Statement of Grant Purpose
Crystalyn Lemieux- United States-Health Education
Project Goals & Purpose
This project seeks to develop and validate a platform for first generation university students who come from an Indigenous background to express their cultural identities and to merge their Western educational experiences with their Indigenous identity. Currently, many indigenous students struggle to find safe spaces to describe and document the challenges they face when entering university life as a minority student and to express their cultural identities in ways that honor their cultural heritage. Some students feel as if they have to choose one identity over another and as a result, they leave the university. Using ePortfolios, (electronic portfolios) will provide students with opportunities to develop their own intellectual and Indigenous identities as they document their learning across contexts to develop knowledge, skills, and abilities that foster educational success. Importantly, ePortfolios will help students connect with other Indigenous students internationally who will become future leaders that work with one another at the national or international level. Ultimately, this project aims to foster student success through the recognition of Indigenous cultural values within traditional academic settings and beyond.
According to Batson (2011) ePortfolios follow situated learning theory and allow us to measure learning that occurs outside of the classrooms and apart from the professors. It is a holistic form of recording a student’s education, because it allows the student to document their common intellectual experiences and links students to learning communities (Penny Light et. al., 2011). Despite the emerging research on the value of ePortfolios in higher education (Eynon et. al, 2014), more work needs to be done to truly understand the value of ePortfolios for student engagement and success. Even more needed is research that looks at ways to foster student success among first generation, Indigenous learners to mitigate high attrition rates. While many universities are working to address the challenges faced by Indigenous learners, few strategies have emerged that foster the development of intellectual AND Indigenous identities so that they are able to successfully navigate their pathway through postsecondary education (AUCC, 2011). This research therefore, is timely and needed.
I will be working with, Dr. Penny Light, her team, and students at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) to develop cultural identity ePortfolios. An ePortfolio template will be developed and customized for use with professors across disciplines. A pre-and-post questionnaire will be administered to users to gauge their levels of engagement with ePortfolios as well as to capture growth in learning and the development of intellectual and Indigenous identities over time. This data will be correlated with other student success indicators (for instance, grades, and persistence rates). In addition to the questionnaires that will yield both quantitative and qualitative data, we will conduct interviews and focus groups with participants (students, professors, and community members engaged in the work). The qualitative data will be collected through interviews or research talking circles that are used by Kovach in Indigenous methodologies (2012). During this time an evaluation scheme will be developed to measure how many students utilized the ePortfolios and how to measure the international impact. The data will be organized into themes that can be shared with stakeholders in a presentation. We will also gather qualitative data from community members to ask whether the ePortfolios are culturally relevant. Then we will present to stakeholders (professors, students, researchers, etc.) on our findings and how to improve the ePortfolios in the future and how they help students develop a healthy cultural and educational identity.
A number of deliverables will emerge from this project. First, a full report of the findings from the quantitative and qualitative data will be completed. Second, the findings will be used to develop learning strategies and programs that will extend the ePortfolio work into classrooms beyond those used in the research. These will be made publicly available on a website so that other professors can adapt them for their courses beyond TRU and UAA. Third, the findings will be presented at appropriate academic conferences and to Indigenous community leaders. Finally, all of the stakeholders engaged in this research will be invited to a celebration of the work at the end of the project.
Conducting the research in Canada provides an opportunity to build on existing work at TRU and UAA. The Fulbright will allow me to develop relationships with the community and stakeholders to find people who can sustain the project and get community buy in. Using Indigenous dialogues and the act of meeting in person to share the project and to build relationships with students will be an important aspect of the project in terms of getting students and other stakeholders interested in developing their own ePortfolios and for the sustainability of the project. Doing the research in this way also privileges the cultural practices and ways of knowing, which are done in person and through relationship building. It is beneficial to do the work in Canada because it builds a “bridge” from Canada and the work being done in Alaska. The two indigenous groups have so many similarities and are geographically close. The Indigenous communities do not just stop at the border and there are relations to the Alaska Native peoples; they have similar cultural practices, languages, and histories. Indigenous groups in both countries experienced land claims issues, yet the work at TRU and UAA provide Kamloops Indigenous peoples and Alaskan Natives (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) more resources available to them from these trials than other Indigenous groups in the world. As such, marrying the work in these two contexts will allow me to develop a framework that can be adapted and used in other geographic contexts.
Recruitment will occur through various mediums and personal invites. Participate in the activities at the Gathering place (Aboriginal student services) at TRU to build relationships with the student community. Attend weekly developmental meetings on brainstorming and developing the ePortfolio template. Host the first dialogue at the end of the month to begin gathering data on how to create a culturally relevant e-portfolio. Gain professor involvement for the spring semester pilot project. Develop the ePortfolio templates for use in courses.
Present on how to use the e-portfolios to students to set them up for success. Develop questionnaires for data collection. Disseminate information about the project on a website.
Administer the pre-and-post questionnaires to participating stakeholders. Support the students and professors in their ePortfolio development. Conduct interviews and focus groups. Analyze data.
Develop and edit the final report. Create presentation for different stakeholder audiences. Present the findings to stakeholders and at academic conferences. Develop a project plan that I can then execute as a pilot project when I return to Alaska. Present to stakeholder groups at the gathering place; which would include the TRU Elders in house program, Students Union & First Nations Collective, and TRU Professors.