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«“Before We Teach It, We Have to Learn It”: Wisconsin Act 31 Compliance within Public Teacher Preparation Programs A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE ...»

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“Before We Teach It, We Have to Learn It”:

Wisconsin Act 31 Compliance within Public Teacher Preparation Programs





Heather Ann Moody




Dr. Mary Ann Marchel September, 2013 © Heather Ann Moody 2013 All Rights Reserved i Acknowledgements “It takes a village to raise a child” is a common phrase that I believe also pertains to writing a dissertation. The process is not an individual one as although one person gets credit for the research and writing, the support system is much greater. This dissertation is a culmination of a number of people who collectively supported me in the process and without each and every one this would not have been possible.

First, I would like to acknowledge and thank my advisors, Dr. Mary Ann Marchel and Dr. Brian McInnes, for not only their expertise and guidance academically but also for their caring and understanding along the long and winding journey. I would also like to thank my dissertation committee, Dr. Frank Gulbrandsen, Dr. Insoon Han, and Dr.

Tadd Johnson, for their continued support and flexibility throughout my research process.

In addition to the professors on my committee, I would like to thank the professors throughout my years in the education program that I have had the opportunity and pleasure to learn from. Each of you challenged me to think in a different way yet bring everything together to where I am today.

Additionally, I am deeply indebted to my fellow colleagues of Cohort 2 (C2). It all began with the “Ugly Baby” and grew into lifelong friendships. Your support and continual encouragement provided me the drive to continue even when I thought I could no longer go on. For that I am grateful and could not have asked for a better cohort to go through the process with.

I also need to thank my colleagues and students at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. You have not only been an inspiration for me to keep going with my passion for teaching but have thoroughly provided me with an outside perspective and support ii that I will always appreciate. I also need to thank the participants of my study for without you I would not have been able to come to the insights that I did and therefore my research would be non-existent.

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank my family and friends. For the last four years you have supported me in ways that I could never have imagined, from listening to me freak out about deadlines to assisting me with everyday tasks to just being there as a shoulder to lean on. I am eternally grateful for all you have done and continue to do for me. In particular, In particular, I want to thank my husband, Toby, and my children, Ivy and Ian. I want you to know that although I may not have always demonstrated it throughout this process, I always loved you and appreciated your support.

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This dissertation is dedicated to my parents who provided me with the beliefs to work hard, follow your dreams, and never give up. Your unending love and support throughout my life have made me the person I am today.

I would also like to dedicate this dissertation to my children, Ivy and Ian, who continually grounded me throughout this process and inspired me to make the world a better place. My wish is to provide you with the same beliefs that my parents did and to

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Wisconsin Act 31 was established for the purpose of addressing American Indian history, culture, and sovereignty within K-12 schools as a response to treaty rights issues in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Yet, in the 21st century there remain issues with compliance throughout not only K-12 schools but also institutions of higher education. The research addresses how public institutions of higher education factor into compliance with regard to teacher preparation programs. Through a mixed methods approach, instructors from nine University of Wisconsin System institutions were surveyed regarding their professional and personal background in relation to American Indian Studies as well as their understanding of Wisconsin Act 31. In addition, a document analysis was performed on the syllabi from teacher-licensing certified courses. The results provided an overall understanding of the issues within teacher preparation programs that affect future educators. A distinction became apparent between courses that are education-related and those that are discipline specific. Majority of the courses are education-related and provide an emphasis on the general human diversity elements of Wisconsin Act 31.

Alternatively, discipline specific courses address the foundational topics of Wisconsin Act 31 including culture, history, sovereignty, and contemporary issues. The differences between the types of courses that fulfill the Wisconsin Act 31 teacher-licensing requirement signify a need for further investigation into bringing together University of Wisconsin institutions, the Department of Public Instruction, and American Indians to fully address Wisconsin Act 31 requirements.


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List of Tables

List of Figures

Chapter One


American Indians in education.

Education in Wisconsin.

Purpose of the Study

Research Questions


Chapter Two


Multicultural Education

American Indian Education


History of Wisconsin Act 31

Nationwide State Mandates

Classroom Content

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Chapter Three


Research Questions

Research Methodology

Research Participants

Research Design

Data Analysis


Document analysis.


Chapter Four




Demographic information.

Educational background

Undergraduate degrees

Masters degrees.

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Other degrees or licensing.

Institution information.

Instructor teaching and course materials

Professional development, personal development, and cultural experiences... 53 Resources utilized in the course.

Understanding of Wisconsin Education Act 31.

Interpretation of Act 31.

Essential components of Wisconsin Education Act 31

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Defining sovereignty

Compliance and preparation of future teachers.

Document Analysis

Time devoted to American Indian topics relating to Act 31.

Course topics

Resources revisited.


Additional comments.


