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Category: Relevant Research

Incorporating Indigenous Cultures and Realities in STEM: A Primer

Source: The Conference Board of Canada

Summary: Document Highlights

When educators use a culturally responsive curriculum – one that bridges Indigenous ways of knowing with Western science – Indigenous students are more engaged and perform better.

In recent years, many organizations across Canada have established programs to help Indigenous learners get ahead in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. However, the effectiveness of these new initiatives is not well understood.

The inventory in Incorporating Indigenous Cultures and Realities in STEM lists more than a 100 different programs in Canada that specifically aim to help Indigenous learners succeed in STEM. These programs can be sorted into eight broad strategies for increasing Indigenous representation in STEM. Each strategy falls into one of three periods in the learner’s life course. Within each strategy, there are initiatives that attempt to address cultural difference.

Residential Schools – Métis Experience

Source: Walking Together : Education for Reconciliation – Alberta Teachers’ Association

Summary: How were the Métis people in Alberta impacted by the Indian residential school system?

The first church-run mission schools established in western Canada beginning in the 1860s were open to First Nations and Métis children. As a result, many Métis students in the communities of Fort Chipewyan, St Albert and Lesser Slave Lake did attend school. In 1879 the Government of Canada, as part of its strategy of First Nations assimilation into the Euro-Canadian culture, entered into a partnership with the Christian churches to establish government-funded, church-run residential schools for Indigenous children. While the federal government acknowledged its responsibility for educating First Nations children, its overall policy was that the provinces were responsible for Métis children.

What do first-year university students in Ontario, Canada, know about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples and topics

Source: Canadian Journal of Education / Revue canadienne de l’éducation 41:3 (2018)

Summary: Co-designed with over 200 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit educators and community members across Ontario, the survey investigated how students are learning to think about colonialism and its relationship to Indigenous peoples and Canadian society. Statistical analysis of 2,899 student responses reveals that first-year university students who graduated from Ontario high schools are substantially unaware of Indigenous presence and vitality. The majority of students do not understand the fundamental laws structuring conditions of life for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people or the contributions Indigenous peoples make to all aspects of Canadian society. Although they know slightly more about what is happening with regard to Indigenous peoples today, students have little sense of the historical circumstances and forces that shape current events… However, when students have opportunities to engage with Indigenous perspectives and topics, it can make a difference to what students know and think. These results indicate that curricular reform is key to eradicating mass ignorance but cannot occur in isolation. Teacher education programs must play a central role in enacting the promise of new curricular emphases.

Staying in School: Engaging Aboriginal Students

Source: Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Summary: Aboriginal Education, notably the inclusion of Aboriginal content in curricula and programs and the success of Aboriginal students, has received focused attention across Canada in recent years. Substantial efforts have been undertaken at the federal and provincial levels to address the differences in rates of achievement by Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal Youth (e.g., Kroes, 2008; Levin, 2009).

Historically, there have been gaps in measured outcomes between Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal Peoples of all ages, particularly in literacy rates (Statistics Canada, 2005), and enrolment to post‐ secondary education (Statistics Canada, 2010a). Although enrolment to post‐secondary education by Aboriginal Peoples is increasing, it is still below the rates of non‐Aboriginal Peoples. Across Canada rates of Aboriginal Peoples completing high school lag far behind non‐Aboriginal Peoples.

… According to Statistics Canada 2006 census data, 40% of Aboriginal Peoples aged 20 to 24 did not have a high‐school diploma, compared to 13% among non‐Aboriginal Peoples. The rate of non‐ completion is even higher for on‐reserve Aboriginal Peoples (61% had not completed high school) and for Inuit Peoples living in rural or remote communities (68% had not completed high school).

Gender differences on the 2006 census are also evident, as 43% percent of male Aboriginal Peoples in Canada between the ages of 20 and 24 had not completed high school, compared to 37% of female Aboriginal Peoples of the same age group (Statistics Canada, 2010a).

