Miqqut Project

What is the project about?

Ilitaqsiniq – Nunavut Literacy Council from Arctic Inspiration Prize on Vimeo.

The Miqqut Project is testing the idea of embedding literacy development in non-formal cultural programs, in this case sewing. Such programs are regularly offered in many Nunavut communities yet little is known of their impact and best means of execution.

Finding out why these programs are successful will assist Ilitaqsiniq-NLC to:

  • support community organizations and instructors to deliver high quality non-formal community programs that meet the needs of their participants;
  • support participants — especially those who are not yet prepared to meet the challenges of formal post-secondary programs — to improve their literacy and essential skills (LES).
  • educate funding and policy development agencies about the value and effectiveness of these programs in supporting LES skill development and other learning of program participants.

What are the goals of the project?

In embedded program models, low literacy skills are not a barrier to learning the subject material, so more individuals can participate and successfully complete their training. Embedded literacy programs are also more effective in developing language and literacy skills than conventional, stand-alone literacy programs; that’s because literacy skill development is immediately relevant to participants’ purpose, interests, and activities.

The program aims to:

  • research the short- and longer-term outcomes of non-formal community programs that embed literacy and LES into culture-based skill development;
  • research methods of instruction that support LES development in these kinds of programs; and
  • develop a resource manual, teaching tools, and training to share ideas and ways to embed LES into non-formal community-based cultural programs.

What is the research plan?

Over the course of four months, we piloted two non-formal traditional sewing programs in Rankin Inlet, led by two literacy instructors. In both, five elders taught young women how to process caribou and seal skins, which part of the skin to use for what purpose, and how to make sinew from caribou tendons. In the second pilot, researchers also intentionally embedded contextualized literacy activities: participants documented the parts of the animals and different pattern pieces, and organized personal project portfolios that included the patterns, their notes on techniques, and other self-generated documents related. Time to journal and read were also integrated into participants’ daily program structure. We interviewed instructors and participants in both sewing programs at the beginning, end, and six months post-program to compare learning and other outcomes for participants.

Who is funding the project?

The primary funder of this project is the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, a branch of Human Resources and Social Development Canada. Additional support was provided by the Nunavut Department of Economic Development and Transportation through its arts development program and from Sakku First Aviation.

What has the project shown to date?

Early results of our research show shown that embedding literacy into non-formal programs  simultaneously addresses wellness, community engagement, language/literacy development, and cultural transmission in a holistic way. Intentionally embedding literacy into non-formal programming is not, as our research findings suggest, an obvious or intuitive process; it requires careful planning and specific skills and knowledge for effective outcomes. Instructors or coordinators may require training, mentoring, or other support to effectively embed literacy skill development and to rigorously evaluate their programs. Investing in such training for managers, coordinators, and instructors will result in increased learning opportunities and improved outcomes for participants.

The learners themselves testify to life-changing outcomes as a result of participating in the non-formal cultural program. Such programs:

  • Reinvigorate traditional Inuit intergenerational modes of learning
  • Enhance participants’ ability and confidence in sharing and gaining information through oral and written communication and document use in both Inuktitut and English
  • Support greater job and school readiness, including subsequent higher levels of engagement in formal education and the wage economy
  • Improve confidence and pride in participants’ belief about their abilities
  • Support greater happiness and healing
  • Support Inunnguiniq (“Guiding the potential of the human spirit”); personal development in the areas of character development, life skills and making positive life choices