Building Community, Remotely

In an online remote context, virtual learning communities (VLCs) allow us to plan for:

  • Interaction
  • Communication
  • Collaboration

This video highlights some of the reasons we might want to develop rich VLCs in remote teaching. Below are some strategies framed from instructor competencies.

Some strategies for developing interaction:

Model participation and practice good nettiquette

  • Use Discussion Forums and participate actively
  • Steer conversations in the right direction
  • Motivate and encourage

Create a safe and supportive environment/network 

  • Moderate Discussion forum 
  • Temper the dominant voices in the forum
  • Set the tone by being positive
  • Encourage and motivate students
  • Use introductions, online office hours and e-mail to promote interaction

Incorporate collaborative learning and increased opportunities for students to participate and contribute

  • Post short 10 min lectures
  • Modify course content to to include Active Learning in between lectures
  • When will students contribute and share?

Facilitate meaningful and inclusive interactions 

  • Organize small group sessions or small group study groups.
  • Be willing to put in extra effort to contact students
  • Allow anonymous discussion posts

Some strategies for developing communication:

Build a foundation for participants to introduce themselves

  • Icebreaker
  • Discussion thread

Model prompt, effective and responsive communication

  • Answer emails within a certain timeframe 
  • Set up collaborative FAQs or virtual café where students can share questions and answer them. 
  • Communicate deadlines and expectations clearly (syllabus)
  • Provide prompt feedback on assignments

Evaluate role and monitor amount of instructor contribution to discussions

  • Checklists to make sure students are contributing to conversations.
  • Check-in with ‘under-performers’ to see if there are accessibility concerns. 

Model netiquette

  • Demonstrate respect, patience and responsiveness
  • Don’t ignore questions.
  • Steer conversations in the right direction
  • Keep a positive tone

Some strategies for developing collaboration:

Foster Learner-centeredness

  • Included Group work
  • Incorporate enquiry based and problem based learning
  • Promote reflection and self directedness
    • journalling
    •  blogging

Promote and support peer learning

  • Peer reviews
  • Peer feedback

Encourage, acknowledge, or reinforce student contributions

  • Provide opportunities and choice for students to contribute and share
    • Posters
    • Video, etc.

Empower students to work independently

  • Help groups set norms
  • How to use breakout rooms or their own webex rooms
  • Promote reflective practice 
    • Provide rubrics
    • Encourage journaling

Readings

Transforming Your Online Teaching From Crisis to Community

https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2020/03/11/ensuring-online-teaching-engages-students-and-maintains-community-opinion

Five Qualities of Transformative VLCs

https://www.teachingquality.org/five-qualities-of-transformative-vlcs/

How to Prepare and Moderate Online Discussions for Online Learning 

https://teachonline.ca/sites/default/files/tools-trends/downloads/how_to_plan_for_and_moderate_online_discussions.pdf

References

Farmer, H. M., & Ramsdale, J. (2016). Teaching competencies for the online environment. Canadian Journal of Learning & Technology, 42(3), 1–17.

https://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/27471/20218

Smith, T. C. (2005). Fifty-one competencies for online instruction. The Journal of Educators Online 2(2). Retrieved from http://www.thejeo.com/Ted%20Smith%20Final.pdf 

Schwier, R.A. (2001). Catalysts, emphases and elements of virtual learning communities: Implications for research and practice. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234622084_Catalysts_Emphases_and_Elements_of_Virtual_Learning_Communities_Implications_for_Research_and_Practice/citations

Thank you to Nazreen Beaulieu for your support in preparing these resources.

Link to collaborative OneNote 

How to get students to hand in quality work by planning for choice

In my course, at this level, at this place of progress in their learning, what do students need to demonstrate to me?

Handout version for USask Instructors

What do I expect of my students?

Offering choice in how students meet course objectives is rooted in inclusive education and that by providing choice we acknowledge and respect that there are many ways to demonstrate learning and students have the agency, when appropriate, to pick the one that motivates them. These checklists might help you think about “shifting the ‘locus of control’ from the teacher to the student” (Jopp & Cohen, 2020)

There are three methods described: when students pick the medium of transmission for a final project, when students pick the topic of a paper or structured project, and lastly, when students help set the criteria for the assessment. The last one is my favourite because it forces the students to really think about what ‘good’ means, not just the content to transmit.

Allow students to choose the format of their final project – follow these steps

  • I have reviewed the outcomes in my course.
  • I have determined the outcomes that are best suited for offering choice.
  • I can think of a few ways a student could show me how they meet this specific outcome.
  • I have considered how students might present a portfolio of work to present their learning of the outcome.
  • I can make ONE assessment tool (such as a rubric or checklist), such that no matter which option students choose, I can use the same marking scheme. AACU Values Rubrics are a good starting place https://www.aacu.org/value-rubrics
  • All options would demonstrate understanding to a similar depth and breadth of disciplinary ability.

