Communities of Practice: An Alaskan Native Model for Language Teaching and Learning

Feb 19th, 2015 | By | Category: 26-3: Global Indigenous Higher Education, Media Reviews

communities-practiceEdited by Patrick E. Marlow and Sabine Siekmann
University of Arizona Press (2013)
179 pages

Review by Jurgita Antoine

This book discusses the Second Language Acquisition Teacher Education project at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant, the program was designed to provide training to language teachers from Alaskan rural communities, who taught at both English- and Indigenous-language medium schools. The training led to an advanced degree.

The teachers enrolled in the program were organized into four groups called Graduate Research Collaboratives (GRCs), with focus areas in pedagogy, multiliteracies (e.g., song, dance, and theater), assessment, and language policy and planning. GRCs were composed of the teachers, Master of Arts degree candidates, and an Alaska Native doctoral candidate, and were headed by a non-Native faculty member. Native doctoral candidates served as course co-instructors and mediators between non-Native faculty and Native teachers working in Indigenous communities.

The book consists of chapters written by the faculty and doctoral candidates who developed and taught in the program. The authors discuss their teacher-training model that bridged teaching methodologies for English-as-a-second-language with the specific needs of Alaskan Indigenous communities. Using sociocultural theory and critical pedagogy, they analyze the mentoring methodologies for Native teachers, course planning and development, and specific learning activities to evaluate the program’s success. The chapters are organized into discussions of the theoretical framework, teaching and research methodologies, and analysis of classroom data.

As a research study, this book provides a model for leadership training in Indigenous language and culture revitalization as a collaborative learning activity. It also ponders the place of Indigenous scholars in the academy and collaborations between academic institutions and Indigenous communities. Communities of Practice will be of interest to education departments and Native American language teacher training programs at tribal colleges.

Jurgita Antoine, Ph.D., is project director of Lakota Documentaries at Sinte Gleska University where she coordinates translations of Lakota oral narratives.

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