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NSF Native Cases Project

Barbara Smith
The Evergreen State College

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This project is developing and testing materials relevant to Native American students. The project, based at The Evergreen State College, is a collaboration with two tribal colleges, Northwest Indian College, Salish Kootenai Tribal College, and with Grays Harbor College. The project focuses on creating case study learning materials, teaching strategies, and developing faculty expertise. The project continues to produce case studies in a variety of disciplines. By focusing on the Native American perspective in these case issues, this project helps fill a void in the academic literature.

This NSF project builds on a successful three-year pilot program (the Enduring Legacies Project) funded by Lumina Foundation for Education. The previous project developed an effective case format and field testing procedure, offered three successful four day summer institutes for faculty on writing and teaching cases, and produced and implemented 26 cases in both online and face-to-face classes. The cases were extremely successful with Native students.

Project Goals

The project goals include:

Developing culturally relevant educational materials to improve the participation and graduation rates of Native American students, and to support Native American efforts towards self-governance.

To develop at least sixteen original teaching cases focused on issues confronting Native American people and communities in issues of environment, natural and cultural resources, and health and wellness.

To offer classes that use case studies as a central mode of pedagogy for students.

To develop cases that include quantitative reasoning skills, including the interpreting of tabular and graphical data, relevant statistical analyses, and the interpretation of numerical data in arenas of health and wellness and natural resources.

To offer an annual summer faculty development workshop for faculty at other tribal colleges and colleges and universities with substantial enrollments of Native American students.

Project Design/Elements

This project addresses a significant void in academic literature regarding the Native American perpectives of health, wellness, natural and cultural resource issues. This project develops, field tests, and disseminates new learning materials based upon case study methods. It addresses the important issue of educating Native Americans, a population that has been seriously under-served in higher education. Finally, it demonstrates how institutions can collaborate and work with Native American communities and leaders to improve higher education.

Evaluation and Assessment Strategies

The project will be subject to a rigorous formative and summative evaluation plan similar to the one used with the Lumina Foundation grant. Formative evaluation will focus on faculty development and the development, implementation of cases study methods in the curriculum, and refinement of the specific case studies themselvesa. Professor Clyde Herreid, Director of the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, will serve as an external evaluator.

Student assessment methods are described in the Teaching Notes sections of many of the cases.

Products, Key Findings, Publications

Native Case Collection

Teaching With Cases

Smith, B L. Understanding of Sovereignty and Identity Improved by Learning with Cases. Tribal College Journal. Vol 20, No, 1. Winter 2008, pp 38-41.