Aboriginal Inquiry: Lifting All Learners

An Impact Assessment of the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network (AESN)

7.1.2 The Network supports and enables

We heard many different individuals talk about the opportunities the Network provided to help them extend their thinking and take risks they would not have otherwise taken. This was true of districts where there were large numbers of Network members as well as in districts where there were smaller numbers. For example, we heard from one participant from Vancouver island who talked about how she didn’t have much support in the beginning of her involvement in the AESN , but described how “the Network became my support. It gave me contact with other like-minded people; it helped me work through professional issues… I have a lot of support here [in the Network]; I am not just sticking myself on a limb.” The literature reviewed for this study highlighted how professionally focused learning is enhanced through collective, rather than only individual effort. The Network, in this example, adds additional voices that enhances or deepens individual teacher inquiry and concomitantly, their learning through the process of inquiry.

Risk taking isn’t only about finding others who can help you work your way through an inquiry and serve as a critical friend or as a supporter to someone working in isolation, it’s also about giving teachers a space to explore their desires to effect changes in educational settings so their Aboriginal students can succeed. As one teacher said “The AESN gave me the vehicle and a place to do the work that was near and dear to my heart, it kept me going. You need a place to be validated where you work… I am motivated because the AESN validates me in a way that I haven’t been validated in my own district.” A similar comment was made by a teacher in a more northern school district who said “The Network has given people permission to learn about Aboriginal education; it wasn’t in our sight lines prior to this.” And a third participant who said that through the Network “I found an extended family… It doesn’t matter that we are in different sites, we can support each other. I’ve got my team, my sisters… It’s really grounded me.” We found it particularly striking that the issue of validation was raised most consistently by Aboriginal educators in the AESN . We surmised, based on the data we collected for this study, that many Aboriginal educators have felt marginalized in the work they have been doing to support Aboriginal learners, and have found both voice and strength of purpose through their work with the AESN . We also saw how these educators used the Network as a lever for taking leadership in Aboriginal education. We will return to this topic later in this discussion.

Throughout all the inquiries we have used performance standards and AFL [assessment for learning] strategies. Inquiry based learning has allowed us to remove the boundaries from our learning. Participating in the AESN has allowed us to think not only about what we are teaching, but why, how, where, when and most importantly WHO we are teaching. The importance of knowing our students, and helping them find their voice has increased each year.

The Network has helped me see and hear my students.

My own learning has been:

-the importance of using AFL strategies

-importance of social-emotional learning and students feeling safe and secure in their learning environment

-research and theory – having new ideas available that I can adapt

-relying on the work of others to influence what I am doing – I often read or hear about the work of co-members that I immediately adapt and adopt and use

-being able to share with others the borrowings I do

-the importance of community. I have strong connections with other members of the Network. I communicate at least monthly with a number of Network members. We share ideas, problems, solutions, laughter – we have built a community of learners.

-that there must be change in Education. What is happening in most classrooms around the province is not meeting the needs of the learners. We must examine, on a daily basis, how our learners are doing – do they know where they are going with their learning – how are they going to get there – how will they know that they have learned what they needed?

-innovative and creative initiatives need to be examined by all – not necessarily adopted, but we need to know what is being thought of