An evaluation of the American Indian Air Quality Training Program

MaryLynn Quartaroli
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction, Northern Arizona University
July, 2005


During centuries of geographic, economic, and cultural domination, the federal government held the responsibility for the management of environmental issues on tribal lands. Today, tribes are reasserting their sovereignty in many ways, including the development of their own environmental programs. Tribal agencies desperately search for tribal members who are qualified to make decisions for the benefit of the tribes from both Western scientific and traditional cultural viewpoints. To meet this need, the American Indian Air Quality Training Program (AIAQTP) offers technical and regulatory training courses that are both scientifically up-to-date and culturally responsive to this community. This study is an evaluation of these courses. To supplement data from existing program documents and databases, I also observed five courses, sent follow-up questionnaires, and interviewed lead instructors and course participants to develop an understanding of their perceptions of the training received. Computer analysis of this quantitative and qualitative data revealed patterns and themes; an external reviewer also independently analyzed the data set. The training courses offered by AIAQTP were judged to have merit and value by the course instructors, the participants, the external evaluator, and me. Designed to be both culturally responsive and technically rigorous, these courses provided relevant and useful information and skills to the tribal environmental professionals in attendance, meeting the demands of their jobs. Although not all training needs or expectations were met, the study participants indicated their intentions to continue their education and training in air quality and other environmental media. A significant benefit of attendance at AIAQTP training courses was the development of a network of tribal professionals across the nation that acts as a support system for the implementation and continuation of changes in the professional practice for the trainees and their tribal environmental programs. As in all educational settings, there is room for improvement in course design and delivery. This study suggested that incorporating cultural considerations plays a role in effective scientific and technical training for Native students. Further, actively promoting the development of professional networks can assist in establishing a geographically dispersed community of practice supportive of personal and institutional change.