Learning While We Teach: The Experiences of Instructors in Community-Based Programs (Part One)

Post by BCcampus Research Fellow Dr. Carmen Rodriguez de France, Indigenous Education, University of Victoria

“I don’t study to know more but to ignore less.”

These words from Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a poet, writer, scholar, and the first woman to fight for equal rights in the seventeenth century in Latin America, are the perfect frame for the lessons I have learned thus far while engaged in my research. The purpose of my project is to learn from the experiences of Indigenous and non-Indigenous instructors who have been facilitating courses in four of the community-based programs delivered by the Department of Indigenous Education at the University of Victoria.

While distance-based programs are not new to the Department of Indigenous Education, the past 18 months have presented a series of opportunities and challenges in terms of the tools and the pedagogical approaches used by the instructors of these courses needing to substitute experiential learning activities with online learning. However, according to Pulla (2020), “the mere substitution of technology in place of traditional curriculum delivery is not adequate” (p. 185). Consequently, new approaches in the use of technology are needed to help educators develop and even co-create culturally relevant curriculum and learning materials based on the context of the learners, allowing the development of flexible and interactive mediums with which both teachers and learners can engage.

With the recent expansion of online platforms, there are benefits to distance learning and online course delivery: specifically, learning how educators and learners collaborate and use a variety of technologies as tools that can inform their courses.

As an Indigenous scholar, my work is centred on the concept of relational accountability, which, according to Opaskwayak Cree scholar Shawn Wilson (2008), is the responsibility that a scholar/researcher has to establish a relationship with the world around her to be accountable to all her relations. In conducting this research, I hope to answer the following questions:

  • What strategies, approaches, and methods did instructors use in their online teaching?
  • How was this different from what they have done before?
  • What did they learn about themselves when doing this work?

I aspire to recruit two instructors from each of the four programs delivered in community by the Department of Indigenous Education. At this moment I have interviewed four instructors (two Indigenous and two non-Indigenous). Once completed, a research assistant will analyze the data. 

My aspiration is to inform our Indigenous education programs and courses by exploring these approaches to teaching and learning. I hope to help advance the possibility of access for Indigenous students who up to this point might not have been able to participate in post-secondary opportunities due to the perception that Indigenous languages and pedagogies could be taught and learned only in face-to-face environments and contexts. The study findings may also provide some ideas to other instructors for making their teaching more relevant, fluid, and dynamic for Indigenous students. 

Pulla, S. (2020). “Mobile Learning and Indigenous Education in Canada: A Synthesis of New Ways of Learning.” In Management Association, I. (Eds.), Indigenous Studies: Breakthroughs in Research and Practice (pp. 175–199).

Wilson, S. (2008). Research Is Ceremony Indigenous Research Methods. Fernwood Publishing.

This research is supported by the BCcampus Research Fellows Program, which provides B.C. post-secondary educators and students with funding to conduct small-scale research on teaching and learning as well as explore evidence-based teaching practices that focus on student success and learning. 

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© 2021 Carmen Rodriguez de France released under a CC BY license

The featured image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels