Native Teachers' Beliefs and Practices: Choosing Language and Cultural Revitalization over Uniformity and Standardization

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Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz
Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood
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07-18-2017 3:54 PM
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The goal of implementing a culture-based curriculum that draws upon indigenous knowledge, traditions, and language is currently in competition with demands placed on schools by high stakes educational reform to implement a standards-based curriculum in schools. Though often left out of the policy conversation, Native teachers in particular have much to contribute to understandings of how such reform discourse may derail Indigenous-centered discussions about education. This article draws from interview and observational data collected during a three-year (2005-2008) qualitative study of Native teacher beliefs and practices. Participants in the study included nine teachers who implement a language - and culture-based curriculum. Classroom observations, interviews, and focus groups were conducted to gather information about instructional practices in one Native language immersion school (pre-kindergarten to third grade). Findings indicate the teachers' perspectives on the ways in which their language instruction is compromised in light of pressures to teach to narrow conceptions of academic subject knowledge emergent from high-stakes policy and testing discussions. Teachers are neither passive recipients of curricular goals nor passive instructional directors of standards-based curriculum. Recommendations include cautioning tribal nations to find ways to buffer outside high stakes pressures impacting promising practices of immersion language teachers in early childhood education.
Teaching Methods and Strategies
Native American and Alaska Native Children
Instructional Effectiveness
Heritage and Indigenous Language Programs
Academic Language