Current Papers and Plans

Relationality and Student Engagement: Connecting Teaching and Learning at a Tribal College

The following article was published in Tribal College and University Research Journal —— Volume 1, Issue 1, Fall 2016. The authors are Brian Compton and Ted Williams, NWIC, and Cheryl Crazy Bull, President of the American Indian College Fund and former NWIC president.

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Institutions of higher education are driven by teaching and learning. Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) are driven by teaching and learning that is connected to the culture, language, values, and history of the tribes they serve. In this article, Brian Compton, Ted Williams, and Cheryl Crazy Bull describe one TCU.’s intensive efforts over several years to improve teaching and learning through a college-wide initiative. Through narrative, participant reflection, and analysis, the authors find that the initiative, while still evolving, has had a great impact on the work of faculty and the experiences of the students at the TCU, particularly in strengthening faculty skills, increasing student engagement, and building a learning environment that is culturally rich, rooted in relationships, and meaningful to students and faculty. The theory guiding the initiative is that supporting and encouraging the development of knowledge, skills, and abilities of faculty leads to growth in the knowledge, skills, and abilities of student. The authors find, through their own experiences with and analysis of the impact of the initiative, that the connection between teaching and learning is strong, and the initiative’s work on improving faculty skills — primarily in the areas of teaching methodologies, content knowledge, and cultural context — leads to increased student learning and engagement. As Tribal college faculty, it is crucial that we embrace relationality as central to how we teach. It is through relationality that students engage with what really matters to them and find success in their educational pursuits.

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Teaching and Learning Plan 2012-2017

(Click here to download a PDF version of the Teaching and Learning Plan)


The Teaching and Learning Initiative Plan sustains and builds upon the goals and accomplishments of the Woksape Oyate grant which funded the Teaching and Learning Initiative from 2007 through June 2012. In addition, this plan supports and aligns with the NWIC Assessment Plan (2012-2017), the Achieving the Dream Implementation Plan (2012-2016), the Strategic Plan and Core Themes (2010-2017), and other faculty initiatives, such as faculty inquiry groups (FIGs). The Plan is guided by the foundational principles articulated in the program outcomes for the Bachelor of Arts in Native Studies Leadership.

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