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Universal Design for Learning
Decolonizing Curriculum

Learner Goals

One important way to decolonize our curriculumOpens in a new window is to build learning around learners’ goals. We explored the impact of learners making their own goals in Module 2Opens in a new window with the Engagement principle. Learning goals are more effective at fostering intrinsic motivation than performance goals. Often, learners’ goals are different from the learning outcomes we set through our course or service offering. While they may at times conflict with our course outcomes/objectives, looking for points of alignment between these can lead to powerful learning (Ambrose et al., 2010). Once we’re aware of learners’ goals, we can add action and expression activities that allow learners to recall their learning goals, reflect on their progress towards these, and adjust goals and/or learning activities as needed. This also allows for direct opportunity to bring in activities that are grounded in cultural awareness and culturally specific knowledges. There are different ways we can do this, including the few examples that follow.

Growing Minds Medicine Wheel

The Growing Minds Medicine WheelOpens in a new window, provided here with permission from Bruce McKay, formerly at Bow Valley College and now Coordinator of Indigenous Relations and Services at Northern Lights College, acknowledges that learners can have goals in multiple domains, such as emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual. In addition, this tool places the individual at the centre of the Medicine Wheel, asking learners to reflect first on their strengths, developed from previous formal and informal learning, and use these to then identify their challenges and bridging competencies. The inclusion of spiritual learning outcomes is emphasized in this articleOpens in a new window by LaFever (2016) who writes about moving from the domains of Bloom’s Taxonomy to those of the Medicine Wheel.   This tool is based on a very small part or aspect of a Medicine Wheel and is drawn from a large body of knowledge that encompasses living a “good life” by following the teachings of many First Peoples on Turtle Island.Opens in a new window This brings Indigenous voices into the learning process, and can be useful in generating new insights into a person’s potential pathways to learning and finding personal definitions of success that may motivate learners. It’s important that complex teachings such as the Medicine Wheel are never presented by, or claimed as known by, non-Indigenous educators except for use in specific and well-identified purposes.

Assessment Wrappers

Adapted from exam wrappersOpens in a new window (Eberly Center, n.d.), these are formal reflection opportunities at the end of larger assessments that allow students to reflect on their preparation for, performance in, and lessons learned through assessment. This helps students practice their executive functioning skills and provides valuable insights into students’ learning processes and further needs. In practice, assessment wrappers can be reflective opportunities that answer questions such as: Is there something you know about the topic that you did not have the opportunity to demonstrate here? Are there gaps that you have identified that you would like to learn or read more about, or engage with further?

Cogen Dialogues

Co-generative (cogen) dialogues are “simple conversations between the [educator] and their students with a goal of co-creating/generating plans of action for improving the classroom” (Emdin, 2016). The classroom, and other learning spaces, can be considered a social fieldOpens in a new window. Within this social field, educators have more power than their learners; cogen dialogues can provide learners with agency to co-design their learning environments. For further explanation, review these guidelines for effectively co-creating cogensOpens in a new window.

Next sectionFurther Considerations for Decolonizing Action & Expression