Have students choose the topic for their project or paper

  • I have a date when the assignment needs to be completed.
  • I have a date when a first draft should be completed.
  • I have a plan for when and how students will give each other feedback on their progress.
  • I have determined when I want to review students’ project plans – before they get too far down the road to make significant changes.
  • I have an idea of how much time I need to allocate to review students’ work or what my review supports look like (TAs, assistants, mini-interviews).
  • I have a plan for how I will introduce the project, its criteria, the options for students, the marking scheme (rubric or checklist), and present the timeline with deliverables to students.
  • I have a timeline of all of the above and am ready to share it with students.

Co-create the rubric or assessment tool with students

  • I know what ‘good enough’ looks like.
  • I know what ‘not good enough’ looks like.
  • I have anonymized examples of sufficient and insufficient that I could show students.
  • Students know the small steps or pieces that compose this larger assignment and can describe them.
  • I ask students for their feedback about what they think is important in an assignment.
  • I ask students what they think would qualify as good.
  • I work with students to make a checklist of what would be required to qualify as ‘good’ (criteria).
  • I am reflecting on how to use a checklist, rubric, or other marking guideline to communicate my expectations with students.

References:

Jopp, R., & Cohen, J. (2020). Choose your own assessment – assessment choice for students in online higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 1-18.

https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/technology/assignment-scaffolding

https://clas.ucdenver.edu/writing-center/sites/default/files/attached-files/scaffolding_assignments.pdf

 

Inclusive Teaching Strategies: Reflecting on Your Practice

How do you engage with students? How do students see themselves in the content of your course? How are students expected to engage with each other?

Here are some strategies compiled from the University of Michigan with permission. Which ones do you do already? Which ones might you try?

Instructor ­ Student Interactions

  • Learn and use students’ names they choose to be called.
  • Clarify how you want students to address you, especially if you teach students from a range of educational and cultural backgrounds.
  • Distribute a student background questionnaire early in the term to learn about students’ experience with the course topics, educational background, professional ambitions, general interests, etc.
  • Encourage students to visit during office hours and use that time to ask about their experiences with course topics as well as their other interests.
  • Communicate high expectations and your belief that all students can succeed.
  • Allow for struggle and failure/challenge as important parts of the learning process, not signs of student deficiency.
  • Seek multiple answers or perspectives to questions.
  • Avoid making generalizations about student experiences.
  • Avoid making jokes at students’ expense.
  • Refrain from asking individual students to speak for a social identity group, particularly marginalized groups.
  • Communicate concern for students’ well­being, and share information about campus resources (e.g., Student Wellness Centre, Student Affairs and Outreach, Access and Equity Services, USask Community Centre).
  • Solicit requests for documented accommodations as a chance to include everyone more fully in learning.
  • Give verbal instructions AND a written corollary. (Multiple modes can be helpful to students with processing disabilities as well as non-native English speakers.)
  • Carefully frame objectives when raising potentially sensitive or uncomfortable topics.
  • Model productive disagreement, showing how to critique a statement or idea rather than the speaker.
  • Stop or intervene in a discussion if comments become disparaging or devalue other students’ experiences.
  • Allow ample time for any in class activities that require substantial reading, and provide guidance that reflects the fact that processing times will vary (e.g., how to approach the task given you may not finish reading, or what to do if you do finish it before the time is up).
  • Elicit formative feedback from students about their learning experiences in the course (e.g. facilitated Midsemester Feedback session or survey).
  • Ask a trusted colleague or GMCTL education development specialist to observe your class and collect data about how you include or interact with different students.

 

Student ­ Student Interactions

  • Encourage students to learn and use one another’s names.
  • Use icebreakers regularly so students can learn about one another.
  • Establish guidelines, ground rules, or community agreements for class participation.
  • In class, have students work in pairs, triads, or small groups.
  • Have students write and share about how their background can contribute to a particular class activity.
  • For long term teams, structure in check-ins and opportunities for peer feedback about group process.
  • On the syllabus, identify collaboration or perspective taking as skills students will build in the course.
  • In class, explain the value of collaboration for learning. Speak of students’ diverse perspectives as an asset.
  • Provide students opportunities to reflect on what they learned through collaborative activities (formal or informal).
  • Deliberately assign students to small, heterogeneous groups that do not isolate underrepresented students.
  • Set up study groups that deliberately group students with different strengths.
  • Have students complete a self-assessment inventory and discuss with peers.
  • Have students complete low stakes small group activities that help them see and value the contributions of others.
  • Establish ways for students to intervene if they feel a certain perspective is being undervalued or not acknowledged.

