About the www.Alaskool.org project and its developers

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
Teacher's Guide

Instructional Considerations
Paul Ongtooguk

Teacher Preparation

What should students know about ANCSA? What do I as their teacher need to know in order to effectively, intelligently and, most of all sensitively, teach about this landmark legislation?

A person can learn something of ANCSA in an hour. An adult with reasonable experience in U.S. and World History should be able to assess the basis of ANCSA and its broader implications after a day of well-presented explanations, discussions, and an opportunity to ask a few questions. By the end of that day, a mental map for the adult should be in place. With the guidance of the annotated bibliography included, the matter becomes one of simply choosing the direction and amount of time that a person is willing to invest in learning about this topic.

This teacher's guide, the readings, and the videotapes have been produced not only to introduce, but to allow teachers to lead their students through this important topic. When the students and teachers come out on the other side of this unit, they both should feel the success that comes with understanding and grappling with an important and timely topic.

Often a teacher's confidence and professional self-image is based on a sound knowledge of his or her content area. In dealing with a topic like ANCSA, that confidence is often difficult to achieve. The teacher is sometimes a bare step ahead of the students. With all the information that exists, and new in, formation generated on a daily basis, few teachers have the luxury of the time necessary to become an expert on ANCSA.

The alternative is to learn along with your students. The endless stream of questions regarding ANCSA can become bridges, bridges that not only teach about the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, but also teach about research, using reference materials, being able to read a newspaper or periodical, finding the right person and address for an answer and then learning how to write a clear letter that will get the answer you are hoping for. The telephone can be discovered as not only a social, but also a learning tool, a source of information. The audio-conference system can become a natural medium for ANCSA instruction.

The ANCSA Instructional Series has been developed to allow the teacher to function as a facilitator, someone who arranges the learning environment. Read the print materials, view the videos, try to get to some additional references before starting the course of study, but the most important factor in preparing for instruction is to dedicate yourself to learning and growing with your students.

Instructional Considerations

Two key concerns were emphasized in this series: teacher usability and statewide usage. The series has been developed to be appropriate in rural or urban settings. This goal has been addressed by incorporating video footage from around the state and interviews with local, regional, state and national leaders. The materials have been developed for teachers with varying levels of knowledge about ANCSA. Some teachers have taught ANCSA for years, while others have only a limited awareness of its issues. Therefore, this series presupposes no previous knowledge of ANCSA on the part of teachers. Your role for this unit is that of facilitator and participant rather than as expert or absolute dispenser of knowledge.

Out of necessity and training, most of what we do as classroom teachers is directed at having students choose the "right answer." While this approach certainly has its place in education, we would probably agree that real life is rarely that clear cut. As John Naisbitt has pointed out in his book, Mega Trends, we are in the age of multiple options rather than black and white choices. The successful teacher must help young adults tolerate uncertainty. The facts may be clear; the positions identified, yet the outcomes remain uncertain. The mastery of facts is important only as a means to an end. The recall of information should serve as a vehicle to help students gain self-confidence as young adults equipped to participate in the democratic process of government and self-determination.

As students master the essential information about ANCSA, we should help them identify their own values and not overpower them with our own. We must assist them in establishing and using valid criteria to judge decisions that they and others make on any given issue. This should lead to a recognition that other people may hold different, but equally valid positions on the same issue.

How does this relate to teaching ANCSA? Many decisions still need to be made regarding the impacts of ANCSA. Many people feel quite strongly, because of differing values and supporting rationales, that different "solutions" to ANCSA must occur. Teachers should tolerate and encourage this diversity and, more importantly, assist students in analyzing the reasons behind positions.

To be successful in this effort, it is essential that teachers nurture a risk-free, safe environment for dialogue, analysis and synthesis. There are no wrong positions, only unsupported ones. The attitude or climate in class should be one of a community of scholars in which the teacher also participates. All participants are dedicated to identifying their own values, the existing problems and alternative solutions. Solutions should be judged upon how successfully they match the values and criteria they address.

Curriculum is the combination of three elements: content, processes, and products. The guiding principle used in the development of these materials is that these three elements are of equal importance. Students must recognize the key facts or content of ANCSA, yet should not be overwhelmed by details. Students must also be able to critically analyze issues, generate alternative solutions, and evaluate differing positions. Finally, students should be encouraged to create varied products in response to these issues. Ultimately, this unit should contribute to the student's self-confidence as a young adult facing difficult decisions and proposing possible solutions.

What better study than ANCSA to foster the goal of an enlightened citizenry" in Alaska? ANCSA is living history. It involves the study of the past, present, and future.

