Taking a Fresh Approach to the Course Design Institute




For more than a decade, the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning (GMCTL) has offered the Course Design Institute (CDI). Throughout the CDI, facilitators from the GMCTL work with instructors on developing or redeveloping a course. We go through learning about your students, writing learning outcomes, choosing teaching strategies, developing assessments, and putting it all together through constructive alignment and the blueprinting of your course.

While the CDI had been an intensive four full-day experience within one week, a few years ago we revamped it to offer it in a “flipped” mode, with participants meeting face-to-face three half days over three weeks, plus completing activities and posting to the discussion forums to provide feedback to each other in BBLearn (our learning management system). This year, we’re taking that approach and modifying it again.

On day one, Tuesday May 2, we’ll meet with participants for a half day to cover knowing your students and writing learning outcomes.

On day two, Thursday May 4, participants will choose one of three options for a day-long elective. Participants may choose from indigenization, open pedagogy, or sustainability. Lunch is included on this day.

On day three, Tuesday May 9, also a half day session, we will talk briefly about the participants’ respective experiences in their day-long elective sessions, review their learning outcomes, and talk about assessment and rubrics.

On day four, Thursday May 11, again a half day session, we will discuss constructive alignment, instructional strategies, blueprinting your course, and course syllabi.

In between the sessions, participants will need to complete activities related to what has been covered or prepare for what will be covered in the next session. Following the CDI, participants will need to complete a brief reflective paper and, once they have begun blueprinting their course, meet with one of the facilitators for a one-on-one consultation.

For more information about the CDI or to apply to participate, please see the Course Design Institute page on our website or contact me at the GMCTL.

Why Do We Acknowledge Treaty 6 & Metis?



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




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?




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 …




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




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.

“If Not Us, Who? If Not Now, When?”




In Peter Stoicheff’s speech for the Presidential Announcement, he posed two questions that inspire the university’s efforts to decolonize and Indigenize our campus (July 9, 2015, http://www.usask.ca/presidentialtransition/).  Emphasizing the urgency for action, he asked, “If not us, who?” and “If not now, when?”

At the University of Saskatchewan, we have a growing number of Indigenous staff, students, and faculty. Yet the U of S is comprised of a predominantly white settler Canadian campus population, and is set within a traditional Western institution. As we build capacity and become strengthened by the work and contributions of Indigenous staff, students, and faculty, the non-Indigenous people on campus have a large task ahead of them. The time is “now,” and the “who,” regarding decolonization, is made up of “us” (a majority of non-Indigenous peoples) who, mostly unknowingly, contribute to the systemic racism and oppression felt by the various peoples on campus.

Part of the solution to decolonizing the institution is to draw the elements of oppression out of our classes, content, curricula, and institutional systems and policies/documents. What will remain will be generative soil for Indigenous staff, students, and scholars to take root, feel respected and valued for their work and contributions, belonging, and being to thrive.

For more information regarding decolonizing and Indigenizing your classes, content, and curricula, and to participate in relevant professional development, contact the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness at 306.966.2231, or gmcte@usask.ca.

Additionally, we encourage people to consider submitting applications to the Experiential Learning Fund, to help support their efforts to decolonize and Indigenize through practicums, community engaged learning, or field-based instruction. For more information, click here.

wâhkôhtowin: 2014: Linking Kindred Sprits




The Beadwork Committee, of the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan, had a vision for a national conference that would bring together “kindred spirits” to unpack decolonization and kindle Indigenization processes and methods to transform educational practices. This vision is coming to fruition from September 18-20th, when the University will welcome delegates from the province, the country, and the world.

The wâhkôhtowin conference is structured uniquely, in that on the first full day, papers will be presented in concurrent sessions, where delegates might share ideas regarding Indigenous theory and application, decolonizing practices, the value of Story-telling, working with Elders, examining land-based pedagogies, and about ethics, research, and protocols. On the second day, delegates gather at wanuskewin, bringing together their collective experiences and knowledge, and work collaboratively to determine “next steps” toward decolonizing and Indigenizing. “Witnesses” from the four directions will speak at the end of the conference, to reflect on the work that has been accomplished, and the relationships that have been built.

The conference could not have proceeded without the voices and prayers of the Elders  Mary Lee, Mike Maurice, Darlene Speidel and Martha Peet who are guiding us through the conference.

Although the conference is full, the entire campus and community beyond are warmly invited to attend the plenary talk Indigenous Education: My Journey,”offered by the Right Honourable Paul Martin. We will convene for this talk in Convocation Hall, in the Peter McKinnon Building, on Friday, September 19th, from 10-11:45 a.m. There is no cost for admission to this event.

