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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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Further inquiry brought about the suggestion that Hawaiian history and culture is a content area that is lacking within teacher education program at the University of Hawai’i. Even though the Hawaiian Department of Education requires the incorporation of Hawaiian content into the curriculum, it was reported that it was not uncommon for newly licensed elementary teachers from the University of Hawai‘i to be placed in fourth grade where Hawaiian studies is the focus of the social studies curriculum, and have had no formal instruction in Hawaiian culture, history, or language. (Kaomea, 2005, p. 36) The University of Hawai’I is attempting to address this issue by offering more courses in Hawaiian studies, including the Hawaiian language. In addition, there has been an increase in the “number of education courses that focus specifically on preparing prospective teachers to teach in Hawaiian communities, Hawaiian charter schools, and schools for Hawaiian language immersion. (Kaomea, 2005, p. 36-37). However, simply offering the courses does not necessarily mean changes for the classroom.

In order to fully address the proper incorporation of Hawaiian studies in the classroom, a value of the content must be present in the teachers themselves, particularly those who are non-Hawaiian. “One non-Hawaiian teacher frankly explained that since the majority of the students in her school come from non-Hawaiian backgrounds, she did not think it was “fair” to spend so much time on “just the Hawaiian culture” (Kaomea, 2005, p. 37). The teacher utilizes a general multicultural approach to Hawaiian culture and history by looking at all of the “ethnic groups that currently reside in [the] islands” (Kaomea, 2005, p. 37). Within history, she incorporates several centuries of events into the same lessons. By simplifying history, the teacher reduces the understanding the full impact of history on the indigenous Hawaiians of the area. Her reasoning for doing so is simple; she believes that teaching in this manner allows “children [to] see that no matter what their ethnic background is, we are all immigrants here” (Kaomea, 2005, p. 37). This method of teaching instills a sense of entitlement that is often present within mainstream, dominant society. For children in these types of classrooms, the in essence encourages racism and discrimination from a young age even if it is not intentional.

“I don’t think anything mandated like this is going to work unless the teacher truly feels that it’s something that the kids should learn. If teachers don’t buy into the mandate, they won’t put much time or energy into teaching it.” – A Veteran Teacher (Kaomea, 2005, p.

37) Wisconsin. Based on the Act 31 survey conducted within the state of Wisconsin the second most important aspect of the survey dealt with teacher training. It was noted that “current teachers and students in teacher certification programs need training on how to adapt and use curriculum units to fit various grade levels” (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 2009, p. 4). In addition, teacher training should not end upon completion of a degree. Teachers should continue their training, particularly those who were not formally or informally trained with a background in American Indian history and culture. With the current Act 31 law on the books, no teacher should be granted a license to teach unless they have received appropriate instruction to comply with American Indian history and culture as determined by Act 31. However, as Christensen and Poupart (n.d.) report, there have been “no consistent standards or real enforcement provisions or assessment measures” (p. 3) for teachers. Given that it is the responsibility of the school districts to enforce Act 31 as well as universities responsibility to inform future educators, they “themselves are unfamiliar with even the most basic, common factual data about indigenous people and tribal history” (Christensen & Poupart, n.d., p.

3). Several institutions have developed programs and ways to comply with Act 31 in teacher training but the numbers of students being reached is minimal and the need for addressing preparation for Act 31 continues to be significant.

The University of Wisconsin – Green Bay has created a system to attempt to address the problems of not implementing Act 31. The “Fusion plan” addresses both content and context or essentially the core knowledge (content) and “traditional tribal teaching and learning methods (context)” (Christensen & Poupart, n.d., p. 5). The plan also addresses “Four Pillars of Learning” within education courses that are currently being taught. The plan has several implementation phases as well as “2 levels of student competency” (Christensen & Poupart, n.d., p. 5). Discussion is the first phase and is a critical component to the process. Collaboration must exist between the First Nations faculty and the Education faculty. It cannot be a one sided conversation but one of equality and cooperation. The second phase is a training preparation phase in which First Nations faculty prepare materials and resources, both oral and written, for education faculty. During the third phase is when the materials developed within phase two are distributed and taught to the education faculty. It is also a time for discussion on how to fuse the new materials with current curriculum. Finally, in phase four a consultation between First Nations faculty and Education faculty takes place for refinement and implementation of the design into education curriculum. It is also a time for partnering with other educational institutions that have similar mandates in their states. Again, the final phase is once again a collaboration effort but on a much larger scale.





Within each phase at UW-Green Bay, the “Four Pillars of Tribal Teaching and Learning” are incorporated to bring about the essential ideas and values of American Indian history and culture. Each pillar is individual in nature but yet part of a bigger system of indigenous knowledge that when put together connects all aspects that are required by Act 31. The first pillar is that of history, and not just American history but the history of American Indians before contact. Then progressing through the era of contact and finally bringing history into the contemporary times of the 21st century. Focus on the two later eras would be on the impact upon traditional culture and values as well as an understanding of the unique differences of American Indians not only in the past but also today. The second pillar relates to history in that is focuses specifically on laws and policies. Again, the focus is not on American laws and policies but on those of tribal nations including tribal governments and land issues. The third, and perhaps most difficult pillar, is American Indian sovereignty. Not only sovereignty in general but how the concept of sovereignty in relation to American Indian people developed throughout history and how it plays into contemporary society and issues. Finally, the fourth pillar is that of indigenous philosophy. Understanding the worldview of a people allows a person to understand the people more fully. The final pillar allows a learner to see the connections between all of the components of American Indian history and culture as well as understand the connection between American Indian knowledge and Western knowledge (Christensen & Poupart, n.d., p. 18).

