Funds of Knowledge (FoK) is that knowledge which is shared among cultures, communities, and families. A part of that shared knowledge is language, how we learn, how we communicate, how we interact socially. In order to effectively teach students, teachers need to know what skill sets Native American students bring with them into the classroom, and understand how to effectively build on those skills (Aguirre et al., 2012). This is essential to addressing the current crises endemic within American Indian education. Teachers should know the social and cultural norms that are expected and taught in the homes and communities of their students as this crucial information will enable teachers to consistently access and respond their students’ FoK (Hedges, Cullen & Jordan, 2011; McLaughlin & Barton, 2012)
Velez-Ibanez and Greenberg (1992) were the first to introduce FoK which is founded in the cultural anthropological studies of Eric Wolf (Rios-Aguilar, 2010). Gonzalez, Moll & Amanti, (2005) published their theory on FoK which is based in the assumptions that people are intelligent and rich in life experiences. The early research in FoK was conducted mostly among Hispanic student populations in the United States (Dugan, Ylimaki, & Bennett, 2012; McLaughlin & Barton, 2012; Rios-Aguilar, 2010). There is limited quantitative research on the impact of FoK among Native American students.
Children come to the classroom rich in the culture of their community and family; from which their learning style is primed (Aguirre et al, 2012; Morgan, 2009). For example (Saracho & Spodek, 1984) stated that Native Americans are “field dependent learners”. This in an indication that Native American students prefer to work together, are visual learners, and tend to be naturally intuitive. They usually have a more holistic perspective of their environment.
Non-Native teachers, especially males, often enter the educational arena from a “field independent” perspective (Perewardy & Fitzpatrick, 2008; Saracho & Spodek, 1984), where these types of learners tend to be more goal oriented and competitive. This can create misunderstandings in the classroom as well as an inability to teach Native Americans from their cultural FoK base. When Non-Native teachers do not respond to the cultural FoK of their Native students, then those students and other ethnic minority children are often perceived as lazy or needing remediation. When, in fact, the true deficit may be a lack of knowing or understanding of the FoK and the absent complimentary pedagogy on the part of the teacher (McLaughlin & Barton, 2012). In order to effectively teach children of another culture, teachers need to have an understanding of the cultural FoK for their Native American students (Hedges et al, 2011).
Connected with the non-Native teachers’ failure to negotiate their Native students FoK, the disability rate among American Indians is at 21 percent. This is higher than other ethnic...