Undergraduate Student Engagement Underpins Success of Indigenous Philosophy Class




How can a European educated, non-Aboriginal philosopher effectively and ethically teach a course on Indigenous philosophy? For Dr. Daniel Regnier, professor and department head of philosophy at St. Thomas More College, the answer to this question was to set aside a traditional approach to teaching in favour of collaboratively designing and teaching Phil 115: Indigenous Philosophy.

Regnier and Lee“There is a big ethical problem in approaching teaching the normal way when there is such a history of injustice. Normally, a professor who has a minimal familiarity with logic or some philosophical tradition would still be qualified to teach, for instance, an introductory logic class,” Regnier said about the challenges he faced designing and teaching a class on Indigenous philosophy.

Instead of following the traditional model, Regnier co-designed and co-taught the 2012-13 offering of Phil 115 with senior undergraduate student of philosophy Erica Lee, who is Nehiyaw (Plains Cree). The collaborative teaching style practiced by Regnier and Lee included inviting members of the on- and off-campus Aboriginal community into the class to share their perspectives and expertise. Lee said she found that “students were interested in the community part of education and in reaching out for support that is obviously lacking elsewhere on campus.” The sense of community created by Lee and Regnier’s collaborative teaching style helped students open up and engage in discussion. That the students responded by becoming engaged was pivotal to the class’ success. Lee said, “good philosophy is discussion. You can’t have philosophy without discussion.”

When asked to talk a bit about what Indigenous philosophy is, Lee said, “Indigenous knowledge is critical thought. It is composed of different traditions yet there is also contemporary Indigenous thought.” Because Indigenous cultures and their systems of thought have evolved and are not static, or located only in a text, Regnier said, “it is important to bring in the community or you’ll be out to lunch on the whole thing.”

“Indigenous philosophy is about community and collaboration,” Lee said about the importance of establishing a collaborative and community-minded classroom. Regnier noted that this way of teaching philosophy – as not only a body of content but as a way of life, can also be found in the ancient Greek understanding of philosophy as a practice and a way of being in the world. A similarly comparative analysis can be made of core, introductory philosophical topics such as personhood, identity and knowledge that would be taught in any class about western philosophy. As such, Phil 115 was not only a collaboration of people, but also of ideas.

“It was such a wonderful experience. To be given that responsibility was empowering and amazing. It is something I’m very lucky to have been involved with,” said Lee. The experience was rewarding for Regnier as well, who said, “you always say, as a teacher, that you learn from your students. This experience was different. It was clear from this case that I truly learned from my students. Teaching in this way meant students felt empowered and engaged.”

Where Are You From?




By Colleen Charles
Academically speaking, when you first meet a professional on campus, you state your name, job title and credentials accordingly. However, for First Nations people, and I speak for myself as a Woodland Cree, Treaty Six Territory, from the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, La Ronge, Saskatchewan, I have been raised to ask the question, “Where are you from?” when being introduced to new people. This is to find out if you have relations to the individual and their family.

Also, I used this technique in a presentation that I did for the GSR 989 Philosophy and Practice of University Teaching. According to Kim West, Educational Development Specialist and Instructor for the GSR 989 course, she stated,

“I think what really resonated with me is that Colleen’s icebreaker caused me and my students to question our cultural assumptions as academics. It named what we valued as academics (degrees and education) while gently reminding us there is more to who we are than just the knowledge we hold. I believe that teaching is about creating moments in the classroom when students and instructors can safely and genuinely share who they are. By shifting the dynamic from “education to relation” (Bingham & Sidorkin, 2004), Colleen’s icebreaker helped me as the instructor and for my students to reveal more about who we all are. Her approach reminded me of the importance of relational pedagogy in the classroom and why it matters.”

There was a College of Kinesiology Retreat in December 2013 that offered a combination of the Indigenous Voices workshops. Dean Carol Rodgers stated,

“I found this to be an insightful learning for me, as it immediately made me reflect on how our more academically structured form of introducing ourselves tells so little about WHO we really are and how we could learn so much more about what has shaped a person by learning about where they are from, who the important people have been in their lives and the journey they have taken to get to this time of introduction today. Moreover, this is such an easily incorporated icebreaker activity that also provides an opportunity to highlight cultural differences that in an immediate and hopefully reflective way enables all of us to learn from and with each other.”

As my new role as an Indigenous Voices Program Coordinator at the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness, I have gotten into the habit of introducing myself, saying where I am from and my job title last.

Lac La Ronge Indian Band LogoColleen Charles, MEd
Indigenous Voices Program Coordinator
Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Treaty 6 Territory

Bingham, C.W., and Sidorkin, A.M. (eds). 2004. No education without relation. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.