SRU Research Focus: Jacoway travels to Dominica to study indigenous community’s education system


Students on a trip

From left, Slippery Rock University researchers Enoh Nkana, Michelle Amodei, Heaven Jacoway, Dylin Keener and Franklyn Charles visited Dominica this summer to study an indigenous group and the local education needs.

Aug. 4, 2023

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Heaven Jacoway, a Slippery Rock University junior early childhood education major from Sharon, traveled to Dominica this summer to conduct research as part of a faculty-student research program. Jacoway and four other SRU researchers traveled to the Caribbean island nation to study an indigenous group of people and their local education needs.

The research was funded by SRU's Summer Collaborative Research Experience program, which supports faculty-student research projects with grants up to $5,000 and helps develop research skills and discipline techniques for undergraduates.

Title of research project: The Exploration of the Culture and Curriculum of Students of Indigenous Heritage in the Kalinago Community

SRU contributors: Jacoway; Enoh Nkana, assistant professor elementary education and early childhood; Michelle Amodei, associate professor elementary education and early childhood; Franklyn Charles, assistant professor of strategic communication and media; and Dylin Keener, a sophomore early childhood education major from Washington.

Summary: The purpose of this international research was to investigate the implementation of indigenous history, culture and identity in the Kalinago educational community. Kalinago, or Carib, is the last remaining indigenous people on the island of Dominica. To date, research has uncovered a cultural mismatch between the school curriculum and students' Kalinago heritage. 

Research question: There were multiple questions the researchers asked, but overall, they wanted to understand the indigenous students' learning needs to what extent they are understood by education providers, and what teaching models best suits the students.

Methods: The research team interviewed members of the local educational community and collected data from June 26 to July 7. They visited the elementary schools in the Kalinago Territory; spoke to teachers, principals and parents of students; and analyzed instructional and curriculum resource materials.

Why this topic and how did Jacoway benefit from this research?: "As an early childhood education major with an international concentration, I wanted to learn about their teaching and learning practices and the strengths and needs of students in a diverse learning environment," Jacoway said. "I believe that exposure to various cultures and classrooms will prepare me to foster a global perspective of education and help me in my future career as a culturally responsive teacher."  

How will others benefit from your findings?: The SRU researchers said the research will be used to work with the Kalinago community to form an action plan to address identified student needs and to incorporate the indigenous peoples' heritage into the curriculum. They also plan to develop and implement culturally based curriculum resources for students in Kalinago primary schools.

What's next?: In addition to sharing the findings with Kalinago schools, the SRU researchers plan to submit their findings to education journals and present at the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in November 2023.

More information about SRU's early childhood education program is available on the department's webpage and more information about the SCORE grant is available on SRU's Grants Office webpage under internal funding opportunities tab.  

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 |