On mastering an indigenous language

One of the ways people describe language learning is by referring to a goal of “mastering the language.” This expression provides insight into the Western view of knowledge attainment.

What exactly does it mean for one to be the master of an indigenous language?

The notion of language mastery is grounded in Western ideas of holding dominion over the environment, over people, and by extension, over a language. An indigenous language is itself a spirit that carries within it thousands of years of ancestral wisdom. When we tame such a spirit, we transform it into something it was not intended to be in order to serve our needs. We have mastered the language.

Indigenous languages must be given the opportunity to participate fully in the communication between individuals in the manner in which they were intended. A goal for us, then, is the development of authentic language assessments that welcome the full inclusion of indigenous languages.

Image: Wiikwemkoong Unceded Reserve, Mnidoo Mnis (Manitoulin Island), Ontario, Canada (September, 2018).

Moving from “Can’t measure” to “Can measure”


“You can’t measure what we do.”

It’s a common expression heard during our initial planning interviews. Program managers that seek to influence the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of program participants often are frustrated by the challenge of reporting on the progress they are making – especially when they have to develop their own assessment tools.

Rather than debating the validity of the entire measurement enterprise with program managers, consider asking a simple question about their impact on program participants: “Do some individuals get more benefit from your program than others?”

By having the program manager confirm the notion of outcome ordering, the ordinal level of measurement subtly is introduced and the measurement process can begin to take shape.

For more details on the development of customized assessment tools, please contact us today.

© 2018 by Sul & Associates. See www.sulandassociates.com for more information.

2018 Indigenous Knowledge Assessment Cohort

Keiki Assess

Sul & Associates is launching a new initiative focusing on the assessment of indigenous knowledge, language, and culture. Our initiative will support indigenous peoples’ right to self-determine their own forms of education through an annual cohort of assessment teams. Working together with indigenous communities, our work will focus on the development of assessments that are psychometrically sound, culturally responsive and honor traditional wisdom. We are accepting new clients and specialists for this work.

For clients that would like to join our initiative:

We are searching for assessment teams from governmental education agencies, colleges and universities, school districts, non-profit, and other community-based educational organizations for our initiative. Whether your plans call for a system-wide large-scale assessment or a smaller local assessment, Sul & Associates can assist your organization to incorporate the practices involved in developing culturally responsive and psychometrically valid systems of assessment.

To get involved, first, review our assessment process here and contact us. We will work through the spring and summer to prepare assessments for the fall administration.

For assessment specialists who would like to join our team:

Please take a moment to review our position descriptions here and contact us. Applicants can submit an application, cover letter, resume, and writing sample to us at our Encuesta Survey site. All positions are subject to availability and continuation of project funds.

If you have questions for us, or would like to refer a potential assessment team, please contact us today.