Content

  • Choose readings that deliberately reflect the diversity of contributors to the field.
  • Use visuals that do not reinforce stereotypes but do include diverse people or perspectives.
  • Use diverse examples to illustrate concepts, drawing upon a range of domains of information.
  • Explain references that are likely to be unfamiliar to some students based on their backgrounds (e.g., citing dominant pop culture or relying on regionalisms such as bunnyhug).
  • Emphasize the range of identities and backgrounds of experts who have contributed to a given field.
  • Use varied names and socio­cultural contexts in test questions, assignments, and case studies.
  • Teach the conflicts of the field to incorporate diverse perspectives.
  • Deliberately choose course materials with a range of student physical abilities in mind.
  • Deliberately choose course materials with students’ range of financial resources in mind.
  • Analyze the content of your examples, analogies, and humour; too narrow a perspective may alienate students with different views or background knowledge.
  • Include authors’ full names, not just initials, in citations. (This can help emphasize gender diversity or unsettle assumptions about authorship).
  • Assess students’ prior knowledge about your course objectives to better align instruction with their needs.
  • Help students connect their prior knowledge to new learning (e.g., before introducing a new topic ask students individually to reflect on what they already know about the topic).
  • Invite students to identify examples that illustrate course concepts.
  • Use a variety of teaching methods and modalities (verbal, visual, interactive, didactic, etc.)
  • Ask students for concrete observations about content (e.g., a reading, image, set of data) before moving to analytical questions. (This can give everyone a common starting point and model analytical processes you want to teach).
  • Use a pace that lets students take notes during lecture.
  • Clarify the expectations and grading scheme for each assignment before students start working on it.
  • Create time in class for students to discuss and ask questions about assignments or assignment expectations.
  • Emphasize the larger purpose or value of the material you are studying.
  • Structure discussions to include a range of voices: e.g., take a queue, ask to hear from those who have not spoken, wait until several hands are raised to call on anyone, use think­pair­share activities.
  • Use brief in class writing activities to get feedback on what students are learning and thinking.

Adapted with permission from Erping Zhu, University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT). Their format and content adapted from Linse & Weinstein, Shreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, Penn State, 2015. For information about the research behind these strategies, see http://crlt.umich.edu/node/90467  

Inclusive Strategies Handout (pdf)

Land Acknowledgements – A Reflection 5-years After the TRC Report

By Stryker Calvez and Rose Roberts

Five years after the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report, Land Acknowledgements are still gaining strength as an important component of the University landscape. In fact, it is more common to notice when this statement has been missed at an event, meeting or in a course than when it is present. More often than not we have people tell us about how uncomfortable someone got when they didn’t hear the land acknowledgement at the beginning of a proceeding, and the lengths people have gone to right this wrong. These stories are a testament to the power of this protocol, its intended purpose, and the readiness of people and society to embark on the journey toward reconciliation  

Five years after the TRC report, the concerns for land acknowledgements are not about whether or not to use them, but how to use them with more purpose, conviction and integrity. Our colleagues are eager to be more prepared to meaningfully engage in supporting and carrying their part of reconciliation forward. This recognized responsibility is not just for themselves, but for their friends, family, students and close colleagues. And, they are doing it for the next generations, our children and grandchildren, who will benefit from a society that is whole and not afflicted by colonization. Lastly, many people are doing land acknowledgements because they care and love the land that provides so much for all of us; the same land that has shaped and nurtured the Indigenous Peoples of Saskatchewan for millennia.   

This last point is truly what the land acknowledgement is about, the recognition of place – the land, the sky, the water, the plants and the animals – and the people who are of this land. After thousands of years of intimate interaction and relationship, the land and its people have become immutably connected, which makes Indigenous Peoples of this land — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually

Before the TRC report, many non-Indigenous people struggled with this Indigenous spiritual notion of relationship to the land and to place (what the Cree people call wahkohtowin). Post-TRC, the land acknowledgement has become a doorway for many people to gain greater awareness and understanding about the role of place and its impact on people. With this emerging understanding they have begun to reflect on how this place they now call home is leaving an indelible mark on each one of us  

To this effect, by incorporating land acknowledgements in your work, you are contributing to the process of honouring and embracing the spirit of a place, with all of its wisdom, knowledge and compassionand invoking that spirit in support of doing things in a good way And nowhere is it said that you cannot personalize your land acknowledgement, in fact we highly recommend it. There is the risk that a formal land acknowledgement that everyone uses can become commonplace, and it is the personalized ones that people have repeatedly told us had an impact on them.   

We have been offering land acknowledgement workshops at GMCTL for a while now, and here are some examples of personalized land acknowledgements (we did receive permission from the individuals to share publicly):  

I live and work on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.  The Indigenous nations who entered into Treaty 6 are the Cree, Dene, Saulteaux, and Nakota.  I also recognize the Dakota and Lakota, who too have lived here long before contact.  Let us pay our respect to the ancestors of this place.  May our relationships with the land teach us to live and work in good relationship with one another.  (Stephanie Frost, BC Member, Coordinator Online Support, GMCTL) 

 

I acknowledge that we are gathered on Treaty 6 Territory and Homeland of the Métis. I pay respects to the original caretakers and warriors of this place: the Cree, Dene, Saulteaux, Anishinaabe, Blackfoot, the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota Nations, and my people, the Métis. Spanning the past, present, and future, I affirm the relationships we have to each other, including our relations to the animals and insects that inhabit the water, land, and sky. I also recognize the relationship and responsibility we have to the lands of Treaty 6; the quiet creeks and rushing rivers, the rustling grasses and sprawling forests, the brilliant palettes of the skies, the roots that grip the soil, and the earth beneath our feet. (Jennifer Sedgewick, Research Assistant, College of Medicine) 

 

I come here as a visitor on the Treaty Six territory. I realize that this beautiful land is the homeland of the First Nation and Metis ancestors, and I respect their culture and rights fully and deeply with humbleness.  (Yanhua Liu, Visiting Scholar (China)College of Engineering) 

 

By engaging in personalizing the land acknowledgement, you are participating in a process of respecting the relationships between the land and all that live within it: all our relationsAcknowledging the Land is a timeless tradition that has been and will be around as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the river flows.  