Criterion-Referenced Testing

The ANCSA series utilizes criterion-referenced testing to assess student learning. Both a pretest and post-test are provided. The pretest is a subset of the questions from the post-test. This allows for the identification of entry level knowledge and comprehension, as well as exit level mastery. The pretest results provide a basis for teachers to tailor instruction to the needs of their class. A danger with criterion-referenced testing is that it tends to place emphasis on the knowledge and comprehension levels of learning; it doesn't assesses the depth of understanding of essential facts. In an effort to maximize a full range of educational growth, classroom activities have been constructed to emphasize higher levels of cognition including critical, creative and evaluative thinking skills.

Vocabulary Development

In any new arena of learning there is almost always novel vocabulary to master in order to fully understand the issues. ANCSA is an excellent case in point. Many new words are introduced which are essential to a complete mastery of the issues.

Direct instruction on the key vocabulary is the best educational strategy. Teach students the specific words they need to know. Unfortunately, with the mass of information involved in ANCSA, this is not possible in a two week unit. Therefore, key words and their definitions should be addressed through appositive structures, context clues, examples and repetition. Teachers should highlight the definitions of key words as often as possible and as they deem necessary.

For those teachers who intend to extend the length of time for instruction, a greater focus on vocabulary is suggested. Sample words are provided for each unit. A definition is also provided for the use of the teacher. This definition conforms to the context of how the word is used. Sentences from the videos or readings are also included. Teachers are by no means limited to this listing.

One of the focuses of this instructional series is real learning and its application or transference. Vocabulary development has life-long benefits and, therefore, is worthy of additional emphasis, should more time be available. For this course of study, the sample sentences allow the teacher to reinforce concepts while teaching vocabulary.


Grading can serve many educational purposes. The primary one is to distinguish students' performance and ability based upon the mastery of particular information. A second purpose recommended for the ANCSA unit is motivation. Not every assignment needs to distinguish the "A" and the "F" student. Some assignments can be geared to pull all students into the learning experience,

Another consideration in designing any grading system is that the more samplings of student performance, the fairer and more accurate the final grade.

With these considerations in mind, the following is a recommended guide for grading student performance on ANCSA. First, set up criteria for written work, both classwork and homework. This should be based upon both quantity and quality. For instance, turning in all but one of the assignments with 70 percent accuracy is a "C." Turning in all assignments with 80 percent accuracy is a "B" and turning in all assignments with better than 90 percent correct is an "A." A "C" should be the base for student/teacher expectations. This should be minimum competency. Allow students to make corrections in class as you review information. Make minimum competency easily attainable. You want students to learn and achieve; you can use grades to encourage this.

A second grade could be for the essays on the basis of land claims and future issues and options. This essay grade could be comprised of two parts; a grade by the class after reviewing the essay and the teacher's grade. Again, a "C" might be that all the components of the essay are there as specified in the teacher directions. A "B" might be for good content, but there are problems with spelling, grammar and/or syntax. An "A" might be a strong essay free of spelling, grammar and/or syntax problems. Whatever the criteria, students should know in advance.

A motivational grade could be implemented using the Community Survey. Completeness is the minimum competency. If the survey is incomplete it is unacceptable. But, given completeness, you might decide that one completed survey is a "C," two is a "B" and three is an "A." The benefit here is that each time the student administers the survey, information is being reinforced.

Given the importance of the "Annotated ANCSA," the study questions could serve as a key grade as a take home "test." Completeness and accuracy are the guides here. 70 percent, 80 percent and 90 percent accuracy can be used. Have students trade papers and grade them in class. This assignment can serve as a current indicator of student performance on ANCSA.

Participation should be included as one component of the grading system. The teacher could assess this performance, but a three-part grade is advised. The three parts include teacher assessment, student assessment of his or her own performance, and a class assessment. This latter would mean each member would evaluate and assign a grade for each class member.

This might appear complex and does take time, but it is extremely powerful for involving the class as partners in learning and as self-evaluators.

Finally, the post test would be the most important grade. h might be counted doubly in the final evaluation of a class grade for ANCSA. This should be a key tool for distinguishing performance.

Your grade book might look like this:

Name / Community Survey / Written Work / Essay / Participation / Annotated Act / Test / Final

Nelson A A A A B A A AA A

Wright B A B B A A B BB B+

This section highlights some questions or considerations for teaching ANCSA. This guide is not intended to tell teachers how to teach; it strives to make teaching ANCSA as easy as possible for teachers who already have many demands on their preparation time.