Week in Review: Week #2 Assignment

Inspired from Week #1 reading Sharing the Fire (Scheuerman R., et al 2010), this past week I wanted to do a little more research on education of native and indigenous peoples, especially in mathematics and science.  The goal of this short literature/web survey was to start outlining the salient points in the current thinking on this topic.

After the most cursory reading of a sampling of sources, the recurring themes seem to be:

  1. Impactful education strategy must take heed of cultural differences.
    • In classroom dynamics
    • In curriculum materials
  2. Assessment strategies should also be re-evaluated for authenticity.

Deriving from the above themes have been handbooks, knowledge bases, and curriculum guides, all developed to help improve the performance of teachers and their minority students in these subjects.  In addition, some have even proposed that teachers aspiring to work in these student populations take special training and do focused internships to better equip them.

Northern Arizona University has a web site on American Indian / Indigenous Education.  From it I gather a couple of papers and reflect on their content.

Reyhner, J. & Davison D.M. (2009) Improving Mathematics and Science Instruction for LEP (Limited English Proficient) Middle and High School Students Through Language Activities.  Third National Research Symposium on Limited English Proficient Student Issues. (pdf)


This paper presents an overview of a series of studies the authors have pursued on how to improve the education of ethnic minority limited English proficient (LEP) students in general and how to improve the education of LEP American Indian students in the areas of mathematics and science in particular. The authors were guided by three research questions: 1) What does past research tell us about what works in American Indian education? 2) What type of mathematics and science curriculum and instruction works best with LEP American Indian students? and 3) Will a focus on writing and other language activities in content area classrooms, such as mathematics and science, improve student performance in those subjects? They found both in the literature and in their own research that  when teachers of mathematics and science respect and are knowledgeable of their students’ native culture and emphasize writing and other language activities, American Indian students perform better and have a better understanding of mathematics and science.

Little Soldier, L (1989) Cooperative Learning and the Native American Student. Phi Delta Kappan v71 n2 pp161-63


Inexpensive and easy to implement, cooperative learning shifts the achievement burden from the teacher to all individuals in the classroom. Cooperative learning can prove particularly useful for Native American students, who are already fairly well advanced at sharing, working in groups, and independent reasoning when entering school. Includes five references. (MLH)

Hines, S.M. (Eds.) (2003) Multicultural Science Education: theory, practice, and promise. New York: Peter Lang

Google Books preview


Multicultural science education: moving beyond tradition / Norvella P. Carter … [et al.] — "Science for all" and invisible ethnicities: how the discourse of power and good intentions undermine the national science education standards / Alberto J. Rodriguez –Teaching science from a critical multicultural perspective / Roberta Ahlquist, Julie Kailin — Prospective teachers’ education world view and teacher education programs: through the eyes of culture, ethnicity, and class / Mary M. Atwater, Denise Crockett — Enhancing the science interest of African American students using cultural inclusion / Shirley Gholston Key — Native American science education and its implications for multicultural science education / Paul McD. Rowland, Carol R. Adkins — Multicultural science education program demonstrates equity and excellence / Charles E. Simmons — Good versus bad culturally relevant science: avoiding the pitfalls / Cathleen C. Loving, Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano — Rethinking multicultural science education: representation, identities, and texts / Peter Ninnes — Defining a theoretical framework for multicultural science / Samina Hadi-Tabassum.



According to Hines (2003), there is a serious problem with the system.

The majority of high school science teachers in the United States are White males in their forties (Atwater,1993; Weiss & Boyd, 1990). Few of these teachers have engaged in extensive study of how to teach science to this increasingly and demographically culturally diverse student body.

Despite many nationally recognized documents to the contrary (Carey, 1993; Gilbert, 1997; National Research Council, 1996), many science teachers still subscribe to the notion that only a talented few can achieve in scientific enterprises. This deficit model belief is reflected in statistics indicating that only 0.2% of typical American high school students continue on to pursue terminal degrees in science (Hassard, 1996). Traditionally, higher income White males have constituted the majority of people engaged in science and science-related professions in the United States. With the increase in underrepresented populations in American classrooms, new considerations must fuel science education reform. Multicultural science education has been touted as a means of providing equity of opportunity for all students.

Speaking as one of those white males in their 40s, I relish the opportunity to start rectifying this problem.  I surmise that these studies of the mid to late 90’s were instrumental in the adoption of Professional Standards by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) in 2001.  So in the name of Standard 4 Diversity, onward to more educational equity and social justice!  [And alas, I think I digress from EDU6120 to topics more fit for EDU6133 Diversity, where we can spend a whole 10 weeks on the topic.]

Suffice it to say that in any given classroom there will be pupils whose communities have suffered grave personal and systemic injustices.  I think a teacher can recognize that, can admit culpability for their own sins of omission as well as commission.  But, they must not stop there.  Through the power of shared classroom experiences and a consistent modeling of love and respect, they can renew their commitment to a more just society, to “liberty and justice for all”.

Beyond this semi-ecclesiastical cycle of confession and absolution, I think every class must move to the discovery and application of truths at hand.  Thus we are back to how a subject can be brought home and enlivened in the minds of the students through discovery, contextual motivation, or more direct pedagogical methods.

In conclusion, teaching all learners means stepping out of the teacher’s often alien culture and finding ways to make the topic really connect with all students in the classroom, which takes creativity and sensitivity.


Atwater, M. M. (1993). Multicultural science education.  Teacher, 60(3), 32-37

Carey, S. J. (1993). Science for all cultures:  A collection of articles from NSTA’s Journals. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association.

Gilbert, S.W. (1997, Spring).  Status report on Certification and Accreditation in Science Education (CASE) project. The Association for the Education of Teachers in Science Newsletter, 31(3), 6-10.

Hassard, J. (1996).  Minds on sciences:  Middle and secondary school methods.  New York:  HarperCollins.

National Research Council (1996).  National science education standards.  Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Scheuerman R., Gritter K., Schuster C. J. and Fisher G. (2010).  Sharing the Fire:  Exploring Our Place and World through Native American Mythology. The English Journal, 99(1), 47-54 pdf

Weiss, I., and Boyd S. (1990).  Where are they now?   A follow up study of 1985-86 science and mathematics teaching force.  Chapel Hill, NC:   Horizon Research Incorporated.

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  • Joy Johnsen  On October 11, 2010 at 1:43 am

    John, thank you for this very informative post. I am also taking EDU6133 simultaneously with EDU6120, so teaching-methods for science that reach a wider population are definitely on my mind as well.

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