 

 

Internationalization of Teaching & Learning : Featured Instructor

Photo provided by Dr Lucy R. Hinnie

Dr Lucy R. Hinnie
Postdoctoral Fellow

Lucy is a postdoctoral fellow in the department of English and completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. In her work, she looks at written text through the frame of intersectionality, interrogating the accepted ‘canon’ of white male scholars and looking to find relevance to every student, regardless of their background.

She has a desire to strengthen her teaching practice and do better by all of her students.

She took the internationalization short course because she has a desire to strengthen her teaching practice and do better by all of her students, especially those who face difficulties in what is perceived to be standard classroom situations. For her, successful internationalization will look like an enthusiastic and multicultural student body who can engage in safe learning spaces with cultural sensitivity and awareness.

Connect with Lucy to learn more: lucyrhinnie.co.uk

Internationalization of Teaching and Learning : Featured Instructor

Jocelyn Peltier-Huntley, M. Sc., P. Eng.

Photo provided by Jocelyn Peltier-Huntley

Lecturer, College of Engineering

Jocelyn is a professional mechanical engineer. Her research is around understanding the gender gap in the Canadian mining industry. At a personal level, she wants to see positive change happen to move towards equity within our society. As an instructor of engineering design and communications, and as a professional, she feels it is vitally important to know how to understand and work with stakeholders who may be from a variety of backgrounds and have different ways of knowing.

Successful internationalization allows for all people to be fully included and empowered…

She took the internationalization short course to improve her teaching practices and also to help inform how she frames the messaging of her research on gender equity. Jocelyn believes that successful internationalization allows for all people to be fully included and empowered to fully participate and achieve their full potential in their education, careers, and lives.

Connect with Jocelyn to learn more: https://engineering.usask.ca/people/sopd/Peltier-Huntley,Jocelyn.php

How do I internationalize my course?

Self-reflection

Step 1: Know my position and privilege. Who am I as a teacher? (This idea isn’t new, check out this article from 1958: Teacher, Know Thyself)

Step 2: Does the way I design my course plan for access and diversity?

Step 3: Do I want to “add-on”, “infuse”, or “transform” my course through internationalization?

Some direction

If you are working on step 3, there is an excellent resource of teaching tips here: Strategies for Course Internationalization. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.

A simple way to start internationalization is to add assigned readings from international perspectives. This can be a way to start conversations and look for similarities and differences in findings. Even the writing and presentation structure might reflect cultural differences.

Next, take a look at your course outcomes – are students expected to develop or use intercultural competencies? How might the next version of your course highlight internationalized or global community skills?

Onwards on this journey, it’s time to look at evaluation. Inclusive assessment should include students using a metacognitive process to track their development. If that sentence doesn’t make sense on first reading, try this: a student needs to be able to know what they know and how they know it at any stage of learning. If they are just beginning, they should be able to identify that, recognize when they are building knowledge/skills/attitudes, and ultimately know when they’ve mastered or achieved the outcome of the learning. When students are involved in the assessment process, they are demonstrating choice, responsibility, and reflection. These are all attributes of inclusive learning which is fundamental to internationalization.

Here is another list of tips and tricks to start internationalizing your course.

This post is part of a series in internationalization. You can follow along here.

Come say hi! We’re at the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning. We can help individually or direct you to one of our workshops to meet your needs.

 

From Modelling to Designing Intercultural Curricula

You now know that you have pretty decent intercultural teaching capacities.

You have continued to develop an awareness of your own identity and are modelling perspective-taking. Students in your course have the opportunity to interact with different worldviews because you know that makes them smarter. You actively create opportunities to build relationships between ‘others’ and can recognize barriers to student participation – you’ve essentially mastered using your intercultural capacity to inform teaching practices. So now you must be wondering, “What’s next? How can I further internationalize in my course?”  No fear, you are not alone. Dimitrov & Haque (2016) have some suggestions for “curriculum design competencies”.

“Effective instructors are able to critically evaluate the curriculum and create learning materials that transcend the limitations of monocultural disciplinary paradigms, scaffold student learning so students have a chance to master intercultural skills relevant to their discipline, and design assessments that allow students to demonstrate learning in a variety of ways.” – Dimitrov, N., & Haque, A. (2016). Intercultural teaching competence: A multi-disciplinary model for instructor reflection. Intercultural Education, 27(5), 437–456. https://doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2016.1240502

Key questions to ask yourself on your internationalization journey:

  • Does my course syllabus have a specific learning outcome where a student is asked to demonstrate specific knowledge, skills, or attitudes of a global or international design?
  • Do all the authors of my selected articles look or sound like me and if so, why – and can I change this?
  • Are students asked to take different perspectives in assessed work (work that is evaluated for marks)?
  • Do students have any choice in their assessment? Are different communication styles encouraged?
  • Does my course allow students the opportunity to develop a more robust disciplinary identity aligned with their cultural or personal identity?

