The History and Role of the Aboriginal Education Committee

written and submitted by Judith Lapadat

In September 2011, President Mike Mahon tasked Leroy Little Bear, Roy Weasel Fat and Jane O’Dea with leading a consultation process and developing an overarching strategy to support First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) students, faculty, staff and community members at the University of Lethbridge. They also were asked to explore the establishment of an FNMI Gathering Place on campus. Their report to the President in May 2012 made seven recommendations, one of which was to create an institutional Aboriginal Education Committee.

The Aboriginal Education Committee was approved as a General Faculties Council (GFC) standing committee on December 10, 2012. Its membership is representative of the University community and includes Elder, FNMI alumni, and community representatives. GFC approved the inaugural University of Lethbridge Aboriginal Education Policy at the same meeting. The committee is responsible for managing and furthering the aims of the policy.

Over the two years it has been in existence, the Aboriginal Education Committee has reflected on its mission, developed terms of reference, and created a website. The committee promotes and supports the following aims at the University:

  • Equitable access and participation of FNMI people;
  • The development and teaching of both Blackfoot language and cultural content and other First Nations, Métis and Inuit content;
  • Increased awareness and sensitivity to the diversity of FNMI cultures;
  • Increased recruitment, retention and completion of FNMI students;
  • Establishment of an FNMI Gathering Place;
  • Development and expansion of an Elders’ program;
  • Expansion of FNMI student support services;
  • Appropriate research and creative activities related to and with FNMI peoples; and
  • Personal, social, intellectual cultural interaction between Blackfoot and other FNMI peoples, the University, City of Lethbridge, and surrounding communities.

There have been a number of notable FNMI milestones under the leadership of President Mahon in addition to the creation of the Aboriginal Education Committee and Policy. In June 2013, the University of Lethbridge hosted the Canada-Mexico Round Table on Aboriginal/Indigenous Higher Education as a presidential initiative. The University continues to expand collaborative opportunities with partner institutions in Mexico in a variety of ways such as through student and faculty exchanges.

In October 2013, the University launched the Blackfoot, First Nations Métis Inuit Protocol Handbook. It is a groundbreaking document that provides guidelines for convocation and ceremonial events as well as for working with Elders, such as when when faculty invite Elders to their classrooms. The Handbook is available on the website of the Office of the President.

The Governors of the University of Lethbridge and the Board of Governors of Red Crow Community College recently signed the first official Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two institutions. The event was held June 2014 at Red Crow Community College on the Blood Reserve. The MOU has paved the way for mutual discussions about curriculum development and the creation of new program pathways for Red Crow Community College students planning to transition to the University.

Another highlight occurred in December 2014 with the formal opening of the interim First Nations, Métis and Inuit Gathering Place in the Paterson Centre. Elder Wilton Goodstriker along with Dale Low Horn gifted the Gathering Place with the Blackfoot name Iikaisskini (Low Horn). The name represents the stance of a charging buffalo, its head down and horns low to the ground. Elders Andy Blackwater and Bruce Wolf Child have explained its relationship to the Blackfoot teaching that education is the new buffalo, deeply valued and the way to the future. As well as supporting the success of students, Iikaisskini provides a location that draws Elders and faculty together and a space to host workshops, Talking Circles, and speaker series.

Throughout 2014/15, the University has used a generous gift from a donor to expand the Aboriginal Student Orientation Program. The year has seen additional September orientation activities for FNMI students, increased involvement of Elders during Native Awareness Week, and plans for a Convocation celebration and Round Dance that includes the broader University community celebrating with graduating FNMI students and their families. The Round Dance also will mark the 40th anniversary of the Native American Student Association.

In May 2015, the University welcomes Dr. Martha Many Grey Horses to the inaugural role of Director, First Nations, Métis and Inuit Centre. Our new Director will provide leadership to the FNMI Centre and coordinate FNMI initiatives across the University, as well as with Blackfoot and other FNMI communities and institutional partners. One of her objectives will be to expand the Elders program, which includes working with faculty members to engage Elders in curriculum planning and to coordinate visits of Elders to classrooms.

