Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.

In First Peoples’ cultures, knowledge was traditionally kept in an oral tradition. The oral tradition, still highly valued, includes oral narratives (or stories) that are used to teach skills, transmit cultural values and mores, convey news, record family and community histories, and explain our natural world (EFP 12 Teacher Resource Guide). In addition to expressing spiritual and emotional truth (e.g., via symbol and metaphor), story provides a record of literal truth (e.g., regarding events and/or situations). This tradition (both content and process) helps to create the learners’ concept of the world. The emphasis on history and story help learners to organize new concepts that develop from their learning.

For countless centuries, First Nations knowledge, traditions, and cultures have been passed down  from one generation to another in stories, and narratives, as well as through songs, dances and  ceremonial artifacts. Before Europeans arrived in BC, First Nations had oral cultures: their languages had no written form. The oral tradition was integrated into every facet of life and was the basis of the education system. The education system in an oral tradition is very precise and procedural: the information is taught to the next generation exactly as it was taught to the one before. Stories are used because they are easier to remember: you learn by listening closely and remembering. The oral tradition passed on the spiritual beliefs of the people and the lineage of families. It recorded ownership of property and territory, political issues, legal proceedings and survival skills. The oral tradition also mapped the geography of an area, and it recorded history.”
BC First Nations Studies Textbook

First Peoples’ knowledge is also developed in a historical and cultural context; that is why there is an emphasis in First Peoples’ cultures to keep the oral tradition alive, so that as each individual grows, he or she is aware of what has come before and how it influences both what is now, and how each person came to be (often shared in explanations of lineage and/or affiliation – a common First Peoples’ method of introduction – which also emphasize the importance of relationship).

Relation to Other Educational Theory

As has been noted elsewhere, constructivists also believe that knowledge is created by individuals in a historical and cultural context (von Glasersfeld, 2008).

Implications for Classroom and School Include:

  • Using story and narrative to teach across curricular areas.
  • Providing learners with opportunities to share their stories, and their voices.
  • Understanding the oral tradition, as well as its value and legal implications in Canada.
  • Providing learners with the opportunities to listen to and connect with the stories of others.
  • Understanding that all education systems are constructs based on specific sets of cultural values; what is considered important to learn is based on sets of the cultural values in a particular context, including the place (land) where the learning occurs.
  • Thinking critically about what we consider important for students to learn and about how we choose to structure their learning experiences.

Relevant Core Competencies

Communication

  • Encompasses the set of abilities that students use to impart and exchange information, experiences and ideas, to explore the world around them, and to understand and effectively engage in the use of digital media (2014, BC Ministry of Education).

Critical Thinking

  • Involves making judgments based on reasoning: students consider options; analyze these using specific criteria; and draw conclusions and make judgments. Critical thinking competency encompasses a set of abilities that students use to examine their own thinking, and that of others, about information that they receive through observation, experience, and various forms of communication (2015 BC Ministry of Education).

Positive Personal and Cultural Identity

  • Involves the awareness, understanding, and appreciation of all the facets that contribute to a healthy sense of oneself. It includes awareness and understanding of one’s family background, heritage(s), language(s), beliefs, and perspectives in a pluralistic society (2014, BC Ministry of Education).

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