Documenting a Marshallese Indigenous Learning Framework.

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2017-08
Authors
Nimmer, Natalie E.
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Professional Ed Practice
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Abstract
While many Marshallese learners thrive in school environments, far more have struggled to find academic success, both at home and abroad. While this has been documented by educational researchers for decades, there is a dearth of research about how Marshallese students learn most effectively. Examining culturally-sustaining educational models that have resulted in successful student outcomes in other indigenous groups can inform strategies to improve educational experiences for Marshallese students. Understanding how recognized Marshallese experts in a range of fields have successfully learned and passed on knowledge and skills is important to understanding how formal school environments can be shaped to most effectively support Marshallese student learning. This study examines the learning and teaching experiences of recognized Marshallese holders of traditional and contemporary knowledge and skills, in order to document a Marshallese indigenous learning framework. This research used bwebwenato (talk story) as a research method, to learn from the experiences of ten Marshallese experts in knowledge and skills ranging from sewing to linguistics and from canoe-making to business. Key findings include the four key components of a Marshallese indigenous learning framework:  Relationships  Motivation for Learning  Teaching Strategies  Extending Networks Teaching strategies are comprised of the commonalities among the way Marshallese have learned and mastered both traditional and contemporary skills. Chief among these are:introducing the topic at a young age, scaffolding, demonstrating and observing, learning through relevant practice, and correcting learners constructively. To a lesser extent, and in a context in which the learner and teacher are not related in a familial way, learning and teaching occurs through visual aids and asking instructor for assistance.
Description
While many Marshallese learners thrive in school environments, far more have struggled to find academic success, both at home and abroad. While this has been documented by educational researchers for decades, there is a dearth of research about how Marshallese students learn most effectively. Examining culturally-sustaining educational models that have resulted in successful student outcomes in other indigenous groups can inform strategies to improve educational experiences for Marshallese students. Understanding how recognized Marshallese experts in a range of fields have successfully learned and passed on knowledge and skills is important to understanding how formal school environments can be shaped to most effectively support Marshallese student learning. This study examines the learning and teaching experiences of recognized Marshallese holders of traditional and contemporary knowledge and skills, in order to document a Marshallese indigenous learning framework. This research used bwebwenato (talk story) as a research method, to learn from the experiences of ten Marshallese experts in knowledge and skills ranging from sewing to linguistics and from canoe-making to business. Key findings include the four key components of a Marshallese indigenous learning framework:  Relationships  Motivation for Learning  Teaching Strategies  Extending Networks Teaching strategies are comprised of the commonalities among the way Marshallese have learned and mastered both traditional and contemporary skills. Chief among these are:introducing the topic at a young age, scaffolding, demonstrating and observing, learning through relevant practice, and correcting learners constructively. To a lesser extent, and in a context in which the learner and teacher are not related in a familial way, learning and teaching occurs through visual aids and asking instructor for assistance.
Keywords
Marshall Islands, indigenous education, learning framework
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