Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Identifying the Learning Needs of Innu Students: Creating a Model of Culturally Appropriate Assessment

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Identifying the Learning Needs of Innu Students: Creating a Model of Culturally Appropriate Assessment

Article excerpt

Abstract / Résumé

This article discusses the methodology and findings of a major assessment project of lnnu children in Labrador. The project was commissioned to identify the learning needs of these children so as to facilitate an enhanced school system, responsive to Innu language and culture. The researchers developed a methodology which carefully blends qualitative and quantitative approaches, within a paradigm of culturally defined inclusive schooling, to obtain a wealth of information on the learning needs of these children. Amidst the flurry of concern for culturally appropriate assessment, these researchers provide tangible, field-tested information on how schools can use assessment to enhance education.

Le present article traite de la méthodologie et des résultats d'un important projet d'évaluation des enfants Innu au Labrador. Le projet visait à cerner les besoins en matière d'apprentissage de ces enfants en vue d'améliorer le système scolaire pour qu'il soit plus sensible à la langue et à la culture des Innu. Les chercheurs ont élaboré une méthodologie qui mêle soigneusement des approches quantitatives et qualitatives au sein d'un paradigme d'enseignement intégrateur et culturellement défini pour obtenir de nombreux renseignements sur les besoins en matière d'apprentissage de ces enfants. Dans un contexte de préoccupation à l'égard d'une évaluation adaptée à la culture, les chercheurs proposent des données tangibles et vérifiées sur le terrain sur la façon dont les écoles peuvent utiliser l'évaluation pour améliorer l'éducation.

Introduction

Education of Canadian Aboriginal Students

The educational struggles of the Innu have paralleled, in many ways, that of their national peers in Canada's Aboriginal populations. The 1867 British North America Act and the 1876 Indian Act empowered the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to provide for the education of First Nations children (Nesbit, Philpott, Cahill & Jeffery, 2004, p.1). However, it quickly became obvious that federal initiatives, including residential schools, were not only failing to educate Aboriginal children but were instruments of "cultural genocide" (Burns, 1995, p.54). A subsequent 1969 Government of Canada document "The White Papet" attempted to address this failure by presenting a major policy proposal to integrate the education of Canada's Native youth with that of the provinces. It was intended to address the imbalance between Native and non-Native learners by defining education of Aboriginal youth as being a provincial responsibility (Goddard, 1993). Brooks (1991) in reflecting on the document (and the subsequent reaction to it) referenced its lack of sensitivity to Aboriginal language and culture. He writes that "very little was done to accommodate Indian cultural differences in the integrated schools" (p.173) and that Native language use continued to be discouraged.

In response, the First Nations community, led by the National Indian Brotherhood, released a 1972 paper titled Indian Control of Indian Education (National Indian Brotherhood, 1972) which called for greater control of education by local bands. It marked a policy change in education that, in the ensuing years resulted in greater shifts of responsibility for education to band councils. "The paper represented a major First Nations initiative to reclaim control over Aboriginal education and a philosophic departure from the existing federal association between education and cultural assimilation" (Nesbit, et al. 2004). The Canadian Education Association (1984) reported that while the shift towards Aboriginal controlled education was an important step, "a significant discrepancy between the expectations of Native people and reality has developed" (p.13).

This discrepancy, coupled with poor scholastic performance for Aboriginal youth, would continue in the ensuing years, despite being well recognized at provincial and federal levels. …

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