Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


First Advisor

Theresa Catalano

Date of this Version

Spring 4-28-2023


Ganesan, U. (2023). Exploration of the lived experiences of Native American science teachers of the Great Plains: A Narrative Inquiry. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Major: Educational Studies (Teaching, Curriculum & Learning), Under the Supervision of Professor Theresa Catalano. Lincoln, Nebraska. April, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Uma Ganesan


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. 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.

Advisor: Theresa Catalano