Cultural characteristics of learning and perceptual skills of Southeast Alaskan native 5-year-olds

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Repository URL:
10.15760/etd.5410; 10.15760/etd.3389
Turkon, Thomas J.
Portland State University Library
Cognition in children -- Alaska; Indians of North America -- Education -- Alaska; Child Psychology; Cognitive Psychology
report description
This study examined the use of cognitive skills by 5-year-old Alaskan Native children on a standardized testing instrument. The Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scales of Intelligence (WPPSI) were administered to 23 boys and 17 girls of predominantly Tlingit, Tsimshean, and Haida ancestry. A standardized parent interview was used to collect bio-demographic data. Mean scores for the sample displayed significant differences between the Performance and Verbal scales, with the strongest performance in the Spatial subtests, and lowest in the Sequential subtests. Scores were significantly associated with variables representing culture-specific self identity and behavior, but were most strongly associated with family size. Factor Analysis suggested a distinct three factor structure consisting of (1) a Performance-Spatial, (2) a Verbal-Semantic, and (3) a Sequential factor. Variability in the use of cognitive skills, non-verbal behavior, and selective attention are viewed as unique cultural adaptations which can impede interethnic communication, creating negative outcomes in the education of American Indian and Alaskan Native children.