Issues of Cultural Discontinuities in the Education of Aboriginal Students
Using ethnographic and reflective narrative methods in an inner-city kindergarten classroom with a high proportion of Aboriginal children from Ojibway and Cree ancestries in Western Canada, this paper explores issues of cultural discontinuities as often experienced by Aboriginal students as they move from their home environment to a school environment.
This paper begins with the recognition that students whose culture differ from the mainstream culture often experience difficulties in their school experiences because they do not conform to the ways in which schools choose to define what constitutes learning. In particular, I explore how cross-cultural interactions with Aboriginal students are sometimes misinterpreted by teachers. In doing so, I focus on Aboriginal interaction patterns often referred to as strategies of indirection, such as non-interference and non-competitiveness. I then explore Aboriginal children's cross-cultural experiences as they often struggle between their own cultural conventions and the school's. I do so by reflecting on my own research experiences with Aboriginal people in educational and research contexts. Finally, reflecting on the conversations that I had with Aboriginal children, community members, and Aboriginal educational consultants, I explore some of the options and challenges that teachers may face when developing culturally responsive pedagogical practices with Aboriginal students.
Concluding remarks will be shared on how researchers may ethically position themselves in classroom ethnography with special attention to issues of power, caring and advocacy.
Keywords: Aboriginal Education, Cultural Sensitivity, Classroom Ethnography, Interaction Patterns, Cultural Discontinuity
Dr Nathalie Piquemal
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba