Connections to Reseach

My research interests currently lie in two areas  (I believe I will require a narrower focus).

1) resources for teachers/students at the intermediate (gr.7-8)  level to support indigenous education.  Online resources, websites, multimedia, video will be explored along with the use of mentor texts.  A focus may be on the residential school system in Ontario.

2) interactive resources/online resources which could be used for aboriginal students in Ontario to earn or recover credits.

An Aboriginal Education Strategy was launched in Ontario in 2007 with specific initiatives to support the learning and achievement of Aboriginal elementary and secondary students.   Part of the strategy  includes initiatives to increase knowledge and awareness about First Nation, Métis and Inuit histories, cultures and perspectives among all students.

Within the strategy, initiatives include:

  • Supporting eight Alternative Secondary School Programs to address the learning and cultural needs of urban Aboriginal youth.  The programs are run through Native Friendship Centres and help students complete their secondary school diploma.
  • Developing and implementing curriculum resources for teachers to reach Aboriginal students and to teach all students about First Nation, Métis and Inuit cultures, traditions and histories.
  • Developing effective strategies to engage First Nation, Métis and Inuit students living in large urban centres and meet their learning needs through the Urban Aboriginal Education Project. Three pilot projects are currently underway in Toronto, Barrie and Thunder Bay.
  • Providing support to school boards to develop policies for voluntary, confidential Aboriginal student self-identification. This will help school boards gather reliable data to support Aboriginal student achievement. More than 80 school boards and school authorities have adopted or are developing policies.
  • Helping colleges, universities and Aboriginal institutions develop programs and new curriculum and provide services to ensure that more Aboriginal students participate and graduate.



September 28, 2011   No Comments

My Research Interests

I do not pretend to be knowledgeable about Indigenous cultures, and all that I know about these cultures I have learned from popular media.  This course is helping me think critically about issues that surround Indigenous education, especially when Westerners impose their ways and modes of knowing on these peoples.

My research interests will focus on place-based learning.  This topic interests me, not only because of its novelty to me had (I had no idea what it was prior to ETEC 521), but because it is related to two areas of cognition that interest me:  situated learning and embodied knowing.  Place-based learning is a form of situated learning, where learning takes place in social and environmental contexts in which the knowledge is used. Learning takes place when problems that are authentic to the context are tackled.  Embodied knowing is a bit more difficult to define simply because it has different meanings.  One definition which is useful in this context is placing the learner in the context in which he will need to use specific types of knowledge.  For instance, although a driver’s manual is helpful, the way to learn how to drive a car is to sit behind the wheel of one and drive.

September 25, 2011   No Comments

Finding a Place to Stand

This is a blog post written by Tasha Beeds, who is of nêhiyaw (Cree), Métis and Caribbean ancestryShe asserts that traditional and Western knowledge can co-exist and be taught, as long as the Indigenous knowledge isn’t compromised.  The author advocates writing down narratives that pre-existed in oral forms.  She states that the written form will not supersede the oral because orality comes from a lived experience, and whatever is written down must emanate from the experiential.


Beeds, T. (2011).  Finding a place to stand:  Indigenous education through oral and written narratives.  Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.  Retrieved from

September 25, 2011   No Comments

Western Science Meets Native Reality

For Indigenous Peoples (IP) knowledge and place are bound together.  Western educational systems run counter to IPs concept of an “interdependent universe, and the importance of place in their societies.” The authors work from the premise that Westerners could use the Native worldview to promote a sustainable way of living.  Traditional educational processes involve observing natural phenomenon, adapting lifestyle in order to survive, obtaining sustenance from plants and animals, using natural materials to make tools and other implements.  Knowledge is passed down inter-generationally through stories and demonstration.

Westerners test competency through testing; among IPs, competency is determined by survival.  They have their own system for understanding and articulating meteorology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and the sacred.  They have also devised a way of dealing with the flora and fauna of their environment in ways that are sustainable.  They see all of these disciplines as inter-related, while in the Western educational system, disciplines are detached from each other, and learning takes place within four walls.  The practice of deconstruction/reconstruction of Western thought doesn’t hold in traditional worldviews where everything is seamlessly interconnected

The authors advocate teaching subject matter in ways that IP understand it, then explaining it in Western terms.  Their idea is to show IP that Western and traditional knowledge enhance each other.  There is a problem to this, however, for the IP knowledge is an everyday part of life.  When they learn the Western worldview in school, it remains there.  They will not use this worldview in their tribes when they go home in the evening.  Thus, they will see that the Western worldview is best used in school, but the traditional worldview is used in the tribe to survive.  Therefore, the traditional worldview will always take precedence, and be superior in their eyes.

The site includes a chart outlining differences in worldview between IP and West.  The authors illustrate these differences by recounting a meeting between representatives from the State Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks, Alaska and the Minto peoples.  The agency wanted to measure sediment in the water supply; the Minto people wanted to know what was being doing about the fires.  Wild fires are left to burn themselves out until they approach man-made structures, at which time agencies mobilize to put out the fires.  The Minto people tried to explain that the issue of sediment in the water supply would be controlled if the fires were put out promptly.  The representatives said the policy regarding fires were handled by a different agency, and because there were no representatives with them that day, they could not address the issue of fires.  This example illustrates the separation and specialization of areas of knowledge and approaches to handling natural phenomenon.

Conclusions:  Native people may need to understand western science, but not at the expense of their own knowledge.  Traditional knowledge must be recognized as credible.


