Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Workforce Education and Development

First Advisor

Calvin, Jennifer

Second Advisor

Waugh, C.


This phenomenological study investigated the experiences and perceptions of eight female adult Native Americans distance learners. To understand the complex issues of Native American education and distance learning, the literature review included the history of the educational policy directed towards Native Americans, Tribally Controlled Universities and Colleges, distance learning, the Digital Divide, Vygotsky and socio-cultural learning, and the indigenous pedagogical paradigm. This study has a two-fold purpose: 1) to add to the body of knowledge on adult Native American distance learners by using qualitative methods to explore the experiences and perceptions of those learners, and 2) to introduce a Standard Model of Indigenous Learning and document if the five model threads are an important component of the participants' learning processes. With the accelerated implementation of distance learning platforms in the higher education arena, it is important to understand the experiences and perceptions of adult Native Americans. In addition, it is vital to determine if distance learning poses an underlying threat to their cultural values. Furthermore, determining which components of the learning process are important to adult Native Americans is a critical step in understanding and implementing the appropriate teaching methods and curriculum. The results of this study centered on the experiences and perceptions of the participants in various distance learning environments. Components and practices deemed necessary for learning to occur in the distance learning environment and the face-to-face classroom were discussed and defined. Respect, meaningful interaction, relevancy, and life-long learning were important themes found in the study. Several conclusions were drawn from the results of this study. The participants definitely differentiate between the meaning of education and learning. Building on that concept, most perceive distance learning environments that do not contain a face-to-face component as a tool to accomplish an education. However, respectful, meaningful, face-to-face interaction along with understanding the relevancy of the learning material is perceived as a real [indigenous] learning experience. Comments about the relationship between learning and life, made by the participants, clearly indicate support for socio-cultural learning. In addition, all participants indicated that the five threads of the proposed model are important factors in the learning process and should be incorporated into classrooms. The implications of the study are numerous. Without a face-to-face component, distance learning will not provide the learning experience desired by many Native Americans, thereby creating a possible barrier to education. The five threads of the Standard Model of Indigenous Learning were substantiated by all participants, who vary in age, tribal affiliation, educational background and blood quantum. Thus, the model can serve as a solid foundation for developing curriculum throughout the Native American community, rather than for just one tribe. Recommendations for further study include conducting this study with adult male Native Americans, indigenous peoples of other countries, and other ethnic groups to determine if the model can be generalized to other populations. The teaching practices of Native American instructors and the curriculum at Tribal colleges and universities should be examined to determine if, and to what extent, the five model threads are being used. Implementation of the Standard Model of Indigenous Learning has the capability of transforming the current educational system into a truly learning environment, rather than an environment of acquiring knowledge to satisfy educational requirements.




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