The Office of Aboriginal Education & Engagement and the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning regularly collaborate to invite teaching faculty members to engage with Indigenous perspectives and critically reflect about suggested teaching and learning practices that would help support a classroom free of marginalization for all learners. Collaboration and community is at the heart of this approach.
The Indigenous Learning Circles were conceived as a way to deepen the campus conversation on understanding and responding more effectively to the experience of Indigenous students on campus.
In year one a group of approximately 10 faculty members, plus an elder and indigenous students, met monthly to explore, through readings as well as through conversation, the issues shaping the experience of Indigenous students.
In year two a Circle was repeated for new joiners, while a second circle, Indigenous Learning Circle II, was created for several members of the first year who wanted to continue and advance the conversation.
Part I: Creating a Sense of Belonging for Students - Indigenous Perspectives to Enrich Teaching and Learning in the Classroom
This series revolves around a Learning Circle that includes Elders, Aboriginal students and VIU teaching faculty and support staff who provide their insights and suggestions for creating an inclusive learning environment based on a related Indigenous reading for each meeting. Between each Learning Circle meeting, faculty are asked to apply suggestions to their own classroom teaching, critically reflect on that experience and share out at the next session. The Indigenous Learning Circle Part I takes place from September until November, meeting for two hours, five times on the Nanaimo campus. Participation in all sessions is encouraged to build a sense of community and a shared experience.
We held an Indigenous Learning Circle in the Spring as well as the Fall of 2016 following similar formats.
This professional learning opportunity is intended for VIU campus community members who teach a class or regularly have access to a group of students in the next semester. This group may include but is not limited to: teaching faculty members, student services staff, sessional instructors, contract teaching members, administrators etc. At registration, participants complete a short background survey designed to gather their interests and allow facilitators to learn more about what participants wish to accomplish in their classrooms.
The maximum number of participants is set at 12 to ensure a sense of community and safety in the recurring discussions. Participants are asked to commit to attending all five 2-hour sessions throughout the Fall. Food is provided as it is part of the shared learning experience.
Participants are asked to undertake some modest reading assignments before each scheduled meeting, come to a session to discuss the reading and leave with actions and strategies to be applied in the classroom in the weeks between sessions. At the following session participants share their experiences in implementing new actions and strategies and report back to the group on what they learned.
For the final session, participants are asked to review the readings and reflect on what they learned from the readings, the discussions with other participants in the Circle and their own experiments. They are asked to provide a Written Reflection that summarizes their learning, the next steps in their own practice, and ideas of supports they will need for their professional learning journey.
Part II: Exploring Indigenous Perspectives below the Surface
In the VIU Indigenous Learning, Circle Part II, participants continue their journey with colleagues, and delve collaboratively into more focused questions about Indigenous perspectives and the realities of higher education for Aboriginal students.
Similar to Part I, this series revolves around a Learning Circle that includes Elders, Aboriginal students and VIU teaching faculty and support staff who provide their insights and suggestions for creating an inclusive learning environment based on a related Indigenous reading for each meeting.
However, in order to deepen the inquiry and discussion, this Indigenous Learning Circle will be shaped by the specific questions and interests that participants bring with them. New to this series will also be the potential integration of non-academic experiences and new contexts, that will likely take us beyond the physical limits of the Learning Circle, itself.
The Indigenous Learning Circle will take place on 6 Thursdays, for approximately two hours, from September to March. Participation in all sessions is encouraged to sustain the sense of community and a shared experience. Food is provided as it is part of the shared learning experience.
This professional learning opportunity is for VIU campus community members and may include but is not limited to: teaching faculty members, student services staff, sessional instructors, contract teaching members, administrators etc. The maximum number of participants is set at 12 to ensure a sense of community and safety in the recurring discussions.