In March 2020 the pandemic began immediately disrupting most aspects of the in-person studio art ceramic class I was teaching. Reflecting on this period now, it feels especially important in my development as a teacher that I was given permission to try new things that had previously not been allowed or that I had not considered implementing. I was encouraged to understand the needs of my students, for example, surveys were administered that reflected on their access to technology and the internet. During this time I expanded the general nature of my office hours, encouraging students to check-in on their social and emotional needs and I connected them with appropriate resources. These experiences revealed to me the role relationality plays in students’ learning. More than anything, during a time when my students and I didn’t have access to clay, the material most informing the curriculum, I became a learner with my students as we figured out together how to keep learning about how to touch clay, without clay. An impactful conversation emerged among us as we sought to collectively develop a new way to teach ceramics. As instructors, as we move into the next year of teaching, the pandemic is still present but its impacts on our classrooms are different. I wonder, what have you learned about your teaching during the pandemic and is there anything you want to carry forward? As we prepare for our next school year, what are your goals as a faculty member in terms of how you want to develop your teaching?
As I move forward with my teaching I am curious how to create a classroom environment where an array of relationships are central to the context of learning. This type of educational system is practiced in Indigenous pedagogies where “learning practices are relational” within this, “All learning occurs within a matrix of relationships between people, place, the natural world, and past and future generations” (Merculieff et al., 2013). In my teaching I use icebreaker questions at the beginning of the semester to begin fostering a community in which we are each known to each other. I have continued administering an early semester survey that seeks to understand some of the unique characteristics informing each students’ experience at the university, beyond their access to technology. A technique I learned from Lindsay Brant’s presentation, Introduction to Indigenous Pedagogies, at the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Queen’s University is the use of exit cards. To foster a sense of relationality in the classroom throughout the semester Brandt gives each student a notecard at the conclusion of some class periods and asks students to respond to a personal question, notecards are then turned in at the beginning of the following class period. An exit card prompt I have used is, What is a song that connects to the content of class this week? These responses were then made into a collaborative playlist played during work periods. Another prompt asks students to draw connections between themes in the course and how they relate to some aspect of themselves. This technique gives students the opportunity to share throughout the semester and not just at the beginning as an icebreaker or survey might. This technique is similar to The Minute Paper, a Classroom Assessment Technique in which students are given a half sheet of paper and approximately two minutes to address: 1) What was the most important thing you learned during this class? 2)What important question remains unanswered? However, exit cards give students the space between class periods to reflect and respond to something more personal about their experience in the course. What changes in a classroom when learning is occurring within a web of relationships?
This coming academic year the CITL will offer a Faculty Learning Community (FLC) on Indigenous pedagogy where we will discuss approaches like the one outlined here. This FLC will model a co-learning environment among the facilitators and an interdisciplinary faculty cohort. Root et al. (2019) defines co-learning as “the facilitation of a learning environment that encourages all participants to learn together equally, to develop a shared understanding to better connect with one another” (3). The Indigenous pedagogy FLC seeks to create a space to collectively reflect on current teaching practices and begin considering new pedagogical approaches or areas that could be shifted. The brief application to join a FLC is due August 30th.
If you have questions regarding the Indigenous pedagogy FLC please reach out to facilitators Leslie Drane or Shannon Sipes.