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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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the institutions, instructors at 9 out of the 13 institutions were contacted for participation in the study. The institutions that did not participate or respond to initial and subsequent requests were UW-La Crosse, UW-Parkside, UW-River Falls, and UW-Superior. Among these, UW-Parkside did respond to indicate that they do not currently have a program in place. The other institutions did not respond to initial and subsequent requests for information and participation. The instructors teach in departments that address the teacher-licensing component of Wisconsin Act 31 through teacher preparation courses that are designed to comply with Wisconsin Act 31. The instructors were asked to submit a copy of their syllabi for their course(s) as well as be surveyed regarding their own understanding of Wisconsin Act 31, tribal sovereignty, and the resources utilized in their courses to address American Indian topics relating to American Indian history, culture, and tribal sovereignty. In addition to the understanding of each instructor on Wisconsin Act 31 and the content related to the courses they teach, general demographics were also gathered. The instructor’s age, gender, race, and educational background were all considered for the data analysis. In addition, each instructor was asked about professional development as well as personal development and cultural experiences in relation to American Indian Studies to get a better understanding of the background of those who teach the courses. The purpose for obtaining a solid background on each instructor reflects back to the idea of “before we teach it, we have to learn it”. The intent was to see if, as instructors, they had indeed learned the material prior to preparing future educators on the topics.

Research Design Each institution has at least one course that meets the teacher-licensing requirement for Wisconsin Act 31. Several institutions incorporate Wisconsin Act 31 topics throughout multiple courses while others are maintained in one particular course.

The survey focused on the background of each instructor teaching the courses including demographic information allowing for an understanding of how the experiences through education preparation, professional development and personal interactions affect the content covered within the course. Other demographic information included institution and department affiliation. The survey allowed instructors to reflect on their understanding of the Wisconsin Act 31 in general, as well as the essential components within Wisconsin Act 31, and what each instructor felt was necessary to cover in his or her course to be in compliance with Wisconsin Act 31. In addition to course components to address Wisconsin Act 31, each instructor was asked to provide the resources used within the courses. The information gathered from this portion of the survey was directly linked to the information obtained from the document analysis of the syllabi allowing for an understanding of consistency and use within the classroom. Finally, the survey addresses the issue of feeling successful in preparing future teachers in the content areas of American Indian history, culture, and tribal sovereignty.

Throughout the timeframe of survey participation, the syllabi for each course was obtained and analyzed with regard to the content and authenticity of the sources. Where there was more than one instructor teaching the course, the syllabi for each instructor of each section were obtained to compare the content within individual courses as well. The document analysis focus was on the content being covered within each of the courses including how much time was spent on the topics of American Indians, the topics themselves covered throughout the entire course and the authenticity of the resources used within the course specifically in the American Indian Studies topics. The document analysis demonstrated what future teachers are exposed to within the courses themselves as well as how the content aligned with the data collected from the survey.

Data Analysis Surveys and requests for syllabi were sent out to 41 contacts throughout the University of Wisconsin System. Each participant was sent a unique link to a digital survey to be completed within a 6 week time period. The same contacts were also personally contacted to request the syllabi to the course they teach that complies with Wisconsin Act 31. Follow-up reminders were sent approximately every two weeks for both the survey and the request for syllabi. Out of the 41 contacts, 27 (66%) chose to participate in the study. Twenty-five (61%) provided copies of their syllabi and 24 (59%) completed the survey. The three who did not participate in the survey provided syllabi and the two participants who did not provide a syllabus did participate in the survey. The majority of participants participated in both the syllabi collection and the survey resulting in a solid correlation of data between the two sources.

Survey. The survey of 10 questions, which can be found in Appendix A, was divided into 5 sections: 1) demographic information, 2) educational background, 3) institution information, 4) teaching, and 5) Wisconsin Education Act 31. Demographics were further categorized into age, gender, and ethnicity. Educational background was based on each participants formal education looking at undergraduate degrees, Masters degrees, Doctoral degrees, and other degrees or licensing. The year, institution, and degree were requested for each as well. The purpose of this was to determine the formal background of each individual. Institution affiliation was then collected regarding what institution the participant works for, what department he or she is affiliated with, and when the participant began working at his or her current institution.

The next category of teaching addressed more of the specific teaching qualifications of the instructor. Each participant was asked to state how he or she was selected to teach the course to determine, in general, how instructors are assigned to teach the compliance courses. In addition, each participant was asked to discuss any professional and personal development and/or cultural experiences the instructor has participated in with regard to American Indian Studies. Acquiring this information provides the informal elements of preparation for teaching the courses that comply with Wisconsin Act 31. The last portion of the teaching category of the survey dealt with the resources being reported as used within each course. The resources section provided a solid connecting element to the document analysis to demonstrate the accuracy of the data reported on the survey with that gained from the document analysis on resource use.