The Aboriginal Education Committee provides a structure to engage faculty and other members of the University community and support these and other initiatives. One of the ways in which the committee is working towards the aims identified in the Aboriginal Education Policy is through working groups. The committee has established five working groups:

  • Gathering Place Working Group
  • FNMI Research Issues Working Group
  • FNMI Enrolment and Student Success Working Group
  • Cultural Awareness Working Group
  • Indigenization of Curriculum Working Group

As an example of the work that is underway, the Indigenization of Curriculum Working Group will be bringing faculty together to talk about what indigenization of curriculum means to them, concerns and issues, and how to share best practices for indigenizing curriculum at all levels. Discussions that have taken place to date have yielded the insight that this is a large project as curriculum is more than just the content; it encompasses and is represented throughout the university via content, place, methodology, and epistemology. The working group hopes to initiate a faculty focus group in May and will continue with themed focus groups throughout the 2015/16 academic year. Academic staff who would like more information should contact Michelle Hogue, Coordinator First Nations’ Transition Program, Teaching Fellow, and chair of the Indigenization of Curriculum Working Group at michelle.hogue@uleth.ca

Faculty members are actively engaged in setting the directions of all of the working groups. If you are interested in becoming involved in a working group or would like more information, please contact Cynthia Chabot in the Office of the Associate Vice-President (Students): carbca@uleth.ca.

The Aboriginal Education Committee and working groups provide a collaborative framework to support the University’s aims in furthering FNMI initiatives. The development of Iikaisskini has provided a home away from home for students, and a place for community to gather. The actions of the University provide a visible demonstration of the value that the University of Lethbridge places on its relationship with Blackfoot and other First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

Can Peer Support Improve Your Pedagogy?

A Talking About Teaching Review (Event took place January 23rd, 2015)
written by Sheila McManus

The participants at the January Talking about Teaching event (“Can Peer Support Improve Your Pedagogy?”) were a perfect microcosm of the existing peer support community: few in number but highly diverse and passionate believers in peer support as one strategy for helping teachers teach better.  Six graduate students and six instructors from a wide variety of disciplines joined five facilitators in a “world café”-style discussion.  There were five different tables, each with their own topic and facilitator: traditional one-on-one mentoring (Wayne Lippa, facilitator); the Instructional Skills Workshop (Leanne Elias); communities of practice (Lisa Doolittle); [He]art of Teaching (Harold Jansen), and small group models like triads and squares (Sheila McManus).  Participants had to choose three of the five topics to discuss, and there was time at the end for all the participants and facilitators to have a final conversation about the benefits and challenges of the different models.  Two of the peer support models already exist here at U of L (more information about the ISW and [He]art of Teaching can be found at the Teaching Centre’s website) and the other three exist in many different informal contexts.  Over the course of the two hours a strong consensus emerged that the different models each have different benefits and challenges; they can serve different needs depending on what kind of support the instructor wants, and whether the instructor is new or very experienced.  Not surprisingly, field-specific mentoring was a higher priority for many of the grad students than any of the multi-disciplinary models, while the experienced instructors in the room were more interested in hearing about how they could learn from teachers in other disciplines.  There was little agreement, however, about who should create and maintain the other options; participants noted that in some cases it might work best for the Teaching Centre to coordinate them, but others suggested that more peer support needs to be done by and within specific departments and faculties.

Congratulations Dr. Jan Newberry -2014 AAA/Oxford Teaching Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching of Anthropology

The American Anthropological Association and Oxford University Press are pleased to announce the recipient of the 2014 AAA/Oxford Teaching Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching of Anthropology is Dr. Jan Newberry.
janaward-sized

Below are some comments directly from the American Anthropological Association:

“Beyond the books and the box” as one student describes her, Dr. Newberry has cultivated fields of possibility and opportunity for her students to grow and mature as scholars and persons in the world. Beginning at Bryn Mawr, a career choice that did not include full-time teaching in a recognizable department, Dr. Newberry’s dedication to boundary crossings for collective educational purposes derived from her career in anthropology continues in western Canada at the University of Lethbridge.  The student letters supporting Dr. Newberry’s nomination for the teaching award share several themes that course through her history as a professor, mentor, and colleague.  All the letters of nomination cite Dr. Newberry as having great passion for anthropology and what it can offer undergraduate students. Every letter makes the point that her ‘teaching methods’ drew these and numerous other students into the world of anthropology.  In addition to her skill and dedication to teaching all nominators also admire and value Dr. Newberry’s way in the world as a way worth considering, even emulating – strong testament indeed for this dedicated and engaged teacher.  Her students at Bryn Mawr College, well-prepared for academic success, and her students at the University of Lethbridge in the Canadian prairies, many of whom are the first in their families to attend university, agree that her special amalgam of passion, disciplinary dedication, cross-disciplinary prowess, and her belief and faith in teaching informed by scholarship have made a difference in the lives of her colleagues, her students, and her ever-growing community. It is this kind of difference-making that especially qualifies Dr. Newberry for the AAA/Oxford University Press Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching of Anthropology.

Visual Notes – Reflections on Teaching in a SCALE-UP Room – Nov. 24, 2014

Our last Talking About Teaching dealt with teaching in a SCALE-UP room. If you didn’t have a chance to join us for that session, then please check out the visual notes below. They are basically a graphically enhanced version of notes from the event.