If answering these questions leaves you with more questions, it’s likely a good time for a conversation with the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning. We can help individually or direct you to one of our workshops to meet your needs.

Graduates with perspectives and approaches the world needs

We often talk about the skills our graduates will need for success in their work and within our communities. As we aspire to be the university the world needs, we can’t overlook how essential perspective taking and cross-cultural competence are in our increasingly diverse world.  In this place, we have a collective commitment to improve the situation for the First Nation, Metis, and Inuit peoples, and to truth and reconciliation. And we can also see the impacts of nationalism and nativism on the global stage, A problem that is prompting us to equip our students with the skills they will need to respond.This post is one in a series related to the educator commitments in Our Learning Charter. It focuses on how to help students to explicitly recognize their own position and work to understand, acknowledge, and value perspectives and worldviews different from their own.

What you can model in your teaching:

  1. Start by acknowledging your own position and privilege. Being a role model and ally is essential in supporting students in the process of doing the same thing. Knowing why you would include a land acknowledgement, for example, rather than omitting one or just adding one to your syllabus is part of an acknowledgement. Not quite sure how to approach it in a good way? Join the short course in the fall on Indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation at the Gwenna Moss Center for Teaching and Learning (GMCTL).
  2. Purposefully include content, perspectives, and worldview from local Indigenous communities and international perspectives.  The focus should be on being prepared to support a diverse world and set of different views. Need some support?  Ask for a consultation at GMCTL.
  3. Deliberately offer more than one perspective on the debates of your discipline whenever possible, and explain the value of those discussions to the disciplinary discourse. Provide opportunities for students to engage in facilitated discussions about those debates without taking a position yourself.

What you could do with your students:

  1. Choose to share your own power by using active learning strategies to get students thinking and talking, rather than transmission styles where students mostly listen. Understanding,  acknowledging, and valuing perspectives and worldviews different from their own is requires active learning processes, because it requires students to be in dialogue with the other.  Learn more about the research on active learning or experiment with some active learning strategies in your class.
  2. Provide students with deliberate opportunities to work in culturally diverse groups where they’ll be exposed to a multiplicity of perspectives that they might not encounter, given that we are more likely to self-select groups of people like us.
  3. Proactively plan for how to have challenging conversations with students in class, and how to respond when students struggle to value worldviews and perspectives other than their own.  Not sure how do this? Join the GMCTL for a workshop series on planning for and responding to difficult conversations in the classroom or preview some online resources.

View other posts in the Charter Chat series.

Fostering Successful Intercultural Group Work: A Summary and Response to article “Rethinking multicultural group work as intercultural learning.”

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When I read the above article, I was immediately reminded of an article I read a few years ago, called “’I know the type of people I work well with’: Student anxiety in multicultural group projects.”[1] The authors of that article identify the “cognitive anxiety” and “affective anxiety” of students doing group work with diverse cultural representation within the group (anxieties that seem to be higher among domestic, rather than international students). Each form of anxiety is attributed to “uncertainty…the phenomenon affecting the way we think about strangers” (Strauss, et al, 816). As a result of these anxieties, English-first language speakers were far more likely to, if given the chance to self-select their groups, invite other English-first speakers and to form more homogenous groups. At times, English-first students actually requested not to be put in groups with EAL students, and believed EAL students to be “novices, incompetents or apprentices” [!!] (819). The authors identify that at the time (2011), “there does not seem to be any consensus as to the best way to structure these [diverse linguistic and cultural] student groups” (817).

Returning to the Reid and Garson article, it seems as though they are answering the call and are providing possible strategies for forming functional, multicultural groups. First, I will outline the strengths of the article, but will then highlight some questions and concerns I have. These do not negate the positive aspects of the article, but perhaps will help us dig a little deeper, should we decide to venture into applying Reid’s and Garson’s strategies.

As might be expected, the authors note that it is more likely to achieve culturally diverse groups for group work when they are formed, deliberately, by the instructor. Before placing students in groups, a single intercultural lecture (including activities) was delivered before undertaking their group projects. This lecture included “valuing diversity in teams, exploring the role of stereotypes and assumptions in team selection…and understanding the dimensions of cultural frameworks” (200). In part, this may resolve some of the cognitive and affective anxiety experienced by intercultural group members.

Another strategy was to have each group member write down what they believed to be the top 6 characteristics of a successful group, and on another paper, their own, personal, 4 strengths they brought to the group (200). This, too, should build confidence and competence working together, as students are able to identify different responsibilities based on identified strengths. This exercise should help mitigate “domestic” students’ preconceptions about the contributions of those from a culture other than their own. In addition to collecting this information about groups’ strengths, the instructor also generated a class list with the students’ “country of origin and gender, to form groups that aligned complimentary skills with cultural and gender diversity”(200).

