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Thursday, June 23 • 13:45 - 14:45
CON07.10c - An invitation for discussion: Challenges and potentials of indigenizing university teaching in distance education

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Michele Tanaka argues that “It would be easier if there were prescriptive steps as to how to decolonize [the classroom] but this is impossible given our complexity as individuals and in relationship” (“Finding Courage in the Unknown: Transformative Inquiry as Indigenist Inquiry”, in education 21(2):65-88, p.82). Instead, leaving customary ways of thinking or doing things in order to address the ongoing effects of colonialism and racism in higher education classrooms (cf. Sheila Cote-Meek, Colonized Classroom, 2014; Marie Battiste Decolonizing Education, 2013) stands the risk of uncomfortability, disappointment and failure.

This presentation discusses challenges and potentials of indigenizing university teaching in the context of distance-delivered courses at a Canadian university on three interrelated levels: valuing and assessing essays and written answers by students whose culture prizes the spoken word; creating spaces where the demands of life as a mature Aboriginal student do not hamper academic success; and recognizing and respecting Aboriginal forms of knowing and integrating these with course contents. The presentation takes the form of a dialogue between an instructor from the University of Regina, who recounts and reflects upon his efforts, and a student advisor at Northlands College (La Ronge, SK), who provides a critical perspective to these efforts, challenging, querying and critiquing them, as well as questioning how they were received by Aboriginal students.

Overall, this presentation aims to generate critical feedback and the sharing of comparable experiences by audience members in order to inform ongoing efforts to indigenize teaching in academia. Moreover, the self-reflexive nature of the presentation’s dialogue is intended to prompt participants to query their own efforts to indigenize their classrooms, contents and pedagogies, demonstrating the multiplicity of strategies needed for the indigenization of higher education classrooms to be successful.


Brandi Bell

Brandi Bell works at Northlands College in La Ronge. From 2010 to 2014, she was an Instructor Aid facilitating distance education within the University Department of the college. Since then, she has been a student adviser in the college’s Student Services Department.

Tobias Sperlich

Tobias Sperlich is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology, and a Centre for Teaching and Learning Fellow at the University of Regina. He is a museum ethnographer focusing on Polynesian art and material culture. In his teaching he strives to create positive learning environments for... Read More →

Thursday June 23, 2016 13:45 - 14:45 EDT
UCC 65