- Teachers and instructional assistants are seeing a change in school culture dynamics.
- They are being sought out for information, are feeling more valued, and have a more central role in curricular decisions.
- They acknowledge it as an important factor, especially in communities where there is a high staff transition rate.
- Usually, Native teachers and instructional assistants are constants in the community. Including them in decision making processes and providing them more professional development opportunities can only enhance the continuity and quality of education for students in their respective communities.
- The actions of teachers, students, staff and administrators in observed schools are rooted in ethical standards that permeate curriculum, instruction and school culture.
- High student attendance rates and high involvement of parents and other community members in the academic lives of their children attest to the success with outreach and inclusion of community values and member participation in the education of their children
- Teachers reveal the importance of having a purposeful goal and meaningful process in teaching and learning.
- Some made reference to seeing a difference in students’ attitudes when activities were task-oriented and related more closely to student’s lives.
- Science was identified as a natural connector between learning and a closer link to traditional practices.
- Giving students an opportunity to connect to something familiar as a springboard to extend learning into new areas was identified as key among all the teachers.
- Teachers identified the positive impact that it has on students to bring Elders into the classroom. This has particularly been helpful for non-native teachers, as the community members are able to address and share experiences and knowledge the teachers could not offer otherwise.
- There are several other factors that come into play with regards to Elders’ involvement in the classroom, which varied from school to school; among them, availability and access (transportation) to the school site.
- Some of the obstacles reported by all teachers dealt mainly with issues of time constraints, given the external mandates and pressures from accountability, limiting opportunities to engage in longer explorations and project-based learning.
- Native teachers also identified lack of resources and reduced intrinsic resources, such as students loosing their native language, and with it a wealth of knowledge and values inherent in the culture, and further ramifications in the social structure of the communities.
- Despite these challenges, teachers sought ways to engage students and to provide opportunities to teach content and to reinforce students’ cultural backgrounds (e.g. highlighting community events and students’ participation in them, being role models from within the culture, or having a ‘cultural focus week’ with community. Findings have implications for Teacher Training Programs across the entire spectrum of Professional Development
- Teachers need collaborative opportunities, resources and time to develop and reflect on practice, especially in remote areas.
- Teachers for the most part saw students as capable learners, with very few exceptions where deficit model statements were recorded.
- Both Native and non-native teachers emphasized the importance of being able to provide as much support and opportunities for the students to be successful in meeting the expectations of both the modern academic world and their cultural heritage (unity involvement).
Moschkovich, J. & Nelson-Barber, S. (In press). What math teachers need to know about culture and language. In B. Greer, S. Mukhopadhyay, S. Nelson-Barber, & A. Powell (Eds.). Culturally Responsive Mathematics Education. Mahwah, NJ: Taylor and Francis Group.
Native power, pedagogy and place: Strengthening mathematics education through indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing. Annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Salt Lake City, UT, April, 2008.
Learning, culture and context: STEM education in rural indigenous schools. Annual meeting of the National Indian Education Association, Honolulu, HI, October, 2007.
Language & Culture in the Teaching of Science. Workshop presented at the annual Pacific Education Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, July, 2007.
Transformative approaches to mathematics and science education. Expert Panel on Pacific Education. Pacific Education Conference, Koror, Palau, July, 2006.
What teachers need to know and do in multicultural classrooms: A case for culture-based curriculum. Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Quebec, April, 2005.
Connecting the teaching of mathematics to community culture: A Native American Case Example. Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Quebec, April, 2005.
A text recounting the process and a program of professional development for in-service, as well as teacher preparation.