Assessment Practices and Aboriginal Students

  • Jacqueline OttmannEmail author
  • Joan Jeary
Part of the The Enabling Power of Assessment book series (EPAS, volume 3)


Aboriginal or Indigenous student achievement is multidimensional and complex in Canada and in an international context. Although successes are experienced by Aboriginal students, there continue to be barriers and challenges (e.g., socio-cultural factors, school and community perceptions that determine policy and practice) that have negative implications. Statistically, Aboriginal student graduation rates in Canada continue to be disproportional when compared to non-Aboriginal students (a reflection of academic achievement), and Aboriginal students continue to be over-represented in terms of requiring special education programs and services and under-represented in the gifted and talented categories. Since academic achievement and the allocation of Aboriginal students to special education programs are influenced and/or determined by assessment practices implemented by teachers and educational psychologists, the validity and effectiveness (this including the cultural relevance; the knowledge and skill level, and affective orientation of teachers and educational psychologists) of the assessment practices should be critically examined and improved on a regular basis. Disproportionality in special education becomes an issue when it perpetuates the deficit view of Aboriginal students and/or when the precursors or outcomes of special education are biased or inadequate.

The possibilities for improving the school experiences and achievement of Aboriginal or Indigenous students at a local, district, provincial/state, national and global context are endless. It needs to begin, however, with educators examining their beliefs, assumptions, biases and judgments and by using culturally sensitive instructional practice, including materials and assessment tools. Effective assessment must be embedded in authentic learning activities based on higher order thinking and problem solving. It is through these authentic learning experiences that the feelings of disconnect that Aboriginal students experience in traditional Western schools will be minimised. The life experiences that Aboriginal students bring to the classroom will be validated and subsequently contribute to their learning and achievement.


Aboriginal First Nations Métis and Inuit Special education Assessment practices Affective domain Promising practices 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Werklund School of EducationUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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