Under the U.S. federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA, institutions that receive federal funding, such as public universities, are required to carry out respectful and dignified treatment of tribal ancestral remains. With the close involvement of tribal nations, Indiana University recently announced new measures to further expand and ensure its compliance with NAGPRA. The university has formed a NAGPRA Review Board and has prohibited all research on Native American ancestral remains without that board’s consent. The board, which was developed by IU’s Office of the Vice President for Research in partnership with Chief Ben Barnes of the Shawnee Tribe and other tribal leaders, will facilitate collaborative research with Native American nations and scholars and will only permit research on ancestral remains if the relevant tribes agree. In addition, the university has added new staff to its NAGPRA office to help speed documentation of existing ancestral remains held by IU, ensure that they are handled appropriately and respectfully, and provide for their repatriation to the relevant tribes. For example, IU recently partnered with the Quapaw Nation, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, and the Shawnee Tribe, as well as the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, to complete repatriation and reburial of remains from more than 700 individuals unearthed starting in the 1930s from the Angel Mounds National Historic Landmark and State Historic Site in Evansville, Indiana. Other recent developments related to NAGPRA at IU include national consultation and documentation grants; collaborative research projects; and improvements in museum policies and collections work. Scott Willard of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma says the tribe couldn't be more pleased with the proactive approach IU has taken and believes the relationships IU has built through NAGPRA will last well beyond the final repatriation of all ancestral relatives to where they belong.
In other news, a first-of-its-kind study by Indiana University researchers has advanced a new model for large-scale research regarding student learning. Called ManyClasses, the method is a massive-scale approach that can ultimately yield more precise recommendations for what works not just in an abstract experimental “classroom”, but in a wide range of actual classrooms. Ben Motz, a research scientist in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington, co-led the ManyClasses study. He says the ManyClasses educational experiment enlisted more than 2,081 student participants from 38 classes in five university systems. The diversity of the experiment helps researchers and teachers determine whether a research finding can be reliably generalized. The study focused on the question of whether the timing of feedback to students has an impact on student learning. Emily Fyfe, an assistant professor in the IU Bloomington Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and co-leader of the study, says data from the ManyClasses experiment ultimately showed no difference between immediate or delayed student feedback. Beyond its specific findings, the ManyClasses approach expands the boundaries of current research on educational practices, helping to overcome the limitation of lab studies that don’t match what happens in actual classrooms.