A FEW WORDS ON DESIGN AND METHODS. . . .
From the beginning of this initiative, the Step by Step Early Learning Centre and Beverly Anne Sabourin and Associates wished, in The Language of Literacy, to produce a national resource directory on Aboriginal literacy programs in Canada that was accessible, user-friendly, representative and comprehensive. Coupled with our intentions of making the information available on the Internet, it is hoped this live resource will service the needs of literacy practitioners who want a better understanding of the status of Aboriginal literacy initiatives in Canada.
Equally important, it is our intention to produce narrative and analytical information that will inform federal and provincial government departments so that their policies will better reflect the real aspirations and needs of the Aboriginal literacy community in Canada. The over-arching or guiding principle supporting our work was the commitment to contact Aboriginal literacy programs directly and meet face-to-face with the coordinators and practitioners who fuel the Aboriginal literacy movement in Canada.
The issue of representability is another fundamental principle guiding our work. As we began to work and cultivate the fields of information, it became clear that we would produce a comprehensive and representative directory of Aboriginal literacy and adult basic education programs in Canada. Because of the numerous program offerings, both through community-based initiatives, where we focussed much of our energy, and more traditional institutional offerings where such programs were housed within community colleges or educational institutions, we could only hope that the Directory would be both inclusive and representative, if not exhaustive.
Preliminary research was conducted by the core consultants and work began in earnest in late 1997. In these initial stages work focussed on accumulating as much resource information as possible pertaining to the operation of Aboriginal literacy programs in Canada. Extensive searches of the National Adult Literacy Data Base were conducted. References to individuals and experts in the field were followed up with meetings and discussions in order to acquire a more focussed view of the terrain and the limits of our research horizon. Full advantage was also taken of the information and data contained in the resource libraries of "mainstream" literacy organizations such as Alpha Ontario and the Movement for Canadian Literacy among others.
These efforts proved to be far more challenging then first anticipated. As we said in our preliminary report to project sponsors, the Step by Step Early Learning Centre:
While there is considerable information respecting the development and availability of Aboriginal curriculum and resource materials, in most jurisdictions, the identification of functional Aboriginal literacy programs proved to be a far more arduous task requiring extensive research, cross-referencing and information-mining. We quickly concluded, with not a little apprehension, that there was very little information extant about the operations of Aboriginal literacy programs in Canada. Hence, these initial mining operations were far more extensive then anticipated! Significantly more time was required to ferret out what programs were in operation and where they were located.