In reviewing the historical pattern of education for the Aboriginal people it is noted that the education system was built on the goal of assimilation and was designed for individual economic improvement. According to Imel (2001), Aboriginal adult education programs in the 1950s were designed to improve adult English proficiency and provide adult vocational training. In more recent years, Aboriginal literacy programs have built in broader goals that are concerned with safeguarding Aboriginal language and culture rather than with promoting assimilation. The Aboriginal people have experienced great trauma in their educational journey, especially from the residential school approach where the children were removed from the home, community and nation and placed in a foreign environment governed by Eurocentric rules and expectations. The situation was not much better for the children who attended schools in their home community. They were also exposed to the Eurocentric values of corporal punishment in the learning situation and many were strapped for speaking their own language. Therefore, factors such as healing, reclamation of identity, language, cultures and self-determination, play a major role in the complex issue of Aboriginal literacy and learning. The Ontario Native Literacy Coalition states, “Native literacy is a tool which empowers the spirit of Native people. Native literacy services recognize and affirm the unique cultures of Native Peoples and the interconnectedness of all aspects of creation. As part of a life-long path of learning, Native literacy contributes to the development of self-knowledge and critical thinking. It is a continuum of skills that encompasses reading, writing, numeracy, speaking, good study habits and communication in other forms of language as needed. Based on the experience, abilities and goals of learners, Native literacy fosters and promotes achievement and a sense of purpose, which are both central to self-determination (George, ND:6).”
Practitioner competence is a critical ingredient in the development of a robust, valid and equitable evaluation. In Aotearoa New Zealand the evaluator competencies identify cultural competence as a core capability. There are some particular challenges that P?keh? (New Zealand European) evaluators face in developing this competency. In grappling with these complex challenges, and in the absence of a pragmatic and systematic way of responding, the writers discuss the use of a heuristic they have developed that may aid enquiry and support evaluators to work in a culturally responsive manner. Three case examples are presented for applying the heuristic in practice. The benefits of, and insights from, using the heuristic are discussed.