Chapter Five


In order to learn it, we must truly understand it

Significant Findings

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Recommendations for Future Research



Appendix A – Survey Questions

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Table 1: Age Range of Respondents

Table 2: Years of Conferment of Undergraduate Degrees

Table 3: Years of Graduate Degree Conferment

Table 4: Respondents from Participating Institutions

Table 5: Department Affiliation of Respondents

Table 6: Year Respondents Began Teaching at UW Institution

Table 7: Number of Types of Resources Used in Course

Table 8: Types of Resources Used in Courses

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Rationale Every year throughout the United States children are told stories and taught lessons about American Indian leaders and encounters of great celebration such as Thanksgiving. However, the stories/lessons are based in the past and are often presented in a stereotypical and misrepresented form allowing students to believe in a misrepresentation of history and a lack of understanding of the contemporary issues facing American Indian people today. Gerry Haukoos and Archie Beauvais (1996) suggest that “children should be taught positive images of present-day American Indians to prevent them from developing racial or cultural stereotypes” (p. 77). This means going beyond the “famous” leaders and celebrations revolving around particular times of the year including Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and Native American Awareness Month.

Instead, children should be taught about American Indian culture prior to the arrival of Europeans and other peoples in the United States and the foundations of American Indian history throughout the last 500 plus years which allows students to understand what American Indians face in the 21st century. Doing so allows students an opportunity to see how American Indians have significantly changed with regard to their culture and place in 21st century America as well as presenting American Indians in the here and now instead of the typical stereotypes often portrayed in schools and media. Yet many students are graduating high school without this information and knowledge of American Indians. The change must begin with the teachers to understand how their understanding of American Indians impacts the thoughts of their students.

American Indians in education. By and large, a general awareness has been brought out in education with regard to incorporating multicultural education within classrooms throughout the United States. More specifically, several states are attempting to address the need for American Indian history and culture in classrooms. “Idaho, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin all require students to be taught about Native American tribes in their states” (Zehr, 2008). According to the 2010 United States Census, American Indians represent 1.7% of the total population within the United States (United States Census Bureau, 2012, p. 4). In comparison with other minorities within the United States, the American Indian population, when reported as a single race or in combination with other races, is significantly smaller. An argument could then be made that American Indian culture and history is not as important as other groups within education and therefore should not be a major focus. However, American Indian history should be a main focus considering that American Indians were and continue to be an important part of the history of the United States past and present due to their unique place and status within the United States. The lack of American Indian history provides an incomplete and misinformed version of American history leading to a misunderstanding of American Indian people. Students tend to be knowledgeable about significant movements and injustices within our country and the world such as the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. Yet they are shielded from similar events within American Indian history as well as the contributions American Indians provided and continue to provide in the 21st century. David Beaulieu, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee expresses that students know about the stereotypical American Indians of the 18th and 19th centuries but “nobody knows about Indians since then – how they volunteered in World War I when they weren’t citizens of the United States, or of the Navajo and others who were code-talkers in World War II” (Zehr, 2008). In addition, people are generally aware that American Indians are present but frequently hold stereotypes about them dealing with issues such as alcohol, gambling, and a general sense of freeloading off the federal government. The stereotypes that are present within modern American society are continually perpetuated through not only the media but also schools and educators.

Education in Wisconsin. One of the biggest problems with regard to American Indians is that upon graduation, students are entering higher education, and society in general, without a proper understanding of American Indian people including their history, culture, and the complexities within contemporary society. In my experience teaching an introductory course on American Indian history and culture at the collegiate level I have discovered that students ranging from freshmen to seniors frequently have little knowledge on American Indian history in general let alone specifics on Midwestern tribes even though many grew up and attended public schools in Wisconsin and Minnesota. More specifically, students are unable to define sovereignty as it applies to American Indian tribes as well as what treaties are and the impact they make in contemporary society, both of which are required by Wisconsin law. Since 1990, students should be able to provide basic information on the eleven federally recognized tribes within the state of Wisconsin, yet most students are unaware that there are even that many tribes within the state, let alone the more specific guidelines of Wisconsin law.

Wisconsin classrooms are the principal places where changes need to be made in order for children to learn the accuracies of American Indian history and culture as well as address the stereotypes that are presented through media and other sources. More specifically, classrooms do not need to just incorporate the appropriate content but need teachers who are knowledgeable about the history of American Indians, the culture, and the contemporary issues facing American Indians. Within the state of Wisconsin, teachers are required to incorporate various aspects of American Indians within the curriculum at grades 4, 8, and 12. Teachers are therefore required by the state to have preparation to be able to do this as part of their teacher education and licensing programs. Nevertheless, based on a survey conducted in 2000 by the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Native American Task Force and through my personal observations, clearly the standards are not being followed through on and teachers do not have the access to the materials necessary to not only comply with state standards but also to dispel stereotypes.

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