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Universal Design for Learning

Decolonizing Curriculum

As explained in Module 1, to decolonizeOpens in a new window our curriculumOpens in a new window means that we need to challenge systemic oppressionOpens in a new window in our teaching design and practice. Decolonizing a curriculum requires the re-framing of curriculum design and pedagogical practices in ways that promote critical discourseOpens in a new window, critical analysis, and an openness to Indigenous peoples’ diverse intellectual, cultural, agricultural, and scientific knowledge systems.

When our environments embody authentic cooperation and honour lived experienceOpens in a new window, and when students’ voices “drive the environment” (CAST, 2022), we begin to acknowledge the whole self that learners bring to their learning success.

Any exploration of the challenges faced by Indigenous students as individuals, solely from the perspective of this identity, may have the result of hiding and even dismissing preoccupations these students may also have, within other identities, as females, as LGBTQ2S+ individuals, or as students facing significant socio-economic challenges. The notion of Indigenous students must therefore always be considered under the lens of Intersectionality as being complex and multilayered.

LaPierre, 2019, in Fovet, 2020
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Identity & post-secondary: a First Nations experienceOpens in a new window (Runtime: 14:14 min, CC is autogenerated).

Strategies for decolonizing learning spaces in postsecondary education echo the many aspirations outlined in the guidelines for the Engagement principle. For example, naming traditional territorial lands that educational institutions are built upon and speaking to this in the course syllabus – and to its meaning to the instructor – is an important part of acknowledging and recognizing local Indigenous peoples. The list also recommends reconceptualizing the curriculum in ways that restore, renew, and recentre Indigenous histories and knowledge systems in respectful and meaningful ways. Decolonizing learning spaces also means avoiding tokenismOpens in a new window and not placing the burden of educating others about Indigenous issues on Indigenous students. Being more open and inclusive to Indigenous ways of knowing means being accountable and responsible by grounding yourself in the local histories and lived experiences of Indigenous peoples and communities and becoming acquainted with ways to decolonize the curriculum in higher educationOpens in a new window.

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Learning About Walking in BeautyOpens in a new window: a pedagogical framework that honours Indigenous students’ identity.

In Marcella LaFever’s "Switching from Bloom to the Medicine Wheel: Creating Learning Outcomes that Support Indigenous Ways of Knowing in Post-Secondary EducationOpens in a new window" (2016), she explains that while the Medicine Wheel may overlap in many ways with Bloom’s three learning domains (for example, affective domain with the emotional quadrant, cognitive with the intellectual, and psychomotor with the physical), Bloom’s three domains do not have elements that overlap with the spiritual quadrant. She further explains that, in contrast to Euro-based concepts that characterize spirituality as distinct from the material world and of the human “spirit” or soul, Indigenous spirituality is focused on the interconnectedness between human values and the material aspects of life. Bloom’s affective domain focuses on the emotional development of individuals. However, it lacks discussion on honouring identity and ways of knowing, attention to relationships, developing a sense of belonging for others, feeling empowered to pursue unique paths, developing self-knowledge of purpose, and ultimately transcendence of narrow self-interest.

For educators who are interested in honouring Indigenous ways of knowing and in developing a more holistic framework that includes outcomes that facilitate interconnectedness, belonging, and honouring of diverse learner identities, LaFever’s Medicine Wheel framework can act as a guide to incorporating spiritual learning into curriculum development and course design. This framework acknowledges that the roles of instructor and learner are inextricably tied to each other. Together, they achieve the desired outcomes, and both are responsible for ensuring the learning environment encompasses the conceptualizations of honouring, valuing, connectedness, empowerment, and self-actualizing.

Next chapterCurriculum Considerations