Two University of Alberta associate professors heading up a three-year project designed to support and improve the learning experiences of indigenous students have been selected as winners of the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s annual Educational Research Award.
The research project of Diane Conrad and Dwayne Donald began in April 2015 and is expected to conclude in 2018. Its participants include students, teachers, parents, elders and other members of three distinctly different indigenous cultures and school communities:
- Tatskikiisaapo’p Middle School, located on the lands of the Kainai First Nation in the heart of the traditional territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy (southern Alberta)
Ben Calf Robe–St. Clare School, located on Treaty 6 territory in Edmonton and attended by students who are members of various indigenous nations
Chief T’Selehye School, located in Fort Good Hope, NWT, and in the traditional territory of the Sahtu Dene peoples
Playing a major role in the “participatory action research” of Conrad and Donald are the students who essentially act as co-researchers. Supported by research assistants and teachers, the students participate in learning activities related to their culture, identity, community and place. They have opportunities to have elders relay stories of their culture and traditions and to visit regions of cultural and historical significance. Using various arts-based media, such as drawings, paintings, videos, journal entries and community mapping projects, the students capture and demonstrate what it is they learn. The online publication of student work allows the knowledge expressed within it to be shared within and among the borders of the three school communities.
The efforts of all project participants contribute to an ongoing co-creation and exchange of indigenous knowledge and achieve three major objectives of the project:
To create opportunities for cultural exchanges among the three indigenous communities
To build the capacity to develop and deliver school-based curriculum with an indigenous-culture focus among teachers in the school communities
- To improve and enrich the educational experience of indigenous students through the provision of relevant and engaging learning opportunities that allow them to be grounded in their cultures and histories while learning the Alberta curriculum
The Alberta Teachers’ Association Educational Research Award, valued at $5,000, is presented annually to a faculty of education member or sessional lecturer at an Alberta university or university college that the Association recognizes as undertaking high-quality research on classroom teaching and learning. ❚