodology. Finally, there are articles that serve as “think pieces” asking educators to reflect on various ideas they put forth. However, there is a dearth of published research on how institutions of higher education are evaluating their effectiveness with American Indian students. This article will focus on site specific educational models and helpful internet sources.


These articles describe culturally specific assessment models and processes that relate to the evaluation of American Indians in institutions of higher education.

Archibald, J., & Bowman, S.S. (Eds.). (1995). Honoring what they say: Post-secondary experiences of First Nations graduates [Special issue]. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 21(1).

This special issue is devoted to describing the process model in examining post-secondary outcomes for Native graduates in two different Canadian higher education institutions. The process model grew out of the earlier impact assessment evaluation model. The model is so interesting because it uses the research process itself as an adaptable organic entity, inherently consistent with First Nations people’s values (respect and honor). Thus, the research process was interactive and growth oriented, respecting the principles of spirituality and community ownership. The methodologies used included semi-structured interviews as well as mailed questionnaires and focus groups, making it possible to triangulate findings. The study addresses the following research questions: 1) the relationship between post-secondary education and employment; 2) the factors encouraging graduation; and 3) the barriers and problems encountered by students and how they were overcome.

Benjamin, D.P., & Chamber, S. L. (1989, April). Native American persistence in higher education: Toward a competency model. Paper presented at the Annual Forum of the Association for Institutional Research, Baltimore, MD.

This descriptive study uses a culturally sensitive approach employing a variety of statistical and qualitative research techniques. It reports findings regarding persistence. The authors of this paper recommend that a transformative approach be developed in higher education institutions that supports persistent students by focusing on persistence competencies rather than dwelling on past failures.

Hayes, S.A. (1990). Educational innovation at Lummi. Journal of American Indian Education, 29(3), 1-11.

This article describes the innovative transformational process that the Lummi Tribal School underwent in the late 1980s. It includes the Lummi tribe’s and its members’ historic relationship with the educational process and the school. It then describes the challenges that tribal council members and elders are constantly facing regarding the under-education of the Lummi people. The board developed a comprehensive teacher evaluation process considering instructional capacities as well as cultural issues. It employed the Hunter model of effective teacher development (giving feedback based on direct observations and then offering support and reinforcement for effective practices). During the process, the board underwent training to prepare them to be effective teacher evaluators. The board also examined other variables interacting with the teaching process that had an impact on students’ academic achievement. As part of the evaluation process, they decided to deliver community-specific information to teachers, to examine discipline policy and practices, to examine student attendance and academic achievement, and to ensure that the extended family values of the Lummi people were clearly present and valued in the school setting.

Kleinfeld, J., Cooper, J., & Kyle, N. (1987). Post-secondary counselors: A model for increasing Native Americans’ college success. Journal of American Indian Education, 27(1), 9-16.

The authors propose that post-secondary counselors be placed in public schools (K-12) to guide American Indian students into and through college. The case history describes a highly successful piloting of the model; both the program elements and the statistics of its implementation are presented. The counseling was student-based, not institutionally-based.

Lipka, J. (1994). Culturally negotiated schooling: Toward a Yup’ik mathematics. Journal of American Indian Education, 33(3), 14- 30.

This article describes how qualitative intervention research methods were employed to use Yup’ik culture and language as a means to change the culture of schooling for Yup’ik people in a specific academic area–mathematics. The article stresses the importance of social ties and relationship, as well as starting within and approaching learning in the schooling situation from the cultural worldview. The study group that developed the Yup’ik mathematics described here used ethnographic methods and grounded theory data analysis methods.

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