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Tribal Leaders Oppose Assimilation Education

Philosophical assumptions serve as the foundation for the theoretical lens (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). Many Tribal leaders are concerned that the increased focus on testing and standardized instruction has resulted in a decline in pedagogical approaches that are culturally responsive to native youth (Beaulieu et al., 2005). Several scholars contend that the typical Western-World approach of direct instruction used in most classrooms often fails to meet the learning needs of native students (Cleary & Peacock, 1998; Jacobs & Reyhner, 2002). Brayboy & Castagno (2009) suggest that educators in America have relied on either an assimilation model or culturally responsive practices to educate Indigenous children, and further claim that:

There are communities and parents and teachers who continue to rely on, and

advocate for, the assimilative model. However, the research is quite clear: there is no

evidence that the assimilative model improves academic success; there is growing

evidence that the culturally responsive model does, in fact, improve academic success

for American Indian/Alaska Native children (p. 31).

Some scholars contend that teachers must use pedagogical techniques that explicitly connect learning to students’ worlds outside of school, (Gilliland, 1995; Klug & Whitfield, 2003). Cleary and Peacock (1998) suggest that to motivate students to learn, teachers must connect “to the human need for self-determination” (p. 212). Several investigators confirm that culturally relevant instruction is more effective than generic instruction (Cannon, 2009; Leonard et al., 2005; Robinson & Lewis, 2011; Sachau & Hutchinson, 2012; Santamaria, 2009). Klug & Whitfield (2003) suggest that culturally responsive teaching helps students who are outside of the dominate school culture make sense of their learning.

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic learning environment that honors your student community, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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