Despite the authors delivering positive results, I do have some concerns about the Reid’s and Garson’s approach, which I think could result in a great conversation. I’ll identify my concerns in point form:

  1. Asking students to self-identify their country of origin risks making cultural generalizations about that student. A student may have been born in Bangladesh and did not leave the country until their university years. Another may have come from Bangladesh when they were 3 months old.
  2. “Domestic” students also come from diverse cultural groups. Asking for a student’s country of origin, if they reply “Canada,” will not reveal, for example, Indigenous peoples’ cultural presence.
  3. I don’t feel comfortable with the instructor asking the students to identify their gender, as this may be very personal. Asking students to identify their gender may circumvent an instructor’s assumptions about a student’s gender, but still puts the student in a very vulnerable spot.
  4. The one-off pre-lecture may actually reinforce cultural stereotypes. From the article, it sounds like there is a heavy focus on cultural dimensions (that is, from the work of Hoefstedde and others in the 70s and 80s, and the general, dichotomized characteristics of cultures around the world). These dimensions can be useful, but must be introduced carefully, as people commonly use these dimensions to “understand” people from cultures other than their own, applying them with a broad stroke and not taking into consideration variances and evolutions in cultures and also individuals.
  5. The 2011 article talks about “multicultural groups,” while the 2017 article talks about “intercultural groups,” which are very different concepts. It might be a useful exercise to explore the multicultural and intercultural aspects of these articles, as the distinction between multicultural and intercultural is very significant.
  6. This brings me to my last point—the coaching seems to lack an unpacking of one’s own culture, and does not seem to address intersectionality, which is also disconcerting.

There is a lot more that can be discussed around this article, beyond what I’ve noted above—by no means is my response exhaustive, but hopefully it opens a channel for reflection and discussion.


Reid, R, and Garson, K. (2017). Rethinking multicultural group work as intercultural learning. Journal of International Education, 21, 3, 195-212. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1028315316662981

[1] Strauss, P., U, A., and Young, S. (2011). ‘I know the type of people I work well with’: student anxiety in multicultural group projects. Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 36, No.. 7, 815-829. Accessed: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03075079.2010.488720

Why Do We Acknowledge Treaty 6 & Metis?

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A session on this topic will be held during the Fall Fortnight on Monday August 29, 2016 from 9:30 – 9:55. Register here.
Many of you may have noticed that across the campus that there has been an increase in number of people who are acknowledging “that we are on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis. We pay our respect to the First Nations and Métis ancestors of this place and reaffirm our relationship with one another”. One year ago the University of Saskatchewan’s academic governing body, the University Council, agreed to use specific language to acknowledge that the University was built on Indigenous peoples’ land. This official acknowledgement was developed for use at important meetings and gatherings on campus.

Since starting in my position I have been asked numerous times why are we doing this? What does it mean?

I have been working with Indigenous communities for a long time and most of the meetings that I have attended start with some type of acknowledgement of the land and place. My understanding of why we do this is that it shows respect for the land and the people who have lived on it. So much of what we, Indigenous people, know about the world and ourselves is based on the places we have lived for forever. Our land is sacred in that it is an important part of who we are and who we have always been. When we acknowledge the land and territory we are in, we are taking a purposeful moment to respect our history, culture, and knowledge that exist because of the land.

But it is more than just about the land that we belong to, it is also about the treaties we signed. The oral stories describing the treaty process provide our account of the agreement to share our land and resources, but not to absolute surrender of the land. We knew the value of our land with intimate detail, so we would never have given it away. Would you? However, the treaties were negotiated and signed in legal English and reinforced afterwards to support Canadian prerogatives rather than the spirit of the agreement or the Indigenous position. So despite agreeing to share the land with the new settlers in return for ongoing support, an unscrupulous and systemic process of governance ensured that Indigenous people never received what was promised for the land. Therefore, the prosperity and economic stability that Canada benefits from based on the gift, or sacrifice, of Indigenous people. So acknowledging the traditional territory that we are on also recognizes and honours this gift.

Lastly, I would like to thank the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for bringing a national spotlight to the cultural genocide experienced by Indigenous people. In better understanding these experiences I have added another layer of understanding to my acknowledgements. Acknowledging the place that I am meeting is also a way of participating in reconciliation; publicly declaring the importance of remembering that as long as the sun has shined, the grass grown, and the rivers flowed, the place we are meeting has a sacred connection to Indigenous people. For many, this acknowledgement will be a starting point for a united show support and willingness to help build a health and productive future for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.

Gearing Up With Fall Fortnight 2016

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Fall Fortnight Postcard - Front“Happy New Year!!” That is how I think of September and the new school year. This often coincides with a strong pull to stationary stores, tidying my office, organizing my supplies, reading new books, and pulling out sweaters and warm socks.

