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A Training Curriculum for Early Childhood Educators in the Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities Program Working with Aboriginal Children with Special Needs
On March 5 and 6, 2009, the Centre of Excellence for Children and Adolescents with Special Needs hosted a 2 day roundtable in Toronto, Ontario. The focus of the roundtable was on the development of a special needs training framework for implementation in Aboriginal communities. Twelve participants were in attendance, reflecting First Nations and Inuit communities across Canada, early childhood education experts, and frontline workers.This report emphasizes the need for special needs training in Aboriginal communities and highlights the importance of developing a framework which is founded on Indigenous ways of knowing. Six Guiding Principles were established, emphasizing traditional elements that need to guide the process of curriculum creation. Traditional elements of particular importance to participants included the need to recognize the many important roles of Elders within the community, the need for experiential learning to be central to a developed curriculum, and the recognition and identification of Indigenous ways of knowing which should guide all curriculum implementation and programming. Drawing from these principles, a curriculum framework was created outlining both content and process associated with the guiding principles. The framework serves to further articulate the specific items roundtable participants thought essential to include in an Aboriginal special needs early childhood education curriculum.
Roundtable participants identified the need for curriculum delivery to be developed in a module-laddering format. This type of formatting would seek to develop curriculum in modules that could be offered in separate installments and delivered in different environments. The laddering format would allow the completion of each module to be a stepping stone towards the completion of the larger ECE special needs program. Certain modules would be open to all community members while others would require prerequisites be met prior to enrollment. Participants felt this type of module formatting could be developed in a short-time frame allowing it to be implemented at the community level fairly quickly. A long-term goal of the program, however, would be accreditation of the program in a college or university institution.
In addition to the module-laddering format, an online-hybrid model was suggested as the best practice for program implementation. This model allows for elements of distance education to be incorporated with more experiential learning experiences such as video conferencing, and face-to-face study sessions. A model such as this addresses the issue of remoteness associated with many rural Indigenous communities and also accounts for the need for experiential learning to take place for successful learning to occur. Future recommendations and next steps were also articulated by roundtable participants and included in the report.
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