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More advanced racial identity development correlates with higher psychological well-being. Native communities that took steps to preserve their heritage culture were dramatically more successful in insulating their own children against risks of suicide. Important aspects of cultural knowledge that scholars have suggested teachers must acquire include spiritual traditions, past and present issues facing tribal nations, characteristics of the local culture, broad as well as tribally specific histories, common manifestations and impacts of racism among Indigenous peoples, differences between and within tribal nations, issues surrounding language preservation, the history of Indigenous educational policies and practices, and the history and continuation of colonization. Finally, having native teachers has been shown to bolster native students’ educational attainment.

American Indian Worldviews

  • How do I respect (or incorporate when appropriate) the opportunities for spiritual connectedness in my classroom?

  • How do I use decolonizing language in my practice, in the content that we learn, in how we conceptualize things in my class?

  • Do we talk about the impact of racism--that it exists, how to 'fight' against it, and how to move beyond it (far future)?

Guiding Teacher Reflection Questions

How students from different ethnic groups engage with learning encounters

  • Procedural-the preferred ways of approaching and working through learning tasks. These include pacing rates; distribution of time; variety vs. similarity; novelty or predictability; passivity or activity; task-directed or sociality; structured order of freedom; and preference for direct teaching or inquiry and discovery learning.

  • Communicative—how thoughts are organized, sequenced, and conveyed in spoken or written forms, whether as elaborated narrative storytelling or precise responses to explicit questions; as topic-specific or topic-chaining discourse techniques; as passionate advocacy of ideas or dispassionate recorders and reporters; whether the purpose is to achieve descriptive and factual accuracy or to capture persuasive power and convey literary aestheticism.

  • Substantive-preferred content, such as descriptive details or general pattern, concepts and principles or factual information, statistics or personal and social scenarios; preferred subjects such as math, science, social studies, fine or language arts; technical, interpretative, and evaluative tasks; preferred intellectualizing tasks, such as memorizing, describing, analyzing, classifying, or criticizing.

  • Environmental-preferred physical, social and interpersonal settings for learning, including sound or silence; room lighting and temperature; presence or absence of others; ambiance of struggle or playfulness, of fun and joy and pain and somberness.

  • Organizational-preferred structural arrangements for work ands tudy pace, including the amount of personal space; the fullness or emptiness of learning space; rigidity or flexibility in use of and claims made to space; carefully organized or cluttered learning resources and space locations; individually claimed or group-share space; rigidity or flexibility of the habitation of space.

  • Perceptual-preferred sensory stimulation for receiving, processing, and transmitting information including visual, tactile, auditory, kinetic, oral, or multiple sensory modalities.

  • Relational-preferred interpersonal and social interaction modes in learning situations, including formality or informality, individual competition or group cooperation, independence or interdependence, peer-peer or child-adult, authoritarian or egalitarian, internal or external locus of control; conquest or community.

  • Motivational-preferred incentives or stimulations that evoke learning, including individual accomplishment or group well-being, competition or cooperation, conquest or harmony, expediency or propriety, image or integrity, external rewards or internal desires.

From: Gay, G. (2010c). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press

Additional Ideas

Higher psychological well-being also leads to lower suicide rates. 

Seaton E, Scottham K, Sellers R. The status model of racial identity development in African American adolescents: Evidence of structure, trajectories, and well-being. Child Development.2006;77(5):1416–1426.

Chandler, M. J., Lalonde, C. E., Sokol, B. W., & Hallett, D. (2003). Personal persistence, identity, and suicide: A study of Native and non-Native North American adolescents. Monographs for the Society for Research in Child Development, serial No. 273, Vol. 68, No. 2.

Lipka, J. (2002). Schooling for self-determination: Research on the effects of including Native language and culture in the schools. [ERIC Digests Special Edition]. Charleston,WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools. 

Pewewardy, C. D. & Hammer, P. C. (2003). Culturally responsive teaching for American Indian students. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.

Jacobs, D. T. & Reyhner, J. (2002). Preparing teachers to support American Indian and Alaska Native student success and cultural heritage. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.

Swisher, K. (1990). “Cooperative learning and the education of American Indian/Alaska Native students: A review of the literature and suggestions for implementation.” Journal of American Indian Education, 29 (2), 36-43.

Swisher, K., & Deyhle, D. (1989). The styles of learning are different, but the teaching is just the same: Suggestions for teachers of American Indian youth. Journal of American Indian Education [Special Issue on Learning Styles, August], 1-14. 

Pewewardy, C. D. (1994). Culturally responsible pedagogy in action: An American Indian magnet school. In E. R. Hollins, J. E. King, & W. C. Haymon (Eds.), Teaching diverse populations: Formulating a knowledge base. Buffalo: State University of New York Press.

Gilliland, H. (1992). Growth through Native American learning styles. In H. Gilliland (Ed.), Teaching the Native American (pp. 51 -62). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/ Hunt.

Gilliland, H. (1992). A culturally relevant education. In H. Gilliland (Ed.), Teaching the Native American (pp. 1-10). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Reyhner, J., Lee, H., & Gabbard, D. (1993). A Specialized Knowledge Base for Teaching American Indian Students. Tribal College, 4(4), 26-32.

Swisher, K. (1991). American Indian/Alaska Native learning styles: Research and practice. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.

Klug, B. J., & Whitfield, P. T. (2003). Widening the circle: Culturally relevant pedagogy for American Indian children. New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.

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