3 adult teaching strategies for Indigenous learners

Every learner in your literacy program arrives with their own unique personal experiences, motivation for participating, and program expectations. As their literacy practitioner, it’s up to you to find effective teaching methods that will work for each individual.

Western approaches have historically dominated many education institutions. Here are three tips to create a successful literacy program that’s culturally responsive to Indigenous learners.

1. Develop a cultural understanding

Without an awareness and understanding of Indigenous cultures, it will be challenging to teach Indigenous learners effectively.

Commit to continuously learning about local Indigenous culture, history and issues. Encourage an open-door policy for Elders in your community to attend your program. Request feedback about your curriculum and teaching methods to ensure you’re educating authentically on Indigenous world views.

Be sure to create an inclusive learning environment – one that embraces the diversity of all learners. Ask for volunteers to share information about their traditional ceremonies, kinship differences and language to learn more about each unique culture.

The more you learn, the more confident and efficient you’ll feel in your teaching methods, and the more trust you’ll build with your learners.

2. Teach meaningful content

Indigenous learners may observe learning differently from non-Indigenous learners. Fortunately, you can be as creative as you want with your literacy programs.

Ask learners about their educational goals to learn what motivates them. This information may be helpful to utilize throughout the literacy program when the learner may feel frustrated or defeated.

Inquiring about your learners’ interests can help you guide them in choosing relevant reading material. Often, there are many local resources that support community context and can align with your curriculum.

Encourage learners to record and share their personal stories or family tree history. Ask them how they are most comfortable sharing this information with their classmates – either in a group or one-to-one.

Storytelling circles help promote orality, a crucial part of Indigenous culture. Ensure each learner feels comfortable enough to share; they are welcome to pass if they don’t.

3. Promote Indigenous culture

To boost their sense of identity, incorporate Indigenous stories and achievements and relate lessons to their culture.

Invite guests from the Indigenous community to share a skillset that matches learners’ interests. Some ideas include: holding a workshop or presentation on Indigenous crafts, music or storytelling. Following the event, encourage reading skill development by having learners research a topic or vocabulary related to the concepts learned.

Volunteering with community projects related to Indigenous culture is another way to enhance literacy skills – and give back to the community.

Incorporating teaching strategies for Indigenous learners

With June being National Indigenous History Month, now is an especially appropriate time to develop teaching strategies for your Indigenous learners. Our Money Matters for Indigenous Peoples program teaches financial literacy skills with the adult Indigenous learner in mind. To learn more about this free resource or any of our other literacy programs, check out our programs and initiatives.