Using Active Learning to Teach Culturally Relevant Personal Finance to Native American Students

By Head, Lorna Saboe-Wounded | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Using Active Learning to Teach Culturally Relevant Personal Finance to Native American Students


Head, Lorna Saboe-Wounded, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


Active learning is a teaching approach that requires students to do something intellectually with course content This involves examining, questioning, and relating knowledge gained from previous experiences to new knowledge and skills. Native American students have been found to have low financial literacy skills. Family and consumer sciences educators focus on improving the well-being of individuals, families, and communities; therefore, it is imperative to identify strategies for improving financial literacy skills for Native American students. Strategies are described for teaching personal finance knowledge and skills utilizing the active learning approach.

Development of financial literacy skills is crucial for individuals and families in order to be financially secure. Financial literacy is the knowledge of financial concepts and how this knowledge is used to make financial decisions, taking into account available resources and the unique situation for each individual or family (Gentry, 2007; Huston, 2010; McCormick, 2009). High school personal finance courses help students develop the necessary skills to make decisions in the future that will have a long-term financial impact. Instructors who utilize the active learning strategy when teaching personal finance allow students to apply the content to their personal situation. Using this strategy, along with a culturally relevant approach, initiates opportunities for a deeper understanding of the value of financial literacy skills.

A traditional Lakota belief is that all children are sacred and all their cultural, social, emotional, mental, and physical needs should be developed equally for a healthy balanced life (Morrison & LockeFlying Earth, 2013). This belief mirrors the Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Body of Knowledge (BOK), which focuses on meeting basic needs to improve individual well-being through the lens of health, wellness, and human capital (Roubanis et al., 2012). The holistic approach emphasizes that every aspect of development has an impact on individual well-being. The BOK, along with Lakota tradition, supports the interrelationship of health, wellness, and human capital. When one developmental need is not met, other areas of development are inhibited.

A holistic approach is strengthened by using active learning activities. Active learning gives students an opportunity to do something with course content to acquire knowledge and skills. This approach also helps students examine the material and ask questions to deepen their understanding of the content (Barkley, 2010; Jackson, 1993; Silberman, 1996). Active learning strategies can be used in all FCS content areas to help students apply skills and knowledge to their personal situation and to help them understand how these skills can have an impact on all aspects of their life. More important, active learning strategies can be used to incorporate cultural characteristics that address specific needs of a group. In this study, personal finance was used as the FCS content area to provide examples of active learning through the lens of Native American cultural traditions and issues. Insights from the study can be transferred to other FCS content areas easily.

The importance of developing financial literacy skills for Native American students is supported by findings from an indepth study (Anderson, Jorgensen, Brantmeier, & Mandell, 2008) that compared native to non-native students. The purpose of the study was to assess the personal financial knowledge of Native American youth (N = 371). The results were not encouraging. The mean cumulative score for all participants, both native and non-native, was a failing 40%, with 93% of students who identified themselves as Native American failing compared to 78% of the participants who identified themselves as nonnative (Anderson et al., 2008).

A secondary analysis of the data collected by Anderson et al. (2008) was conducted by Saboe-Wounded Head (2010) to analyze the relationship of culture to financial knowledge and behavior. …

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