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A red tile in the Canadian educational mosaic

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(Thesis) Ed.D.
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This phenomenological study sought to understand the lived experiences of six Aboriginal graduated high school students in a northern remote setting within the Northwest Territories, who all attended the same high school. Its primary focus was to answer the question, “What are the lived educational experiences of graduated Aboriginal secondary students?” Using this qualitative methodological approach, framed by Anthony Giddens’ Theory of Structuration, a series of semi-structured interviews explored each participant’s experiences within the institution of school. An examination of both the structural characteristics of school and society combined with an investigation of the individual student’s personal agency formed the bedrock of the study and its suggested implications. Structural properties such as culture, teachers, curriculum, and language were reviewed as well as the social contextuality of the individual student, inclusive of community, family, friends, role models and parental support. Additionally, each student’s perception of his/her cultural identity, school experiences and its structural properties were explored. Specifically, this study sought to answer from their individual perceptions: a) what personal factors contributed to their success? b) what school factors contributed to their success? c) what challenges did they encounter? and, d) how did they overcome these challenges? Analysis of these related lived experiences or narratives enabled the identification of themes that speak to what the participants believed helped them graduate from high school, what challenges they experienced and how they overcame such challenges. Ten themes or findings were elicited from the data as follows: Giddens’ Structuration and Contextuality; Socio-economic status; relationships; ambivalence about Aboriginal identity; consciousness; spirituality or spiritual interconnection; resilience, persistence and motivation; teachers; language and culture; and, extra-curricular involvement. Based on this analysis and interpretation, the study concludes with suggestions for future research and implications for practice.
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