Research in Education

Urban Aboriginal Education Project


Transcript of video

Alayne Bigwin: The urban project actually came out of the First Nation, Métis and Inuit education policy framework. One of the areas of focus identified in there was the need to look at ways in which to support First Nations, Métis and Inuit students in urban centres.�

Sylvia Maracle: This particular project was intended to address the needs of urban aboriginal students�their families and communities and teachers and schools and other learners in trying to understand urban aboriginal people and aboriginal people who live in urban areas in this province.�

NARRATION: The Urban Aboriginal Education Project was a pilot study carried out in three Ontario school boards that differed in their prior efforts to improve Aboriginal education, and in the number and dispersal of Aboriginal students in their schools.�The Project found that, depending on the characteristics of the board, educators should focus on one of the following aspects: developing or acquiring resources for Aboriginal students; locating and supporting dispersed Aboriginal students; deepening the understanding of non-Aboriginal students.

The Ministry of Education wanted to ensure that its investment in the Project was well-placed and therefore hired an evaluator to assess the Project at the provincial level. At the same time, top-level evaluators from universities, school boards and the private sector, were evaluating or "researching the research projects" at each of the three sites. The first partnership involved the Lakehead District School Board and Lakehead University.

Lisa Korteweg: When we heard of the Urban Aboriginal Education project and the fact that it was at the Lakehead Public School Board – our partners and our neighbours in many educational ventures in Thunder Bay – we knew that there must be a very interesting opportunity there.

Sherri-Lynne Pharand: Research-based best practice is so important to education and to any profession. And I think that this research partnership was such a good example of theory and practice and researcher and classroom working together in terms of defining what best helps students succeed and be successful. And we were also able to define through the research, best practices and things that really have made a difference in terms of the lives of our students and their families.

NARRATION: The second partnership, between the Toronto District School Board and York University, was grounded in previous work they had done together.

Catherine Pawis: We chose to work with York on this project because we have an ongoing relationship with York University. The lead researcher in this case, Susan Dion, has worked on our aboriginal university advisory committee in the past. �So I'm familiar with her work and she's familiar with our priorities as a board and a system in terms of aboriginal education.�

Susan Dion: As the researcher I'm interested in documenting the work that was being done. So, sometimes I'd be asking for time for interviews or time for talking circles. And there was some, "Oh, Susan, we don't have time for that today," kind of response. But the beauty of the project was the ways in which the data gathering became a way for the staff to actually reflect and to learn in process.

NARRATION: The third partnership involved the Simcoe County District School Board and an independent research firm.

Celia Haig-Brown: I think the partnership worked primarily because it was stimulated by community members. People saw a real need for this kind of work. In addition, it was well-funded by the Ministry of Education which always makes a difference. And the people who became partners in the research actually did listen to one another and did learn from one another�and built the outcomes collaboratively.�

Janis Medysky: In Simcoe County District School Board one of the major accomplishments is that we were able to sustain the project. All of the things that we put into place in the pilot schools we were able to replicate in other schools in Simcoe County. And now that the funding has come to a close – funding the project – our board has agreed to continue the good work of the project.�

Lisa Ewanchuk: Our students had an opportunity to shine. To share their culture. Share their understanding about who they are and where they've come from. And to be proud of being a First Nation, a Métis or an Inuit student in our board. To see a student walking down a hall so excited to share some aspect of his culture, or her culture, or to come to school dressed in their regalia, or to come to our board office dressed in their regalia to celebrate their culture is amazing.�

Alayne Bigwin: We're all gathered together at this forum to share what we've all learned in the Urban Aboriginal Education Pilot Project. So it is all of us in the provincial steering committee, and all of the members from the three local sites and their steering committees, along with all of the researchers. I think it is an opportunity for people to not only renew their existing partnerships and working relationships but to make new partnerships and working relationships and to take away from this, new things that they've learned, back to their own sites, and continue this great work across the province.

NARRATION: It seems that no matter whether it's research or evaluation, the keys to a great partnership are the same.

Catherine Pawis: I think one of the most important lessons that we've learned is the importance of ongoing communication. We needed to continually ensure that as we were making changes in the project that we were keeping the researcher informed.��

Alayne Bigwin: I would advise people, if they're thinking about this type of work, is to really reach out to all of the partners who can really provide input and advice and support as the work is done together.�

Sylvia Maracle: I think the fact that it wasn't just an academic research exercise�that there were opportunities for communities, for schools, for teachers, for classrooms, for principals, to actually get engaged in the exercise.�

Andrea Johnston: I think it was very successful in terms of the partners participating at the various levels. The steering committee was very strong in terms of having so many different provincial players at the table. So that made a very strong partnership from the start in terms of having the diversity of knowledge and expertise and experience at the table.

Celia Haig-Brown: There's reciprocity between and amongst all the partners involved. So that university people who come to work on research learn from the field. The field learns from the cutting edge research that the researchers bring. And everyone learns from the community partners.