Source: Bonnie Stelmach University of Alberta, Margaret Kovach University of Saskatchewan, Larry Steeves, University of Regina. Faculty of Education, University of Alberta
Summary: What do teachers do (or not do) that makes you want to go to school? A team of Saskatchewan researchers asked Saskatchewan Aboriginal high school students this question about the aspects of instructional practice that helps and hinders their learning. While responses pointed to several aspects, teacher relational instincts and capacities were the most influential in school engagement for this group of Aboriginal students. Students in this study described three relational capacities of effective teachers: a) empathetic responsiveness to the student as whole being, b) the degree to which teacher disposition influenced the relational dynamic with students, and c) teachers’ responsiveness to the full context of the student’s life (including a sensibility of the student’s Indigenous culture). Through a case study process, focus group interviews were conducted in six Saskatchewan schools. The study included 75 Aboriginal high school students from six schools (urban, rural, provincial, and First Nations Band schools) in Saskatchewan, Canada. The qualitative case study research design was informed by Indigenous principles, and the theoretical lens employed in the analysis relied predominately upon an Indigenous theoretical perspective, as articulated by Smith and Perkins (as cited in Kovach, 2014). The findings point to the teaching attributes of relationality, responsibility, and understanding of contextuality identified within an Indigenous theoretical framework as influential in fostering engaged learning environments for this group of Aboriginal high school students.