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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Elementary students' images and understanding of First Nations people Kaschel, Werner Friedrich Karl

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine grade six and seven students' images and understanding of First Nations people. Eighteen students participated in the study out of an intact class of 21. I hypothesized, based on the students' personal experience through popular culture, family and school, that they would possess historical images and would lack a broad understanding of contemporary First Nations people. I determined what their images and understanding were prior to starting a unit of study on the subject and what, if any, changes occurred in their thinking and knowledge after the eight week unit was taught. The unit focused on the First Nations cultures of British Columbia with special attention given to the Northwest Coast cultures. Data were collected using a photo-portrait questionnaire, pre- and post- unit questionnaires, learning log entries, and pre- and post-unit interviews with six students. A photo- portrait questionnaire consisted of 15 images representing contemporary and historical First Nations people of both genders, all ages and from different professions. The students determined whether each person in the photo represented a First Nations person, and provided a brief explanation of their response. Pre- and post- unit questionnaires provided evidence of the effects teaching had on the students' knowledge. Learning logs gathered information on the students' understanding of Native peoples as they progressed through the unit of study. Prior to commencing the unit, students' possessed historical/stereotypical images, and had a good historical understanding of how the First Nations people lived on the West Coast. However, knowledge of contemporary First Nations people and issues was limited. By the end of the unit, students displayed empathy towards First Nations and demonstrated that they had a broadened understanding of contemporary issues as well as stable misconceptions and inaccurate depictions of First Nations peoples.

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