The University of Wisconsin – Green Bay First Nations Fusion Plan attempts to address the need that all institutions who are challenged with similar American Indian state mandates face. In Montana, it is recognized by Carjuzaa that is it the responsibility “of the teacher educators in the respective education departments” to prepare future K-12 classroom teachers with not only the materials necessary to comply with state mandates but also the critical skills to incorporate the materials in a meaningful and constructive manner. “In order for teacher educators to prepare future K-12 classroom teachers, they must be properly prepared themselves” (Carjuzaa, 2009, p. 38-39).

Summary Montana, Hawaii, and Wisconsin demonstrate varying reasons for the inclusion of American Indian, or in the case of Hawaii, Native Hawaiian, history and culture based on the past of their respective states. Yet all three maintain a commonality in that the focus comes down to not only addressing stereotypes and the misguided history of the first peoples of the states but also contemporary issues as well. In order to address this properly, all three states express that one of the key components to doing so is the education of the teachers charged with leading future generations of students. Therefore, the main issue within the education cycle is a problem with teacher preparation programs and how they factor into the cycle of misinformation.

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Methodology The purpose of this study is to explore how teacher preparation programs play a role in preparing future educators for teaching about American Indian history, culture, tribal sovereignty and contemporary society in Wisconsin public schools. Due to events that took root in Chippewa treaty rights in the 1970s and 1980s in northern Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction passed a law requiring instruction in grades 4, 8, and 12 regarding American Indian sovereignty, treaty rights, and contemporary issues. The impact on teachers is that in order to obtain a teaching license, the individual must receive some sort of instruction in studying minority groups including more specifically the history, culture, and tribal sovereignty of American Indians within the state of Wisconsin (Milwaukee Public Museum, n.d.). This chapter will first present the research questions followed by an explanation of the research methodology. After the research questions is a description of the participants of the study followed by an exploration of the research design and procedures. The chapter concludes with a description of the process used to gather and analyze the data.

Research Questions The development of the research questions was based on surveys conducted by the state public instruction departments of both Montana and Wisconsin, which indicated the need for more teacher preparation or professional development. Therefore two sets of questions came out, the first addresses how higher education institutions meet the requirement for teacher preparation. The second line of questioning deals specifically with the content of the courses that officially meet the Wisconsin licensing requirement.

The following questions were utilized to address the purpose of the study:

1. How are institutions of higher education within the state of Wisconsin meeting the requirement of Act 31 in preparing students in teacher preparation programs to teach American Indian history, culture, tribal sovereignty and contemporary

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2. What courses, in Wisconsin teacher preparation programs, are required for future educators that comply with licensing requirements?

a. What content is covered in these courses that address the Wisconsin standards of minority relations including specifically American Indian

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d. Who teaches these courses and what is their background on American Indian history, culture, tribal sovereignty and contemporary issues?

Research Methodology The research is a concurrent mixed methods study that includes procedures which “[converge or merge] quantitative and qualitative data in order to provide a comprehensive analysis of the research problem” (Creswell, 2009, p. 14). The concurrent mixed methods approach allows for the integration of both sets of data to allow for a more complete interpretation (Creswell, 2009), p. 14-15) of the data regarding the preparation of teachers within higher education institutions by allowing the researcher to provide a more comprehensive approach to the data. By including content analysis of documents and materials collected from instructors of teacher preparation courses and survey information from the instructors themselves, the research questions stated above are more fully addressed. Concurrent strategies were applied rather than sequential to allow for a natural emergence of the topics to form instead of focusing on one data set prior to the next. Concurrent methods allowed the researcher to bridge together the survey and the document analysis rather than isolate them as separate entities that would potentially focus more on one area while overlooking another. Patterns emerged throughout the data that would have been overlooked with sequential methods.

Due to the concurrent approach to the study, concurrent triangulation was used in interpreting the acquired data. The quantitative and qualitative data were collected at the same time and then mixed during the interpretation portion with equal weight given to both data collections. In an effort to emphasize the interconnectedness of the quantitative and qualitative data, data transformation was utilized. In addition to analyzing the qualitative data on its own merits, the qualitative data was also quantified by “creating codes and themes qualitatively, [and] counting the number of times they occur in the text data” (Creswell, 2010, p. 218). By doing so, the “quantification of the qualitative data [enabled the researcher] to compare quantitative results with the qualitative data” (Creswell, 2010, p. 218) as well as compare the results with the quantitative results of the document analysis. Through concurrent triangulation of the survey data and the document analysis, the researcher was able to validate both data sets providing a more reliable analysis.

Research Participants

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