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KnowledgeBases > Learning Styles of American Indian/Alaska Native Students

Cornel Pewewardy's "review of theories, research, and models of the learning styles of American Indian/Alaska Native students reveals that American Indian/Alaska Native students generally learn in ways characterized by factors of social/affective emphasis, harmony, holistic perspectives, expressive creativity, and nonverbal communication. The purpose of this research was to review the literature on American Indian/Alaska Native learning modalities and cognitive styles in order to draw conclusions that serve as indicators as to how educators may provide instruction/learning opportunities that are compatible with American Indian/Alaska Natives studentsí learning styles."

The paper addresses the following topics: Learning Styles - Fact or Fiction; Historical Basis of the Problem: A Curriculum of Genocide; Current Approaches and Findings Toward Understanding the Learning Styles of American Indian/Alaska Natives Students; and Relationship to Current Practice.

For the purpose of this article, the learning styles of American Indian/Alaska Native students are approached using the following classifications:

  1. Field-Dependence/Field-Independence
  2. Perceptual Strengths (Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic)
  3. Reflectivity Versus Impulsivity
  4. Classroom Management and Behavior
  5. Role of the Family, Tribe, and Elders
  6. Teacher/Pupil Relationships
  7. Cooperation Versus Competition

When discussing learning styles of native students Pewewardy cautions against presuming that there is one learning style for all native students. He points out that although some research may identify patterns of learning among some American Indian/Alaska Native groups, there are significant variations among tribes and individuals.

As a result of his literature review Pewewardy draws the following implications for educators.

  1. "A greater number of American Indian/Native Alaska Natives have definite learning style tendencies such as strength in the visual modality and a preference for global, creative, and reflective styles of learning."
  2. "Because of the distinct learning style preferences of American Indian/Alaskan Native students, there is a pressing need for teachers to employ culturally responsive teaching techniques."

Pewewardy concludes that "research indicates that curriculum or educational models that select one body of information to be presented to all students at a set time and at some forced rate cannot possibly accommodate all learners." He states that "when differences in learning styles are addressed, the American Indian/Alaska Native student will become motivated and encouraged to succeed. Personalization of educational programs make learning more meaningful to all involved. Ultimately, American Indian/Alaska Native students must believe that there is respect for their cultural backgrounds."

To read the complete paper click on the source document.

Learning Styles of American Indian/Alaska Native Students: A Review of the Literature and Implications for Practice, Cornel Pewewardy, Journal of American Indian Education, Volume 41 Number 3 2002.

"Cornel D. Pewewardy (Comanche-Kiowa) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching and Leadership, School of Education at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. His research and teaching initiatives focus on ethnic stereotyping in American sports culture, culturally responsive teaching, rhetoric sovereignty, and social justice education. Dr. Pewewardy teaches courses in critical multicultural education and the education of Indigenous peoples."

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