A retrospective study of school success : voices of successful Aboriginal professionals
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This qualitative study was designed to explore the perceptions of Aboriginal professionals in various work sectors as they reflect on their educational experiences in high school and the nature of success. Questions guiding this research were: What is Aboriginal student success? What factors affect success? To what or whom do professionals attribute their successfulness? What can make others successful? Prompting this study was the latest statistics about Aboriginal people released on September 24, 2003. The Aboriginal Peoples Survey was compiled by Statistics Canada in 2001. The survey stated that the number of off reserve Canadian Aboriginal students who are dropping out of school is 52%. In comparison to the Non-Aboriginal population, the overall high school dropout rate is 26%. What is alarming is that the drop out rate has not changed since the previous study in 1996. Some of the research conducted has focused on finding barriers to Aboriginal students dropping out of school. Although this research assumed that if barriers can be identified, and removed they have only insignificantly decreased the dropout rate. This study gives voice to aboriginal professionals' success experiences by having them share their stories through in-depth interviews. Rather than focus on barriers, this study emphasizes positive high school experiences of Aboriginal professionals and factors that led to their success. In-depth interviews were conducted initially with professionals in various work sectors that include human service sectors. A second interview was held with these professionals to clarify and further develop ideas emerging from the initial sets of interviews. Descriptive memos and reflective notes were kept throughout the process with the analysis of data following traditions of qualitative methods. The results of the study showed that the nature of success was complex, intricate, and idiosyncratic. Each participant had their own unique definition of success based upon distinct factors including a mindset, cultural orientation, spiritual connections, marginalization, and colonization. The definitions of success varied with changing variables of the participants. Not surprisingly, the study related student success to the biological, social, physical and spiritual factors including Aboriginal spirituality; to external factors including culture, curriculum, instructional approaches, role models, relevant education, and relationships; and to the internal factors attitude, goal setting, motivation and inquiry. In their suggestions of how others can be successful, each participant shared words of wisdom about education, stability, balance and a work ethic. The study offers teachers, parents, and students practical suggestions for increased student success and provides a list of implications produced by the study.
DegreeMaster of Education (M.Ed.)
Success - Social aspects
Educational success - Contributing factors
Aboriginal student success
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