Kawagley, A., and Barnhardt, R. (2007).  Education indigenous to place:  Western science meets native reality.  Alaska Native Knowledge Network (ANKN).  Retrieved from

September 25, 2011   No Comments

Eight Aboriginal Ways of Learning

This site outlines ways in which Native Australians learn.  Learning for them isn’t a curriculum, the content of a course, but it is a process.  There are eight involved, one of which involves a sense of place—“land links.”  Teaching takes place away from classrooms and desks, and in the community.  Students construct stories and they share them.  The pedagogy is narrative-driven, and the eight ways are interconnected.  They are:

Use of symbols and images
Land links
Deconstructive/Reconstructive (starting with the whole and picking it apart)
Community Links

There’s a link to a wiki site that discusses these eight ways in greater detail, complete with a discussion forum.  I will write about this site in a later blog post.


Kalantzis, M., and Cope, B. (2011).  Eight Aboriginal ways of Learning.  New Learning:  Transformational designs for pedagogy for assessment.  Retrieved from

September 25, 2011   No Comments

What it means to be attached to a place

“[a] Sense of place is the set of all meanings and attachments a person or a group invests in a place” (slide no.7)

This site features a series of powerpoint slides by Steven Smeken in School of Earth and Science Education at the Arizona State University, a US state where many Native American tribes live.  The department teaches earth sciences by using students’ prior sense of place as leverage for learning.

Classes begin with advanced organizers:  meeting the students where they are.  Students must pick a place that holds intellectual and cultural significance for them, and describe characteristics of the place, as well as ways in which they interact with the place and come to know it.  Then students are introduced to the Western scientific concepts that explain the place’s natural phenomena.

The department teaches the discipline both in and about these places.  The presenter makes a great point:  “Places populate the cultural landscape, just as landforms and biota make up the physical landscape” (slide no. 4).

Place means different things to different peoples, of whatever culture.  Place can have aesthetic, economic, ceremonial, historical, spiritual, scientific significance.  People even develop emotional attachments to places.

In place-based teaching, place defines the curriculum instead of global standards.   It is local, trans-disciplinary (it takes into account history, art, geography/geology, hydrology, etc), experiential (students work in the actual place or in the community), cross cultural.

Each slide lists ways in which students’ meanings can be incorporated into the learning of earth sciences, including using the names for places that students know and already use.  Slide 24 contains a few points to consider when offering a place-based course for the first time.

The presentation concludes with an extensive bibliography, which will be helpful to researchers interested in place-based education.


Smeken, P.  (2010).  Place-based teaching and learning.  Retrieved from

September 25, 2011   No Comments

East and West: Worldviews apart.

Indigenous peoples (IP) hold worldviews that are radically different from Westerners, and these differences play themselves out in educational contexts.  IPs connect to the physical places where they live.  These places define them spiritual, culturally, and historical.   In their drawings depicting researchers, children from these cultures, for instance, will often depict researchers working in the rugged outdoors, while children from a Western culture invariably depict researchers donning white coats and working in a sterile lab (Semken, 2005).


Despite their connections to place, IP are not drawn to environmental and earth sciences degrees in college and universities because too often these courses focus on “global syntheses” (Semken, p. 149).  Course textbooks typically feature natural phenomenon from all over the world and other planets, embedding causal effects and explanations of these phenomenon in abstruse scientific theories.  And when the texts do discuss places that are familiar to IP through their traditions, the presentations are done in ways that are culturally unacceptable to IP.  The students experience cultural discontinuity that places a seeming barrier to what the Westerner’s curriculum tries to teach (Semken, p. 150).

The authors advocate a place-based approach to teaching geosciences at colleges and universities.  They define place-based learning as an approach to teaching and learning where the content of the subject focuses on physical attributes and meaning.  It focuses on the cultural, historic, and socio-economic underpinnings of a place.  In place-based learning, students typically work in the outdoors or in the community in place-based learning.  Place-based learning de-emphasizes “global  standardization, incessant testing, competitiveness, and career training.” (Semken, p. 151), characteristic of Western approaches to education.  It promotes sustainable lifestyles.

Place-based learning is similar to situated learning.  It is only the context that changes; the cognitive requirements remain the same.



Semken, P. (2005).  A sense of place and place-based introductory geosciences teaching for American Indian and Alaska Native undergraduates.  Journal of Geoscience Education, 25(2), 149-157.  Retrieved from

September 25, 2011   No Comments

Success? And the definition is?

I apologize for the clumping of my posts but it was not till last night (at the hockey game after a conversation with a local principal) that I decided upon a possible area of focus for investigation and perhaps research. Will academic or cultural support for our aboriginal students best increase their chances for success? And of course the next question is “What is the definition of success?”

Week 2 of Module 1 had the cohort question ” . . .based on the readings, how are Indigenous communities different from other ethnic or mainstream communities with regard to values about progress, tradition, and technology? ” Does the definition of success differ between Indigenous and Mainstream culture?

The CMEC Summit on Aboriginal Education spoke of success as “eliminating the gaps between the educational achievement of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in Canada.” Within the document was reference to the socioeconomic factors and cultural needs that need to be addressed within the context of furthering academic achievement.

Interestingly, I am having more success finding cited/peer reviewed research on this topic from an Australian indigenous perspective. (I find the same in the area of mathematics.) It was finally in an Ontario, What Works, Research into Practice, publication where I found not necessarily answers but the beginnings of a web of research.

Cmec summit on aboriginal education:strengthening aboriginal success. (2009, February). Retrieved from

Integrating aboriginal teaching and values in the classrroom. (2008, March). What Works? Research into Practice in , (11), Retrieved from

September 25, 2011   No Comments