“Decolonizing Learning” researchers and Elders hosted by Aurora College


Aurora College and Aurora Research Institute recently hosted an on-the-land gathering with Indigenous Elders and research partners from the University of Alberta, University of New Brunswick, University of Saskatchewan, University of Toronto, and Toronto District School Board at Kettle Point, Wood Buffalo National Park, near Fort Smith as part of their research project, Stories of Hope: Decolonizing Learning in Canada.

Stories of Hope: Decolonizing Learning in Canada is a two-year project, led by Aurora College and funded by a $240,000 Partnership Development Grant from SSHRC. Initiated by principal investigator Dave Porter, director of Thebacha Campus, and Sarah Rosolen, manager of the South Slave Research Centre, this was the first research award Aurora College received from SSHRC after becoming eligible for funding in 2014.

Elders and academics gathered from August 29 to 31, 2017 to share progress on their studies and activities documenting how decolonizing education is happening across the country. Current and proposed projects include: providing supports to teachers to incorporate Indigenous learnings into revamped science curricula; providing on-the-land learning opportunities for students; introducing traditional Indigenous ceremonies and cultural practices into mainstream classrooms; developing books and learning resources based on and inspired by Indigenous cultures, experiences, and knowledge; evaluating residential school awareness curriculum to ensure there was authentic engagement by survivors; offering Indigenous art classes (that include visual and performing arts, music, and storytelling) in mainstream high schools as an alternative to segmented arts classes (i.e., music, drama, dance, visual arts, etc., as separate entities); as well as using Indigenous research and reporting techniques when undertaking academic research.

Aurora College President Jane Arychuk says the project is an excellent fit for the college.

Currently, in all areas of Canada, including the northern territories, there are significant gaps between the educational and employment success rates of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Many scholars and community leaders argue that decolonizing the education system has the potential to re-engage Indigenous youth in learning, and empower them to achieve greater success. Decolonizing education systems involves rethinking the way schooling is delivered, including the curriculum, methodologies and relationships with communities.

“This project addresses current needs for educators in the Northwest Territories and across Canada to support educational opportunities for Indigenous learners,” says Arychuk. “It will develop and strengthen decolonizing efforts within our instructional staff and create new knowledge that will support pre-service teachers. Not only will it guide our instruction as a whole as we further move towards decolonizing our programs, but these findings will enhance educational experiences for students from coast to coast to coast.”

The Aurora College Partnership Development Grant was given in part to design and test new collaborative approaches to research that may result in models that can be adapted by others, or that have the potential to be scaled up to a regional, national or international level. Aurora College is the only institution in the NWT eligible to apply for and receive SSHRC funding.

This news release was first published on September 25, 2017, on the Aurora College website. The research is supported by a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant (Insight).