The basis of the research project applies an innovative educational theory to a problem of major importance to communities across Canada and elsewhere:
How can schools improve the academic success
and life chances of Aboriginal children?
At its heart is a transformation of the ways in which teachers think about and practice education. The Project builds on 25 years of work by Kieran Egan on a theory of intellectual development in which the child’s imagination, implicated as it is with the acquisition and use of “cultural/cognitive tools” such as language, plays a central role. Egan’s theory points to ways in which teachers might plausibly foster such development in all children across the curriculum. The Project will test this hypothesis in three British Columbia school districts with high Aboriginal enrolment, thereby bringing together three major fields of educational research:
- the relationship between curriculum, teaching, and learning;
- effective schooling for First Nations children; and
- sustainable educational change.
To accomplish the objectives of the study, a research alliance is essential. In order for any educational reform to be sustainable, knowledge has to be held, developed, and passed on within the professional community of teachers and teacher educators. In school districts where Aboriginal children form a substantial proportion of the enrolment, First Nations organizations must be actively involved in the process of change as well. Accordingly, the project has been designed as a three-way partnership between the Faculty of Education at SFU, British Columbia school districts 33, 50, and 52, and the respective First Nation educational body in each district. It is anticipated that, in addition to the Project’s contributions to academic knowledge in a broader sense, all three partners will benefit directly and substantially from the proposed research and training activities.