Gearing up for the Fall Term is exciting. There’s often anticipation, hope, renewed energy for trying new things and looking forward to tweaking things I tried last year. I think about taking a class. There are new “school” clothes, crisp mornings, and longer shadows when I head for home. All of that is bundled together as the new term starts. I think about the new faculty, staff, and students joining the community of University of Saskatchewan in the most beautiful city in Saskatoon. And meeting new people and renewing connections with colleagues after the summer is fun.

The Fall Fortnight 2016 tugs on all these feelings of fresh starts, new ideas, learning that leads to change, connecting and reconnecting into the campus community, and gearing up for the 2016-2017 teaching and learning adventure. With over twenty sessions on a wide variety of topics in a variety of formats you will no doubt find something that intrigues you or answers a question you might have. There are Just-for-YOU sessions for new faculty, grad students, and post-docs in addition to all the other sessions on offer. New this year are sessions on the ADKAR change model and strengths-based approaches to setting up groups for success. For more highlights and a description of the sessions types take a look at this short video:

And it’s easy to register too. Check out http://www.usask.ca/gmcfortnight/

If you don’t see what you are looking for, drop us a line and let us know what you would like to see on the schedule next time around. And you can also request a tailored session—we work with you to design a session on the topic of your choice specific to your unit’s needs.

Looking forward to seeing at you at the Fall Fortnight (or in the Bowl or at a stationary store).

Fortnight Postcard - Back

Historical Biases in Understanding Culture – A Barrier to Indigenization?

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Western society has made significant advances in empirically derived truth and scientific inquiry (e.g., anthropology, psychology, linguistics, etc.) since the Age of Enlightenment (e.g., Descartes, Diderot, Montesquieu, Turgot, Vico, Voltaire, etc.). The impact and importance of this epistemological approach to the world and its mass adoption by Western societies can be perceived in many elements of European civilization and culture (Boon, 1972; Goodenough, 1961; Keesing, 1974; Triandis, 1994).

The rise of Europe’s epistemological renaissance occurred during the era of colonial expansion. At the time that Europe was pressing itself onto numerous societies around the world, dominating the global stage, many Western thinkers were using this colonial perspective as the backdrop for their formation of a scientific approach to culture. From their perspective, culture comprised of a society’s knowledge, values, beliefs, arts, technologies, morals, laws, customs, practices and habits (Boon, 1972; Goodenough, 1961; Hofstede, 1984, 2001; Keesing, 1974; Triandis, 1994). While this is a reasonable interpretation, it contained, unfortunately, the value of innovation and technological advancement (see Tylor, 1871; Harris, 1971; Stocking, 1966). This innovation approach to knowledge and culture is a European value rather than a core component of culture. The problem with this misattribution is that it is self-serving; it allows for the imposition of continuum-based view of a society’s culture based on their technological sophistication and advancement. For Europeans, this provided them with the appearance of an unbiased way of judging societies as more or less civilized (or savage). Furthermore, this social evolutionist perspective of culture (Harris, 1971; Long & Chakov, 2009) allowed colonial societies to believe, naively or not, that less civilized societies would eventually evolve toward the same position as Europe, especially if they were given the ‘right’ support and guidance (Boas, 1904).

Fortunately, more modern social scientific thought posits “that cultures be understood in their own right, not as a rung in a hierarchical ladder of evolution, […] but simply as a qualitatively varied entity” (citing Boas; Hogan & Sussner, 2001, p. 22). Despite this more equitable and relativistic approach to culture in social scientific disciplines, it is very difficult for the typical citizen to not use what they know and value as a filter for examining other cultures and ways of knowing. Without the appropriate training and critical reflection, anyone can be forgiven for not recognizing this misattribution bias. From this perspective, I sometimes wonder if remnants of Tylor’s 1871 perspective of culture still exist in our society? How pervasive is the use of one’s own values, beliefs and institutions in trying to understand, and judge, other cultures? Can we find ways to move past these types of biases to build a pluralistic cultured environment at the University of Saskatchewan?

As always, I would appreciate hearing from you about your thoughts, concerns, or suggestions on this blog post. Please contact me to talk (stryker.calvez@usask.ca).

If you would like information about the GMCTE including about the programs and supports we offer, please contact us at gmcte@usask.ca

References
Boas, F. (1904). The history of anthropology. Science, 20, 513-524.
Boon, J. A. (1972). From Symbolism to Structuralism: Levi-Strauss in Literary Tradition. New York, NY: Harper and Row.
Goodenough, W. H. (1961). Comment on cultural evolution. Daedalus, 90, 521-528.
Harris, M. (1971).  The rise of anthropological theory: A history of theories of culture. New York, NY: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, Inc.
Hofstede, G. (1984). Culture’s consequences: Differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviours, institutions and organizations across nations, 2nd Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
Hogan, J. D. & Sussner, B. D. (2001). Cross-cultural psychology in historical perspective. In L. L. Adler & U. P. Gielen (Eds.). Cross-cultural topics in psychology. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
Keesing, R. M. (1974). Theories of culture. Annual Review of Anthropology, 3, 73-97.
Long, H., & Chakov, K. (2009). Social Evolutionism. Retrieved on April 30, 2010, from: http://web.as.ua.edu/ant/cultures/cultures.php.
Stocking, G. W. (1966). Franz Boas and the culture concept in historical perspective. American Anthropologist, 68, 867-882.
Triandis HC. 1994. Culture and Social Behaviour. New York: McGraw-Hill
Tylor, E. B. (1871). Primitive Culture. New York, NY: Brentano’s.

