Study Tells How to Best Teach Native Students

Aug 15th, 2008 | By | Category: 20-1: Native Voices, Modern Media, Tribal College News

The U.S. Office of Indian Education (OIE) has released results from a study designed to identify effective instructional strategies for educators (Native and non-Native) of American Indian/Alaska Native students. Beginning in 2006, a total of 52 focus groups with stakeholder participants were selected from the surrounding areas of Portland, OR; Albuquerque, NM; Minneapolis, MN; Oklahoma City, OK; Yakama, WA; Anchorage, AK; and Pembroke, NC.

The following themes emerged from the study:

1. Instructional strategies that were deemed most effective for teaching American Indian/Alaska Native students depended on the subject. For instance, for math, some participants suggested that direct instruction is the best instructional method. For the physical and social sciences, participants agreed that constructivist methods of learning (such as cooperative learning, project-based learning, and discovery) were the most appropriate. Participants suggested that the latter forms of instruction are more consistent with traditional Indigenous ways of learning through experience; students can relate what they learn in the classroom to real life.

2. Participants indicated that teachers (both Native and non-Native) are the critical components in infusing various aspects of Indigenous culture within the classroom experience. However, they pointed out that the Indigenous cultural components must be tied to state K-12 testing standards. Without such ties, many teachers may not attempt to infuse culture into the classroom.

3. Participants also said non-Native teachers need to learn important facts about American Indian/Alaska Native people such as tribal sovereignty, basics of tribal laws and significant court cases, structure of local tribal government, local tribal and educational history, and key historical tribal figures (i.e. past and present). Such knowledge could dispel myths and stereotypes (e.g., American Indians get everything free), giving the instructors a more accurate view of American Indian/Alaska Native students.

For more information, contact Dr. Raphael Guillory, assistant professor, Eastern Washington University by phone, (509) 359-2274, or email, rguillory@mail.ewu.edu.

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