As we move into next week, I wanted to begin reading about active learning in Indigenous Studies. At first I attempted to search the terms, Active Learning and Indigenous Studies. But this came up with 1 article and was not quite what I was looking for. I changed my keyword search to Experiential Learning and Indigenous Studies and found many more articles to chose from. I thought that was interesting and I am not aware of any major differences between active learning and experiential learning.
I found an article written by professors from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This article discusses a course designed with an experiential learning component followed by a reflection in the form of a digital story. In Canada, like many other countries with high populations of Indigenous people, have a lack of awareness surrounding Indigenous issues. “Within the Canadian context, non-Indigenous peoples’ lack of awareness of and misinformation about Indigenous worldviews and lived colonial experiences (e.g., residential schools, the Indian Act, enfranchisement, criminalization of spiritual practices, etc.) are influenced by their systematic exclusion from educational curricula.” (Castledon, et. al, 2013) Not only are Indigenous peoples’ issues not recognized, this is perpetuated by society through the lack of education in public schools. The authors identified this as an issue and developed a course where the goal was transformation. They hoped this course would lead to transformative learning. “Transformative learning is an educational theory that seeks to promote ‘a critical dimension of learning… that enables us to recognize, reassess, and modify the structures of assumptions and expectations that frame our tacit points of view and influence our thinking, beliefs, attitudes, and actions.” (Castled, et. al, 2013) Transformative learning theory is something that I would really like to learn more about as I am developing this course in history. I really believe that Indigenous people who have lost their traditional knowledge through colonial processes could have a transformative experience when relearning it.
The results from this course were so positive, the faculty sought permission to conduct a study with the students from the course. They sent one person out to interview all the students and once they reviewed transcriptions for accuracy they began to develop themes from the qualitative data. These included, Openness to transformation: students were aware of the importance of including Indigenous perspectives in their work but all agreed Indigenous issues were never taught in school. Transformation through relationships was another theme: the students saw value in relationship building as a way to overcome ignorance. And all students felt a sense of pride in their final digital storytelling project but also felt vulnerable because the project was personal.
This study was interesting to me. It not only gave me ideas about experiential learning to add to my history class. The students in this class went out and learned from the Mikmaq First Nations community. The elders in that community engaged the students in learning activities that included ceremonies, sharing circles, medicine walks, and eel fishing. They also discussed environmental resource issues with elders and leaders of those communities. These are the types of activities that really make a lasting impact. Hearing from elders about their connection to the environment and beyond that to the spiritual connection is very powerful. Some students, even Indigenous students, don’t hear that in their everyday lives. This example also introduced me to a theory that I want to look deeper into. It didn’t go into detail about what the Transformative Theory is, but it sounds like it might be a good connection to the course I am developing.
Castleden, H., Daley, K., Sloan Morgan, V., & Sylvestre, P. (2013). Settlers unsettled: using field schools and digital stories to transform geographies of ignorance about Indigenous peoples in Canada. Journal Of Geography In Higher Education, 37(4), 487-499. doi:10.1080/03098265.2013.796352