Aboriginal higher learner success factors at vancouver community college

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Indigenous Education Models

The most commonly agreed-upon models of Aboriginal education were summarized by Barnhardt (as cited in Stonechild, 2006) into four models of Aboriginal higher education. The first model is the assimilationist model, “in which programs for Indigenous peoples are controlled by the university system, and are designed with the premise that the goal of education is to assimilate Indigenous people into society” (p. 104). The second model Barnhardt described is the independent model. Local examples of this model in BC are the Indigenous Institutes of Higher Learning, which are fully controlled and operated Aboriginal post-secondary institutes. A third model is the federated model. An example of this model is the First Nations University at the University of Saskatchewan, which is “financially and administratively separate from the University of Saskatchewan proper, yet benefits from having access to the resources and expertise of a mainstream university” (p. 105). The fourth model is described as the integrated model, “where success is possible when there is mutual respect and recognition” (p. 105). Within this model, Aboriginal authority and jurisdiction is designed into the system where there is responsibility for the identification, design, development, and implementation of programs and services. This model affirms that “whenever Aboriginals are given control over their own programs or institutions, there have been higher rates of success in Aboriginal enrolment and graduation” (Malatest, 2002, p. 45).

An example of this integrated model is what Dr. John Henry, Professor, Deakin University, Australia, described as the “enclave model” (personal communication, May 6, 2010). Within this model, Indigenous education joint authority and joint management have been negotiated by the Institute of Koorie Education at Deakin University, which is jointly governed, funded by core regional and federal transfers, and is “purposefully designed to be within the academic domain of the University organizational structure” (J. Henry, personal communication, May 6, 2010). As explained at the Institute of Koorie Education Web site of Deakin University (2007),

The Institute of Koorie Education and its Board are the means by which the partnership between the University and the Victorian Koorie community takes its formal structure. The other formal structure cementing the joint involvement of the University with the Victorian Koorie community is the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. (V.A.E.A.I.) - Deakin Higher Education Agreement. This Agreement was signed on 1 September 1992 by the Chairperson of the VAEAI, Mrs. Mary Atkinson, and the Vice Chancellor, Professor John Hay, establishing the joint-management principles by which the equity work of the Institute of Koorie Education, the Faculties and the University Secretariat can continue. (para. 2)

The Institute of Koorie Education (Institute) is fully staffed to deliver faculty courses, jointly appoints academic staff, and develops cohort curricula that integrate developmental programming, indigenize content by Institute academic staff, students, and community Elders. Institute teaching practices are relational, revitalize culture, and are taught in blended (in-community/ in-campus) settings, with assessments relevant to indigenized curricula. The Institute also designed purpose-built Aboriginal student accommodation provided on-campus and features an Aboriginal cultural space on campus (J. Henry, personal communication, May 6, 2010).

Currently Known Success Factors

The scope of current culturally relevant indicators of success, the seemingly unrelated themes of barriers and challenges to higher learning identified from existing literature, and the associated underlying assumptions are examined in this section.

Indicators of Success

Indicators or measures of success are dependent on what Aboriginal peoples have defined as post-secondary education success. Once articulated and agreed upon, these indicators or measures of success can be used to measure outcomes, establish empirical data, and shared as proven best practices. To date, the only articulation of the measures of success for Aboriginal education has been derived from AFN (2010a), ALMD (2008), the First Nations Education Steering Committee (2008), and what Consortium students have locally identified.

Current performance measures for VCC are meant to increase participation rates of Aboriginal learners, the percentage of learners who report knowledge and skills that are useful in employment, and the number of people served by labour market measures (ALMD, 2010b, p. 11). Interestingly, the success factors for employment that are now built into regional and national systems also support joint authority and management with Aboriginal community and organization through employment and skills training agreements with Service Canada. According to the AFN (2010a) the key measures of Aboriginal-defined lifelong learning and education are consistent with an integrated model and include (see Table 1). The indicators or measures of success articulated by the Indigenous Institutes of Higher Learning (as cited in Tindall Consulting & Juniper Consulting [Tindall & Juniper], 2010, p. iv) are presented in Table 2.

Key Measures of Aboriginal Life Long Learning

Assembly of First Nations Measures of Success

Language immersion

Holistic and culturally relevant curricula

Well-trained educators

Focused leadership

Parental involvement and accountability and /

Safe and healthy facilities founded on principles that respect First Nations jurisdiction over education.

Compiled from AFN (2010a, p. 4).

Indigenous Institutes of Higher Learning Measures of Success

IAHLA Measures of Success

Personal development

Leadership development

Cultural development

Wisdom development

Student satisfaction

Compiled from Tindall and Juniper (2010, p. iv).

Finally, I facilitated the development of the Aboriginal learners focus groups in 2009 for the design of the 2009 Consortium Aboriginal learners’ survey. Within the development of this survey, VCC and Capilano University research departments recommended removing the measures of success from the survey for ease of data collection, with final findings compiled by Capilano University Research Director Frank Dipuma in 2009. Although these measures were removed from the final survey, they are important as they articulate educational, personal, cultural, leadership development, and satisfaction that move well beyond current public post-secondary measures of success measures of success (see Table 3).

Consortium Aboriginal Learners’ Indicators of Success

Consortium Learners Measures of Success

Increased knowledge of self, individual learning style, and learning goals

Improved self-concept, self-esteem, and pride in oneself

Increased knowledge of traditional practices

Stable adult friendships

Clear career aspirations

Improved understanding of community needs

Increased skills to contribute to my community

Improved intercultural understanding

Improvement of institutional attitudes to students

Increased feeling of student safety with institution

Increased interest in the curriculum

Increased attendance

Improved participation in school

Improved student performance, grades, and completion rates

Increased university preparation

Increased interest and enthusiasm in life-long learning.

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