Foundations for Student Persistence and Success in Inuit Nunangat

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: social sciences, education, Inuit

Principal Investigator: O'Gorman, Melanie (2)
Licence Number: 16062
Organization: University of Winnipeg
Licenced Year(s): 2019 2017
Issued: Apr 18, 2017
Project Team: Shelley Tulloch (Co-Investigator, University of Winnipeg), Kathryn Paddock (Collaborator, Northwest Territories Literacy Council), Helen Balanoff (Collaborator, Northwest Territories Literacy Council)

Objective(s): To study what is contributing to Inuit students’ persistence in school, particularly at grade transitions; and how is the achievement of Inuit students being assessed.

Project Description: The Chair of the National Committee on Inuit Education, wrote of a vision for Inuit schools and communities that would “graduate bilingual Inuit children with the skills and knowledge to contribute with pride and confidence to the 21st century”. This work aims to address two questions:
1. What is contributing to Inuit students’ persistence in school, particularly at grade transitions?
2. How is the achievement of Inuit students being assessed?

The objectives of this research are to answer these questions by gathering knowledge through case studies, data analysis and narrative sharing, and to disseminate such knowledge to educators across the Canadian North.

In this research the research team will adopt an assets-based approach, respectful of different forms of knowledge and existing expertise in Inuit Nunangat. That is, the team will focus on what factors are leading to students attending school, excelling in school and graduating from school, rather than why they are not. This work will consist of the following 6 methods, with the work in Aklavik focused on part 6 below:
1. A Scan of Existing Programming and Policies - The research team will gather information on what is already known and what is already taking place in practical terms in Inuit jurisdictions. This will involve the team learning about academic streams in the high school, hearing about adult education programming, initiatives to increase attendance, cultural-based education, on-the-land programming, the extent of bilingual education, etc. The research team would like to learn as much as possible about the schools in Aklavik to form a thorough ‘picture’ of education in the community.
2. Literature Review. The research team have begun a review of the academic literature on Indigenous/Inuit student persistence, transitions, achievement and culturally-responsive assessment.
3. Statistical Analysis of Existing Data. The research team will analyze existing data for further evidence of factors affecting Inuit student persistence and achievement. This will involve an examination of Statistics Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples Survey.
4. Analysis of School Records. The research team would like to access school records for schools with a large percentage of Inuit students in the Northwest Territories. Using this data, the team will search for factors associated with high grades and strong attendance.
5. Narrative Sharing. The research team will hold an Inuit Education Forum in which education leaders from across Inuit Nunangat will gather to share best practices. We hope to produce a video of the Forum that will be shared to educators across the Canadian North.
6. Case Studies. The research team will deepen the understanding of factors contributing to student persistence and success by conducting case studies in Inuit-majority high schools identified as having high rates of student persistence and success.

These case studies will involve interviews with parents, teachers, Elders, Principals, District Education Authorities and Department of Education officials on factors leading to success in their particular community.

This research will be driving by local needs and desires. That is, the research is focused broadly on the determinants of student persistence and success in school. Specific research foci and methods will be guided by community wishes. The hope is that this research aids in identifying effectives policies, programming and approaches in education that can be disseminated to other Northern communities and which will be available for future generations in Aklavik. The dissemination of such best practices for culturally-appropriate, high quality education should have social, cultural and economic benefits in Aklavik.

The Principal Investigator (PI) would like to return to the community to give a presentation. The PI will write a report for the education stakeholders in Aklavik based on the findings, and email/mail a hardcopy of this report to all those involved. The research team will also write an academic paper based on the results of this case study and the others in Hopedale, NL, Kujjuuaq, QC and Taloyoak, NU. The results will also be presented at a conference in 2017 or 2018 and would like for a researcher from Aklavik/the NWT to present such results.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from April 19, 2017 to December 31, 2017.