This principle reflects the understanding that teaching and learning is the responsibility of all members of a community. The responsibility for teaching belongs to everyone in the community. As people develop their skills and knowledge in particular areas it is expected that they will in turn teach others. This is seen as a responsibility that ultimately strengthens communities. Conversely, the responsibility for learning also lies with the learner. It is the responsibility of the learner to determine what he or she is supposed to learn from any given situation. For example, a learner may be told a story that is intended to help the learner learn something. Rather than being explicitly told what the lesson is, the learner must figure that out for him or herself. This process allows learners to develop understandings that are applicable to them personally, and that they see as relevant for a specific time and place. It also promotes personal responsibility for learning.
A common understanding of this principle is that Elders in communities are a significant teachers for learners. Rather than age alone dictating the designation of “Elder”, it is understood that an Elder is a knowledgeable person who understands things that need to be learned by younger generations. Importantly, the elder/teacher is also a model for learners. In First Peoples’ cultures respect for elders (teachers) is embedded in peoples’ consciousness. The elders/teachers actions and words serve as models for learners.
Relation to Other Education Theory
Jonassen (1999) refers to behavior modelling and cognitive modelling as methods of supporting a constructivist learning environment. These two terms precisely describe the traditional modelling done by elders/teachers in First Peoples’ communities.
This principle supports the concept that learning is a socially constructed activity (Jonassen, 1999). The reference to generational roles refers to both the learner and the teacher. Traditionally, all elders of a community taught learners, and in a contemporary society this role is also be fulfilled by the classroom teacher and more capable peers. One of the roles of the teacher is to ensure that learners are ready to learn. In constructivism this would be reflected by the concept of scaffolding – providing initial supports that are gradually reduced until the learner is able to master the new learning (Hmelo-Silver, Duncan and Chinn, 2007). The roles and responsibilities also extend to the learners’ peers who, in group learning situations, also have responsibilities to interact and support each other in the learning.
The concept of generational roles and responsibilities being integral to learning in a First Peoples’ context also refers to the traditional style of teaching and learning where learners would work side by side with more knowledgeable experts (elders) to learn a new skill or craft (along with its attendant theory) in an authentic setting. Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989) refer to this apprenticeship model as learning through cognitive apprenticeship and it reflects a constructivist approach to teaching and learning.
Implications for Classroom and School Include:
- Providing learning opportunities for students to teach and learn from students in different ages/grades.
- Providing leadership opportunities in a range of contexts.
- Connecting the classroom and school to other members of family and community.
- Inviting Elders into the school and classroom to share their knowledge.
- Bringing learners into the community to learn from people in other contexts.
- Providing opportunities for learners to mentor younger students, or be mentored by older learners or adults.
- Explicitly modelling learning processes for students.
- Providing necessary scaffolding and gradual release as the learner develops mastery.
Relevant Core Competencies
Personal Awareness and Responsibility
- Involves all aspects of personal well-being; making ethical decisions and taking responsibility for one’s actions and how they impact self and others; and self-regulation.
Social Awareness and Responsibility
- The ability and predisposition to cooperate and collaborate with others, display community-mindedness and stewardship, empathize with and appreciate the perspective of others, and create and maintain healthy relationships within one’s family, community, society, and environment.