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Exploration of the Lived Experiences of Native American Science Teachers of the Great Plains: A Narrative Inquiry

Uma Ganesan, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The complicated history of the education of Native American children through U.S. government-sponsored practices has led to the elimination of the Native children’s sense of Indian identity, culture, and language (Noel, 2002). In addition, increased emphasis on standardization and high-stakes accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has resulted in less culturally responsive educational efforts and more Indigenous students left behind in school systems (Castagno & Brayboy, 2008). This has led to Indigenous students being underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields where they account for only 3% of STEM workers (Fry, Kennedy, & Funk, 2021). This dissertation study explores the racialized and gendered lived experiences of Indigenous science teachers in elementary, middle, and high school (K-12) settings in a reservation school in Nebraska. This study, grounded on critical race theory (TribalCrit), employs a qualitative methodology (i.e., narrative inquiry) that focuses on investigating the culturally and linguistically relevant pedagogical practices of the three Indigenous science teachers that could help to meet the needs of Indigenous students. Data were collected using semi-structured and in-depth interviews and classroom observations. Field notes and transcripts were compiled; and artifacts, such as lesson plans, syllabi, student worksheets, and photos were collected for triangulating the data. Interview transcripts and field notes were coded and analyzed using Bhattacharya’s (2017) thematic narrative inductive analysis and Clandinin and Connelly’s (2000) three-dimensional narrative inquiry framework of temporality, sociality, and place to arrive at stories of experiences and dominant themes. Findings reveal that pedagogical practices, such as holistic learning and storytelling; nature-based outdoor science classrooms; experiential and project-based science that promotes critical consciousness and civic engagement in students; arts-based approaches; and involving Native Elders in classrooms hold promise (and serve as a model for teachers of Indigenous students in other locations/contexts) in improving Indigenous students’ science learning outcomes and facilitating their upward social mobility, thereby upholding educational equity and social justice for Native American communities.

Subject Area

Science education|Multicultural Education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Ganesan, Uma, "Exploration of the Lived Experiences of Native American Science Teachers of the Great Plains: A Narrative Inquiry" (2023). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI30485232.