Indigenizing Education Series: Getting started …

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As an Indigenous educator, researcher, and scholar, academics have asked me more often about ‘how’ we, the collective we, can improve the situation for the First Nation, Metis, and Inuit peoples than ‘why’ we should do this? While I appreciate the recognition that something needs to be done, I am often taken back when I realize that the reasons for this change, the ‘why’, are not well understood. How do you Indigenize an institution, like the University of Saskatchewan, if you don’t now what the issues are that need to be addressed? Therefore, my response is always preceded by a pause as I contemplate where do I start?

I would like to be clear, I am never upset by the ‘how’ question. The fact that people are asking questions is excellent, but we need to understand the reasons for ‘why’ we are Indigenizing so that we are better informed about ‘how’ we should Indigenize. Over the coming months, I intend to write a series of blog posts identifying and exploring some key issues that I hope you will find informative and interesting.

… In the classroom

So why isn’t there an adequate and necessary amount of support for Indigenous students to achieve their academic goals? I believe that it is important to understand that education can be a loaded term for some Indigenous peoples. Educational hostility or ambivalence does exist in some communities and households towards people who pursue educational goals. This lack of support for Western education is a direct result of the residential boarding school program. Community members who went to or have family members who attended residential schools (the last school closed in 1996 in SK; the Gordon Residential School) can perceive education as a negative goal. This means that there can be limited support for community members to attain high school diplomas or to pursue education at University. Western education can be seen as a direct threat to a community’s culture, language, and way of life (Battiste, 2001). This is the legacy that the residential school system instilled in Indigenous people, a lack of trust and value for Western education.

As educators, we should all recognize this lived reality for Indigenous students and try to support those who have worked hard to overcome these types of challenges to be at University. Once they have arrived, it should be our goal, even responsibility, to try to limit and remove the social, personal, and educational barriers that Indigenous students contend with. We must make classrooms safe and nurturing.

Classroom challenges for Indigenous students are sometimes related to their different ways of knowing, learning, and communicating course content. These students can have different perspectives or present ideas in the classroom that may not be perceived objectively by others in the classroom as the expected and appropriate response. In fact, differences in worldviews can often be treated as less-than-positive by instructors or other students, sometimes even coming across as hostile or prejudicial. We are talking about comments that are stereotype-based or discriminatory about Indigenous culture, history, and worldviews. For a great example of what I am talking about, take a few minutes to view the University of British Columbia’s short 20-minute video where Indigenous and non-Indigenous students provide examples of some of the difficulties that Indigenous students encounter in the classroom. These examples candidly and provocatively highlight moments when students did not feeling safe or supported and the repercussions that these experiences had on the students.

The University of British Columbia has developed a number of resources to help those who are interested in thinking through issues around classroom climate. Five modules have been developed as a useful starting point for your consideration.


Battiste, M. (2001). Aboriginal knowing: First voices. The U of S Pointer, 4, 1- 3.

 

Truth and Reconciliation – Call to Action for Educators

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Indigenous people and their communities have had a long and contentious experience with Western education. For far too long, schools and education were used as instruments to systematically dismantle Indigenous culture, their way of living and knowing. Generation after generation of children were taken from their homes, sometime forcefully, in the name of providing them with a civilized education. Instead, what many of these children experienced was at its best a destructive education, and at its worse an inhumane brainwashing, aimed at having these children renounce their ‘savage’ Indigenous perspectives for a more ‘sophisticated’ Canadian approach to life.

Many Canadian universities are just beginning to acknowledge their role in reconciling the negative educational experiences of Indigenous people. Many Universities, like the University of Saskatchewan, are starting to recognize and respond appropriately to the impact of intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools by critically looking at how to effectively support Indigenous students’ ability to participate in postsecondary schools (please see future blog posts for more information on this topic). This is further supported by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action for all educators across Canada.

So it is with great anticipation and excitement that I am looking forward to seeing how our new University president, Peter Stoicheff, will plan out and follow through on his priority to Indigenize the University of Saskatchewan.

In Saskatchewan, including here at the University, we are blessed with an abundance of strong, capable Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who are invested in improving the academic experiences and outcomes of Indigenous students. This is reflected in the strong response and support for the University of Saskatchewan’s two day national forum, “Building Reconciliation: Universities Answering the TRC’s Calls to Action”. Canadian university presidents and their leadership teams, First Nations and Métis leaders, student leaders, Aboriginal scholars, and scholars dedicated to research that is meaningful to Aboriginal peoples will all participate. For more information about this event, please visit Building Reconciliation.