Towards Decolonizing and Indigenizing Teaching and Curricular Practices in Canadian Higher Education: A Narrative Inquiry into Settler Academics’ Experiences

  • Author / Creator
    Mooney, Julie
  • For some moving toward reconciliation is controversial; for others acting on decades of talk about reconciliation is long over-due. Debates about Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples have the potential to build or break apart Canada. Institutions of higher education in Canada have a critical role to play in challenging the reproduction of colonial narratives, leading the way responsibly by re-creating academic systems, centering anti-colonial epistemologies and ontologies, and decolonizing teaching and curricular practices. Building on my master’s thesis research into Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs), this doctoral study contributes to a significant gap in scholarly knowledge on educational development in support of Indigenizing and decolonizing university teaching and curricular practices.

    In this doctoral study, I inquired into the experiences of faculty members who had participated in one of two, year-long cohorts of a FLC on Indigenization (which were held in the academic years 2016-17 and 2017-18). This FLC program on Indigenization was facilitated by an educational developer and an Indigenous Studies professor at a Canadian university and in partnership with local Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and community members. Using narrative inquiry, I asked: What are the experiences of Canadian university professors who participated in a FLC on Indigenization of their teaching and curricular practices? At this relatively early stage in scholarly work on the subject of reconciliation in higher education, especially within the field of educational development, the stories of experience of the university educators who participated in that FLC program are the most impactful source of data available. Through one-on-one research conversations, I explored the FLC experiences of three non-Indigenous, settler professors. As they told and retold, lived and relived their stories of experience, the meaning they make of their learning journeys emerged, and we entered into further exploration of how they subsequently transferred that learning into efforts to decolonize, Indigenize, and move toward reconciliation in their teaching and curricular practices.

    Owing to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, I met with research participants through an online video communication platform for a series of individual research conversations held in 2020 and 2021. Working individually with John, Anthony, and Molly (pseudonyms), I engaged with each of them in a co-composing process to arrive at three narrative accounts based on their respective field texts and my reflective research memos. Thinking with these narrative accounts and through the three-dimensional narrative inquiry space of temporality, sociality, and place, I identified five resonant threads: 1) ongoing learning: towards empathy and social-mindedness; 2) the strengths of the FLC facilitators; 3) epistemological and ontological dissonance; 4) unsettling settlers; and 5) the urgency of settler action. These resonant threads provide insights into particular experiences that reverberated across John’s, Anthony’s, and Molly’s stories of experience and that resonated with my learning journey into decolonizing and Indigenizing. I closed this work with a return to the personal, practical, social, and theoretical justifications for the study, as well as an exploration of new wonders that have emerged from the findings.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Library with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.