A design study exploring the use of Osage orthography stencils in the Osage language classroom

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A design study exploring the use of Osage orthography stencils in the Osage language classroom

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Language loss is accelerating among Native American groups in the United States. This is predominantly due to the result of the assimilation process that occurred when Native Americans were forced to learn and speak only English in boarding schools (early 1900s), along with the current evolution of language shifts and too many first and second speakers dying. However, there is also a lack of teaching resources that tribal language departments can access—especially languages with unique orthographies like the tribal language of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma, the endangered language of focus in this study. This can negatively impact the retention of language students, the ways students learn, and the abilities teachers must have to teach a language. This research takes a qualitative approach through a design lens to explore the need for teaching resources in the Osage Nation language department. Through observation and interviews, a focus was centered on the use of stencils in the Osage Nation language classroom. Dual code theory and visuo-haptics were used with Jean Piaget’s Stage Theory and Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory as a theoretical foundation to support the use of the Osage orthography stencils as learning aids. The results discover the role stencils have in enhancing the language learning experience as a visual resource, addresses the power that orthographies have in terms of identity, self-esteem, confidence, and empowerment, and provides recommendations for the use of Osage orthography stencils and new teaching resources.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2021. Major: Design. Advisor: Sauman Chu. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 138 pages.

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Harjo, Jessica. (2021). A design study exploring the use of Osage orthography stencils in the Osage language classroom. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/224938.

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