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Research Domain: Group Three - Informal Learning Cultures

Title of Project: Informal Learning Culture Through the Life Course: Initiatives in Native Organizations and Communities

Start Date: April 1, 1997
Academic Co-Investigators: Dr. George Burns (OISE/UT), Paul Olson (OISE/UT)
Partner Co-Investigator: Robert Beaudin (KTEI)
Student Researchers: Joyce Petiwaniquat (Carleton U.), Darrel Manitowabi (McMaster U.)

The research of the project is a part of a multi-year five site design to compare and contrast how forms of formal and informal learning take place in five distinct but inter-related Native setting: a second level Aboriginal education service organisation, a Native Friendship Centre, a First Nation educational centre, a Tribal Council, and a First Nation community. This year's research site was the N'Swakamok Native Friendship Centre in Sudbury, Ontario. The N'Swakamok Friendship Centre is an urban based centre dealing with a Native population drawn from a range of diverse backgrounds. Part of its work involves delivery of educational programs within the Sudbury urban Native community. The research concentrated on the adult education component of the centre.

The project graduate student, Darrel Manitowabi, has built an ethnographic data base based on a mix of structured interviews and informal discussions, direct observation, and context analysis of textual documents and reports of the organization and community. This ethnography has include interviewing all Centre staff, as well as a wide cross section of the centres programme participants. The Centre runs a variety of educational and community services in the Native Community. Data was gathered on informal relations--both within the organizations and their relationships with program participants on issues such as the role of elders in teaching/training/cultural transmission; what constitutes the "Native perspective" in the work; how the practices of the agency advance self determination. (see, for instance Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996). The interviewer possessed facility in both English and Ojibway. Leaning programs examined were a collaborative effort of The N'Swakamok Native Friendship Centre/Rainbow Board of Education, in Adult Education.

The initial findings from the interview, documentary and ethnographic data indicate that much of what make these educational delivery services so successful is the context of the Native Friendship Centre itself where Native staff from diverse areas (legal, community service, etc.) provide both a range of informal support, Native perspective's, and also act as mentors and role models for participants. These structural and cultural elements are integral to why learners integrate within this context and become highly successful in their endeavours.


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