The final category asked a series of questions to get each participant’s understanding of Wisconsin Act 31. The questions began with each participant’s interpretation of Wisconsin Act 31 followed by an understanding of the essential components of Wisconsin Act 31. The purpose of this line of questioning was to get a baseline of interpretation to compare to the actual intentions of the law. Following the understanding and interpretation section, each participant was asked to state the components that he or she thought was necessary to include his or her specific course in order to be in compliance with Wisconsin Act 31. One of the necessary components of Wisconsin Act 31 is an understanding of tribal sovereignty. Therefore each participant was asked to define sovereignty as it applies to American Indians. The significance of this response again returns to the idea of “before we teach, we have to learn it”.

Finally, each participant was asked to address their feeling of how well prepared he or she is as an instructor in preparing future teachers to comply with Wisconsin Act 31 within K-12 classrooms. Participants were asked to elaborate on his or her answer. The specific questions for the survey are listed in the order provided on the survey in Appendix A. The qualitative data gathered from the survey was used in conjunction with the document analysis to determine how effective the course was or was not in complying with Wisconsin Act 31 and to determine future developments as follow ups with the project.

Document analysis. A document analysis was conducted on 26 syllabi from instructors at the nine institutions. One of the main goals of comparing this data to the survey was to see if the background of the individual and their experiences were reflected in the course. In addition, the topics and resources represented in the syllabi were used to compare with the information reported on the survey. The content of the syllabi were analyzed into four categories: 1) time devoted to American Indian Studies topics, 2) course topics throughout the course, 3) resources assigned to the American Indian sections, and 4) additional relevant information including specified assignments dealing with American Indian sections. After analysis within each category, categories one through three were further broken into education department related courses, including those that were cross-listed with education, and discipline specific courses. The distinction between the groupings correlated significantly to the findings within each category as well as across categories. The data gathered from the syllabi were then coordinated with both the demographic data and the foundational data of the survey to bring the study full circle.

Summary In order to address the research questions of the compliance of higher education institutions in the preparation of future teachers with Wisconsin Act 31 a document analysis and a digital survey were distributed to 41 instructors from nine University of Wisconsin System institutions. The backgrounds of the instructors were addressed as well as particular aspects of their teaching including resource utilization and their understanding of Wisconsin Act 31. A concurrent mixed methods approach was applied in order to bridge the similar, yet unique, data sets of the survey and document analysis.

Chapter four will present the specific findings of the survey and document analysis as well as the concurrent triangulation of data.

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Background Within the state of Wisconsin there are six state statutes that affect educators resulting from Wisconsin Act 31. Five out of the six statutes deal primarily with the jobs of school boards, curriculum development, instructional materials and social study standards within a K-12 context. However, one statute deals with teacher-licensing.

Under General School Operations, Wisconsin statute s.118.19(8) states that a person must receive “instruction in the study of minority group relations, including instruction in the history, culture and tribal sovereignty of the federally recognized American Indian tribes and bands located in this state” (1995). 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, and contemporary society in Wisconsin public schools.

The study was conducted through a mixed methods approach gathering qualitative and quantitative data through a survey and document analysis. Instructors throughout the University of Wisconsin System were contacted to participate in the survey and asked to provide a syllabus for the course that he or she teaches which complies with Wisconsin teacher-licensing laws. In this chapter, the results of the survey and the document analysis of the syllabi will be presented. The survey and document analysis is broken down and discussed in the parts that were significant to the study. Following the intial results, a brief summary is provided regarding the primary findings of the data.

Results As previously mentioned the results come from two sources, a 10-question survey and a document analysis of course syllabi. Each participant was asked to complete both the survey and provide a syllabus for the class he or she teaches that complies with the teacher-licensing component of the Wisconsin Act 31 requirement. The data from each was gathered concurrently and triangulated to bring the results full circle. Contacts were made with 41 potential participants throughout the University of Wisconsin System. Out of the 41 contacts, 27 (66%) chose to participate in the study, with the majority participating in both the survey and document analysis. Fifty-nine percent (24) of the initial contacts participated in the survey while 61% (25) provided syllabi for the document analysis.

Survey. The intent of the survey was to focus on the background of the instructor of the course, the resources he or she identifies as being utilized in the course as well as his or her understanding of Wisconsin Act 31. The survey addressed the areas of demographic information, educational background, institution information, teaching, and understanding of Wisconsin Education Act 31. Each section within the survey was categorized based on the answers provided and calculated on an individual question basis. The order of the questions is provided as distributed to the respondents in Appendix A.

Demographic information. Basic demographic information that was collected on each participant was age, gender, and ethnicity. As noted in Figure 2 below, participants were aged between 25 and 54 years of age with the highest occurrence of instructors being in the 45-54 age range. Sixteen percent were in the youngest age range of 25-34, 37% were in the middle age range of 35-44 and 47% were in the higher age range of 45Of the 24 respondents 33% (n = 8) identified themselves as male with the remaining 67% (n = 16) identifying themselves as female.

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