Aboriginal higher learner success factors at vancouver community college



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ABORIGINAL HIGHER LEARNER SUCCESS FACTORS

AT VANCOUVER COMMUNITY COLLEGE

by

Laara Elena Mixon



A Major Project Report submitted in partial fulfillment of
the requirements for the degree of
MASTER OF ARTS

In

LEADERSHIP


We accept this Report as conforming

to the required standard


………………………………………………………

Kathy Kinloch, MA, Project Sponsor


……………………………………………………….

Anne Schultz, MEd, Faculty Project Supervisor


……………………………………………………….

Niels Agger-Gupta, PhD., Committee Chair


ROYAL ROADS UNIVERSITY

December 2010

 Laara Mixon, 2010

ABSTRACT

Vancouver has the largest population of Aboriginal peoples in British Columbia, who represent “the largest untapped labour force in the country” (BC Stats, 2008, p. 3). However, when 70% of all future job openings require post-secondary education (Government of British Columbia, Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development, 2010) and Aboriginal peoples remain underserved in post-secondary education (Vancouver Community College [VCC], 2006, p. 1) the imperative to support Aboriginal higher learner success is clear. This action research project explored what factors contribute to the success of Aboriginal higher learners at VCC. This project adhered to all Royal Roads University (2007) ethical considerations and Aboriginal cultural protocols. Findings from this research demonstrate a need to institutionalize inclusive excellence and undertake associated systems changes that support the increased participation and authority of Aboriginal people within the VCC system to support the success of Aboriginal learners.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

“Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart” (Kouzes & Posner, 2007, p. 351). The circle of people who have supported me to write this paper with love and kindness starts with my husband, Jake Mixon, whose faith in us and me was always enough for both of us when my faith faltered. My children, Justin and Kira, who have made me want to better myself beyond anything I ever thought possible and have patiently endured losing precious time together. My sister, Anastasia, and my niece and nephew, Danielle and Jack, whose countless hours of sleep overs and visits allowed me the time to do this research. My dear friends, Verna Billy-Minnabarriet and Tawney Lem, who believed in me, encouraged me, and inspired me. Florence Lockyer for her unwavering support. My father, whose heavenly love has had a hand in creating the many coincidences in my life that have led me on this higher path. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

My deepest gratitude to my respected friends from the Consortium, who extended me the support to do this research with the support of their communities. To my research participants, each of whose journey is miraculous, each of whom generously trusted me with their stories and allowed me to serve them and those who come after them with this research. To my amazing project supervisor, Anne Schultz, whose wisdom, insight, and support made this paper possible. To Barb Ash, who opened the doors of VCC to me and whose leadership opened many doors within VCC for myself and our Aboriginal learners. To Kathy Kinloch, whose generous heart, dedicated leadership, and kind support allowed this research to be completed. To Karen Graham, my brilliant editor. To all the indigenous academics who I cited in this paper whose works are creating a paradigm shift globally. Thank you all for recognizing that by lifting each other up, we are all raised higher.

TABLE OF CONTENTS


ABSTRACT 2

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 3

LIST OF TABLES 5

LIST OF FIGURES 6

CHAPTER ONE: FOCUS AND FRAMING 7

Introduction 7

The Opportunity and its Significance 9

Systems Analysis of the Opportunity 12

Organizational Context 15

Summary 19

CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW 21

Introduction 21

Educational Systems and Culture 22

First Nations Traditional Education System 22

Colonialism 26

Post-Secondary Systems 28

Indigenous Education Models 30

Currently Known Success Factors 32

Indicators of Success 32

Barriers to Post-Secondary Education 34

Aboriginal Funding 35

Geographic Barriers 36

Lack of Aboriginal Leaders within Post Secondary Institutes 37

Systemic Racism 38

Aboriginal Employees Underrepresented 38

Human Resource Integration Strategies 42

Summary 45

CHAPTER THREE: CONDUCT OF ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT 46

Research Approach 46

Participants 48

Research Methods and Tools 50

Tools 51


Focus Groups 51

Interviews 52

Study Conduct 53

Data Analysis 54

Ethical Issues 55

Respect for Human Dignity 55

Justice and Inclusiveness 56

Free and Informed Consent 56

Respect for Privacy and Confidentiality 57

Conflict of Interest 58

Balancing Harms and Benefits 58

Minimizing Harm 59

Maximizing Benefits 59

Summary 59

CHAPTER FOUR: ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS 60

Introduction 60

Study Findings 60

Finding 1: Aboriginal Learners Support Systems 61

Finding 2: Cultural Integration within Programs 61

Finding 3: What Students Identified as Factors for Success in Post-Secondary Education 63

Finding 4: What is Currently Working well to Support Aboriginal Learners at VCC 63

Finding 5: What Would Work Well in the Future to Support the Success of Aboriginal Learners at VCC 65

Need for More Aboriginal Employees at all Levels within the College 65

Peer Racism 67

Aboriginal Teaching Methodologies 68

Aboriginal Cultural Services 70

Understanding of Aboriginal peoples with VCC Employees 71

Study Conclusions 72

Conclusion 1: Aboriginal People Drive Cultural Integration 73

Conclusion 2: Foundational Cultural Shift 74

Conclusion 3: Peer Racism within Higher Learning 75

Scope and Limitations of the Research 75

Summary 76

CHAPTER FIVE: RESEARCH IMPLICATIONS 78

Study Recommendation 78

Recommendation 1: Identify Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education Performance Measures 79

Recommendation 2: Senior Leadership Commitment 80

Ensure Aboriginal Representation on the VCC Board 81

Continue VCC’s Aboriginal Education Council 81

Establish a Standing Position for an Aboriginal Student Leader 81

Enhance Staffing Levels of the AES Department 82

Enhance the Authority of the AES Director 82

Recommendation 3: Commitment to Inclusive Excellence 83

Recommendation 4: Student Body Citizenship 85

Organizational Implications 87

Aboriginal Education Council Terms of Reference 87

Leadership 88

Inclusive Excellence 88

Student Body Citizenship 88

Implications for Future Research 89

Summary 90

CHAPTER SIX: LESSONS LEARNED 91

Provide a Title for Your First Lesson 91

Impact of Research on Researcher 92

Provide Title of this Third Lesson 92

Leadership Training 93

REFERENCES 94

APPENDIX A: ACTION RESEARCH TEAM MEMBER LETTER OF AGREEMENT 102

APPENDIX B: LETTER OF INVITATION FOR STUDENTS (FOCUS GROUPS) 104

APPENDIX C: INFORMED CONSENT FOR FOCUS GROUPS 106

APPENDIX D: LETTER OF INVITATION WITH SENIOR LEADERS (INTERVIEWS) 108

APPENDIX E: QUESTIONS FOR INTERVIEWS 110

APPENDIX F: INFORMED CONSENT FOR INTERVIEWS 111

APPENDIX G: QUESTIONS FOR FOCUS GROUPS 113




LIST OF TABLES


LIST OF FIGURES


CHAPTER ONE: FOCUS AND FRAMING


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