Archived Information

Tools for Schools - April 1998

Native American Instructional Programs:
Standards for Effective Pedagogy

What Is It?

The primary aim of this model is to develop and evaluate a major model for school reform consistent with the intentions of the standards-based reform movement to ensure high expectations for all students. This model combines research knowledge about effective Native American education with research knowledge about institutional reform standards, and focuses on culturally compatible pedagogy. The projects are guided by seven standards of effective instruction. These include five generally accepted standards for effective pedagogy for all students: In addition, there are two Native American-specific standards:

Why Did It Get Started?

The National Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence projects upon which this model is based were designed to establish a more culturally responsive educational system in Zuni Schools that is predicted to be associated with higher student achievement.

How Does It Work?

The model is based upon the seven standards of effective instruction described above and includes the primary components described below.

Teachers-Individual and Group Consultation

This program is influencing teacher professional development through individual and group consultation with a site coordinator and a teacher professional development portfolio and evaluation process. There are three basic components of the consultation model, all based on a triadic model of assistance whereby program developers assist the staff advisor to assist teachers, and the staff advisor, in turn, assists teachers to assist students. First, the project staff advisor and university personnel collaboratively develop a systematic approach to provide individualized assistance to teachers. Second, the project staff advisor meets regularly with both individual and groups of teachers to discuss the standards and their enactment. And, finally, teachers attend 3 workshops annually and a single, 4-day Summer Institute at which teachers and community members work jointly to develop instructional units consistent with the Five Standards for Effective Pedagogy and contextualized in local practices and values.

Annual Teacher Performance Evaluation - Professional Portfolio

Evidence of competence in enacting the seven standards of effective instruction is included in the annual faculty evaluation. In addition, teachers build a professional development portfolio that includes the annual evaluation, results of classroom observations by research staff using the Activity Settings Observation System (ASOS), a videotaped lesson, and a development plan.

Parent-Teacher Focus Groups

Parent-teacher focus groups conducted by the project staff advisor address issues of effective pedagogy and evaluate the seven standards in the context of the local community. The groups use a specific stimulus for each discussion, beginning with the Zuni enactment tapes, but rapidly expand to use participating teachers' own videotapes and portfolio items. The focus groups themselves will enact the generic standards; thus, the intervention will teach the generic standards by using them.

What Are The Costs?

Operating schools and classrooms according to this model entails no extra cost. The costs of training and staff development vary with the methods and intensity of the model.

How Is The Model Implemented In A School?

The primary means for reform is through teacher professional development and a professional development portfolio and evaluation process. Various activities for professional development, described below, have been employed and are available from the National Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence.

What Is The Evidence That The Model Is Successful?

There are a wide variety of evaluation studies that have examined the effects on student performance when teachers use each of the standards separately. Evaluation of the fully organized five-standards enacted version is currently under way at the Zuni Middle School, Zuni, New Mexico.

Where Can I See It?

The CD-ROM Teaching Alive! is available through the National Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence for use by teachers, teacher educators, school administrators, and researchers. A school-wide application can be seen in a school reform program at Zuni Middle School, Zuni, New Mexico. Visits are available only by advance arrangement.

Whom Do I Contact?

National Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064
Telephone: 408-459-3500; Fax: 408-459-3502
E-mail:; Web site:

The Research Base

Traditional and contemporary Native American socialization emphasizes learning by observation. This observational learning is closely tied to the well-documented visual-learning patterns of Native children, and a holistic cognitive style. Observational learning has been related to the learning system of private, imagined practice, which allows for learning to occur without public failure (that is, competence before performance).

Numerous reports indicate that Native students are more inclined to participate in activities that they themselves generate, organize, or direct. Native students tend to be private learners and silent students, and resistant to the imposition of the practices and values of what they view as an alien institution. This is not surprising, for Native American cultures are distinctive in the degree of respect accorded to youthful autonomy and decision-making.

This project is based on an alternative organizational structure founded in a theory of schooling as assisted performance. In this organization, rather than functioning to direct and assess, the first responsibility of each person is to assist the performance of those in the next position to assist those in the third position. This triad is embedded in a longer chain of responsibility in which multiple triads exist. For example, program developers assist teacher educators to assist teachers, teacher educators assist teachers to assist students, and teachers assist students to assist peers.


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