Subject Specialization in Teacher Education: An Experience in a Canadian Native School

By Winter, Eileen C.; McEACHERN, William R. | Education, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Subject Specialization in Teacher Education: An Experience in a Canadian Native School


Winter, Eileen C., McEACHERN, William R., Education


Much has been written about the needs of Native Indian students and the adaptations which should be made in school programs. It is imperative that these needs be reflected in teacher education programs which prepare teachers for schools with a Native population. Boseker and Gordon (1983) note that pre-service teachers should learn about cooperation, privacy, consensus, and wait-time as positive alternative behaviors. They also suggest that pre-service teachers should learn about an appropriate curriculum for Native children, one which consists of "modern" subjects such as mathematics, computers, reading, bookkeeping, english, and science, as well as the incorporation of "traditional" aspects of Native culture such as language, legends, history, art, and environmental education. How, though, are these cultural aspects to be learned by the non-native student teacher? Toelken (1976), in a description of Navajo culture, suggests that more education majors need experiences living within a minority community in order to share locally valued activities and understand minority aspirations. Sullivan (1974) elaborates by saying that such schools and communities need to be recognized as an extended university classroom; however, lack of funds, lack of student interest, lack of multiculturally trained faculty members, and lack of nearby Native communities are cited as impediments to teacher training projects in these settings. After a nine-year study of a teacher training project in schools educating Navajo and Hopi youth, Mahan (1982) concluded that:

1. teacher preparation institutions and Native American educators can successfully collaborate in the year-by-year preparation of pre-service teachers;

2. there are many education majors willing to prepare for, and then successfully teach in, relatively isolated Native American communities;

3. schools for Native American youth and pre-service teachers assigned to those schools each benefit immensely through cultural immersion teacher preparation;

4. Native American educators should be encouraged to approach teacher training institutions to request structured teacher training projects in schools serving Native American youth (p. 101).

Nipissing University: North Bay

The preparation of teachers for the northern regions of Ontario has had a long history in North Bay. From the early days of the Normal School program (circa 1909) to the current program in the Faculty of Education, there has been a focus on the needs of students in native communities. Students preparing to be teachers (pre-service teachers) enter the Faculty of Education for a one-year education program after having completed a minimum of a bachelor's degree. This one-year program prepares the pre-service teachers for both elementary and secondary positions. Students entering the faculty Choose a concentration in one of the three divisional areas: Primary/Junior (Junior Kindergarten-Grade 6; ages 5-11); Junior/Intermediate (Grades 4-10; ages 9-15); or Intermediate/Senior (Grades 7-12; ages 12-17). Students undertake a range of foundations, methods, and curriculum subjects regardless of their divisional concentration. Specific subject specialization occurs at both the Intermediate and Senior levels in accordance with the pre-service candidate's choice of teachable subjects in which they are qualified.

In addition, there is an optional course aimed at preparation for teaching in Native schools. This course looks at historical, cultural, and linguistic issues involved in the education of Native students. As suggested by Boseker & Gordon (1983), the pre-service teachers learn about a range of culturally specific behaviors as well as learning about curriculum that is suitable for the Native students in the 1990's. It is important to note that there are both generalist and subject specialist pre-service teachers in this program option. Complementing the course is a three week practice teaching placement usually in a Native community school on the shores of James Bay, Ontario. …

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