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

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

It has been eight months since I started this project, aimed at learning 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. Much has changed since then, attributed mostly to the pandemic that has shaken the world to its core not just in terms of uncovering injustices such as lack of access to health services and vaccines but also the lack of available technologies for access to education, among other issues. Pulla (2020) asserts “the mere substitution of technology in place of traditional curriculum delivery is not adequate” (p. 185), and the lack of adequate technologies and connectivity in certain communities was an impediment for some educators and students to engage in their courses. These challenges surfaced when the internet was overloaded and overwhelmed in the early stages of the pandemic.

Despite these challenges, the participants in my research project were able to adapt and adopt a variety of approaches that helped them achieve most of their goals when teaching language online. In conducting this research, I hoped to answer the following questions:

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

I aspired to recruit two instructors from each of the four programs delivered in the communities by the Department of Indigenous Education. However, I was able to converse with only five instructors due to various factors, including some out of their control. It has been interesting to listen to their experiences and realize they employed similar approaches when teaching Indigenous language mostly online during the past 24 months. Three of them referred to storytelling as a medium to reintroduce the language and basic vocabulary. They also resorted to increased use of images and videos to illustrate the topics, words, and phrases to be learned. Two instructors recorded their sessions for students to provide access to the lessons multiple times. 

In that regard, this research might contribute to the possibility of access for Indigenous students who up until now might not have participated in post-secondary opportunities due to the perception Indigenous languages and pedagogies could be taught and learned only in face-to-face environments and contexts. 

Other topics emerged during this process, including some related to the question of what instructors learned about themselves when doing this work.

While my aspiration overall was to inform our Indigenous education programs and courses by exploring these approaches to teaching and learning, I realize now that in asking the above question, the instructors contribute to advancing their professional development as well as the field of self-study in higher education. Further, the findings may also provide ideas to other instructors for making their teaching more relevant, fluid, and dynamic for Indigenous students and allow moments of reflection for themselves not just in terms of pedagogies but also, importantly, in terms of their own positionalities and ever-changing professional identities.

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 to explore evidence-based teaching practices that focus on student success and learning.

References:

Pulla, S. (2020). Mobile learning and Indigenous education in Canada: A synthesis of new ways of learning. In Information Resources Management Association (Ed.), Indigenous studies: Breakthroughs in research and practice (pp. 175–199). IGI Global.

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