Aboriginal Youth Talk About Structural Determinants as the Causes of Their Homelessness

Source: First Peoples Child & Family Review, Cyndy Baskin Vol. 3 No. 3 (2007)

Summary: This article explores structural determinants as possible causes of the homelessness of Aboriginal youth in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It includes a brief literature review and provides some of the findings of a recent research project, which implemented an Aboriginal research methodology with homeless youth in Toronto. These findings point to a strong link between Aboriginal children growing up in poverty and involvement in child welfare and becoming homeless as a youth. Suggestions for positive change at the policy-level are offered in order to prevent the next generation of Aboriginal children growing up to become homeless youth.

Improving Transitions for Indigenous Learners through Collaborative Inquiry, Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network (AESN) Transitions Research Report, 2016-2018

Source: McGregor, C. (2019). Improving Transitions for Indigenous Learners through Collaborative Inquiry: AESN Transitions Research Report, 2016-2018. For the Networks of Inquiry and Indigenous Education (NOIIE): Vancouver, CAN.

Summary: The Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network (AESN) has been a catalyst for change in British Columbia (BC) schools since 2009. Based on the initiative of Dr. Trish Rosbourgh, then Director of Aboriginal Education in the Ministry of Education, this network was designed to be a strategy through which school districts could more effectively and productively engage in bringing their Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreements to life (Rosborough, Halbert & Kaser, 2017).

The purpose of the AESN is “to create an inquiry community where people learn and work together to ensure that every Indigenous learner crosses the stage with dignity, purpose and options, and together, we eliminate racism in schools”.

Towards Understanding and Supporting Marginalized Children and Youth in Ontario: The Case of Growing up Indigenous

Source: Wellesley Institute

Summary: This report focuses on the voices and experiences of diverse urban Indigenous youth, parents, service providers, and community leaders across Ontario, to discover ways in which future systems change initiatives can better build on the strengths and support success in Indigenous communities.

With evidence to drive change, effective strategies for creating change, and the voice of community members guiding us, it is possible to revitalize our systems of support so that all our children and youth are equipped for success when they reach adulthood.

Staying in School: Engaging Aboriginal Students

Source: Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Summary: Aboriginal Education, notably the inclusion of Aboriginal content in curricula and programs and the success of Aboriginal students, has received focused attention across Canada. Substantial efforts have been undertaken at the federal and provincial levels to address the differences in rates of achievement by Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal Youth (e.g. Kroes, 2008; Levin, 2009).

Historically, there have been gaps in measured outcomes between Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal Peoples of all ages, particularly in literacy rates (Statistics Canada, 2005), and enrollment to post‐ secondary education (Statistics Canada, 2010a). Although enrollment to post‐secondary education by Aboriginal Peoples is increasing, it is still below the rates of non‐Aboriginal Peoples. Across Canada rates of Aboriginal Peoples completing high school lag far behind non‐Aboriginal Peoples.

Mentoring Relationships and Mental Health in Aboriginal Youth

Source: Pathways to Education

Summary: This study examines the associations between mentoring status and mental health challenges of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth. It suggests that mentoring can positively impact the mental health of Aboriginal youth.

Formal youth mentoring programs have a positive impact on young people’s well-being. However, little is known about their impact on Aboriginal youth.

Using data from a Canada-wide survey of Big Brothers Big Sisters community mentoring programs, this study compares Aboriginal (i.e. First Nations, Inuit, or Métis) youth with non-Aboriginal youth before being matched with a mentor, and 18 months later. The objectives of this study were to assess: a) the mentoring relationship experiences of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth, and b) the impact of mentoring on the behavioural, psychological, and social functioning of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth.

Results show that mentored Aboriginal youth reported fewer emotional problems and less social anxiety relative to non-mentored Aboriginal youth. These effects were not found among non-Aboriginal youth. This study offers insights for youth mentoring researchers and directors of mentoring programs supporting Aboriginal youth, particularly regarding programming implications.

Casting a New Light on a Long Shadow: Saskatchewan Aboriginal High School Students Talk About What Helps and Hinders their Learning

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.

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