Dan Furgason

Click here to view the visual notes.

Michael Stingl

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Luz Ospina

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Visual Notes October 24, 2014 – Horror Stories from the Classroom

If you missed out on the great stories told at the last Talking About Teaching, you can catch up on what happened by checking out the visual notes linked up below.

Jeff Meadows

Jeff Meadows (cartoon illustration) - Teaching Centre

Click here to view the visual notes.

Harold Jansen

Harold Jansen - Talking About Teaching - October 24, 2014 - Horror Stories from the Classroom

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Sheila McManus
Sheila McManus - Talking About Teaching - October 24, 2014 - Horror Stories from the Classroom

Click here to view the visual notes.

Jan Newberry
Jan Newberry - Talking About Teaching - October 24, 2014 - Horror Stories from the Classroom

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Does good writing lead to better jobs?

We often hear the argument in higher education that our students need to be better writers. Arguments range from students being able to communicate ideas more clearly, to being able to analyze texts in more detail. However a new infographic produces another reason why writing is so important. Higher rates of pay. Generally better writers get paid better wages according to the linked infographic below from dailyinfographic.com. With arguments stating better writing can develop communication skills and better analytical skills, this just notice in pay change may be a result of a broader and more detailed skill development overall.

Dailyinfographic.com - Why Good Writing is Needed

The above infographic was created by Dailyinfographic.com. Please check out their site for great visual data on great topics.

 

Sobering Lessons Learned When Shadowing Students

In a recent article posted by Grant Wiggins (A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned), he posts the experiences of a former high school teacher who has entered a new role as a high school teaching coach. The article is a reflection piece that explores the experiences of the teaching coach shadowing 2 students for 2 days. What the teaching coach is exposed to, is an eye opening experience.

The post has a fully detailed explanation of the two day shadowing event, and although the experiences being talked about are in the context of a high school experience, many of the key learning experiences from the teaching coach are relevant to any level of teaching. Below is a summary of the key learning experiences the teaching coach identifies in the article, as well as some exemplars of how instructors here at the University of Lethbridge are trying to provide a more enjoyable and engaging classroom experience to our students.

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Teaching a “Non-Course”

Written by Jennifer Mather

In the Spring of 2007, I was on sabbatical, so that means I was not teaching courses, but I had been teaching…a non-course. This is a reflection on that experience.

Why teach a course when I didn’t have to? Well, I commonly have several students who do the work-academic combination of individualized Applied Study courses. As Christmas and my sabbatical drew closer, I could see that two students, each of whom was working towards graduate training in Speech and Hearing Disorders and both of whom were working with populations at risk for speech problems, would benefit from individualized instruction on language. At that time, no professor in Psychology knew much about or taught a class connected to linguistics. My research background of ethology, the observational approach to animal and human behaviour, meant that I could show them a view into understanding speech, particularly in conversation. So we agreed to do a non-course. We met once a week, and I took them from a list of defects they might encounter through sentence construction, cognitive difficulties and non-verbal expression to the massive complexity of multi-way conversation.

I found the experience stimulating and yet restful. They were eager to learn, as this was a foundation for their future work. We bounced ideas off each other, some coming from their other classes, some from me and some that we built together. Between our weekly meetings they completed assignments. Why restful? There were no papers to mark, no hassle about grades. I didn’t evaluate them at all, ironically since they worked extremely well.

What did the students say when I asked them for feedback at the end of the semester? One commented that she had given up telling her friends about it, they would ask why she was working when she wasn’t getting any course credit. What a comment on our system! Both of them loved the focus on themselves and what they wanted to know, but admitted a bit of a yearning for structure, for extrinsic as well as intrinsic rewards. Again, what a comment on our system, but I too expect no extrinsic reward. I’m on sabbatical, I’m not supposed to be teaching.

If I were an Oxford-style Don, this is how I would teach. I would love it. Working with students to help them educate themselves, what could be better? I admit it’s probably not cost efficient, though what is the cost efficiency of teaching a whole lot of students something they don’t really want to know, in order that they can promptly forget it? One of the students commented wisely that something would be missing in a whole university career of learning in this style. She said, in indirect praise of our General Liberal Education requirement, that things came up in classrooms or through courses that you didn’t necessarily want to take that nevertheless surprised and enriched you. So maybe I couldn’t be an individualized tutor for all of my teaching, maybe only some of it…but what a rich reward that would be.

Design and aesthetics matter when creating your course.

One area that is often overlooked in designing a course is the aesthetics of the course. Clearly this is not as important as the goals and objectives of the course, but a well put together course can help your students navigate the content and activities much easier. The infographic below shows some ways in which you can improve the look of your Moodle course.

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