6.3.1 The first step
The first step to improving Aboriginal student success was a move to integrate Aboriginal literature content, legends and stories, fiction and nonfiction text written by Aboriginal authors into a range of curricula, as well as consistent use of the six Assessment for Learning (AFL ) strategies and four big ideas identified by Halbert and Kaser, 2009. It is important to discuss AFL because this was the entry point for many of these teacher’s explorations of Aboriginal learning initiatives. Schools such as Mouse Mountain in Nechako Lakes, Conrad Elementary in Prince Rupert and Brechin Elementary in Nanaimo-Ladysmith reported their learning centered on the use of the Assessment for Learning strategies that led to educators building knowledge around the importance of addressing individual learners’ needs. Addressing individual learner needs is a foundational shift in teacher thinking that acted as a catalyst to their emerging thinking about working in more culturally inclusive ways. As well, educators became aware of the importance of whole staff sharing of students’ successes, challenges, and how they were approaching their inquiry questions.
While exploring the Aboriginal literature, adult learners became more aware of local culture, traditional ways and worldviews. For many of the members of the AESN this learning journey enabled them to connect more deeply with the communities in which they lived. There is also evidence to suggest that their students benefitted greatly. Their literacy, numeracy and social responsibility skills improved, and all learners discovered the power of using the BC Performance Standards to gauge achievement and progress. In some cases, educators overcame reluctance to bring new content into the classroom and students become more confident in their academic skill levels. Both students and teachers became increasingly aware of the need to recognize how learning was taking place and why. Engagement increased for both student and adult learners.