Northern Canadian Aboriginal teachers' perceptions of classroom learning environments
Blessé, Di Ann Sue
This study is based on the premise that Aboriginal teachers possess valuable knowledge and insights with regard to the education of Aboriginal children. The assumption was that, if asked, these teachers would willingly share their experiences, knowledge, and perceptions in an effort to contribute to the academic research which seeks to understand the processes of cross-cultural negotiation and ameliorate the cultural conflict existing in cross-cultural classrooms. The purpose of the study was to determine the perceptions of Northern Canadian Aboriginal teachers regarding effective classroom learning environments. This study examines the early socialization experiences of seven Northern Canadian Aboriginal teachers. The research attempts to link traditional cultural values and primary socialization experiences to the teachers' perceptions, beliefs, and practices regarding the development of their classroom learning environments. In effect, to address the "why" questions with regard to the teachers' development of the learning environment within their classrooms. When the research data were analyzed, the relationship between the teachers' recounted socialization experiences, traditional cultural values, and their development of classroom learning environments was evident. The conclusion can be made that these Aboriginal teachers integrate traditional cultural values learned through their primary socialization experiences with their development of classroom learning environments which reflect their culture, and compliment the patterns of interaction in their communities, to make learning in the classroom as compatible as possible with the learning that takes place outside it. Further, this study provides information, through the Aboriginal participants' observations and suggestions, for non-Native teachers who are concerned with creating classroom environments that reflect Aboriginal students' culture and respect the knowledge which they bring with them to the classroom setting. The identification of a research method which facilitated small group interaction and participation in the research process was perceived as a critical consideration with regard to conducting this study. Focus groups were identified as a suitable methodology and used as the means of data collection for this qualitative research study. An important result was that collective exploration of individual experiences served to expand the participants' knowledge and understanding of their own teaching practice. Conclusions regarding the appropriateness of the focus group methodology when conducting research with Aboriginal participants are included in the findings of the study.