Cheryl Matthew

An Indigenized Teaching and Scholarship Philosophy – A Life-Long Learner Centered Approach

My teaching philosophy focuses on a life-long learner centered approach to instruction rooted in Indigenous[i] values. I firmly believe that a teacher is more a facilitator to education, knowledge and experience within learners. I have a decolonized and Indigenized approach to teaching that is rooted in cultural traditions including the oral tradition, participatory learning through hands on practical application, group work, dialogue, and utilizing a variety of instructing styles for the diverse learner.

My philosophy of decolonization and indigenization at the basic level implies a commitment to understanding the historical, social, and economic conditions of Indigenous populations that fosters respect and understanding of the cultures, traditions, languages and protocols of Indigenous people into the work and learning environment. Indigenization is a process for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people which includes cross-cultural learning and understanding, and knowledge exchange “the central purpose of integrating Indigenous knowledge into Canadian schools is to balance the educational system to make it a transforming and capacity building place for First Nations students.”[ii] Utilizing various teaching styles that celebrate the many differences among Indigenous communities is one way of re-connecting people to their communities, and indigenizing the curriculum through a culturally-based education framework aimed at reducing alienation[iii]. It is also a way of “doing things” and an epistemology that requires a shift in thinking to a more holistic way of learning, teaching, thinking, and doing based on respect, recognition, reciprocity, reconciliation, transformation, empowerment and decolonization. Indigenization encompasses understanding and utilizing Indigenous approaches and methodologies such as restorative justice, use of the circle, and the oral tradition. An inclusive learning environment is a place where people feel they belong, where their culture and beliefs are reflected in the learning space and curriculum, and it is a place where all persons are treated equally and respectfully. The learning process is a two way street where knowledge is honoured and shared, and it is a never ending lifelong process in a learning organization.

Indigenization must also be rooted in an approach that recognizes decolonization and the different epistemologies and ontology’s of Indigenous people in Canada, without being grounded in an exclusively Eurocentric and pedagogical mindset. My vision of indigenization at the root of my teaching and scholarship philosophy is a holistic approach that encompasses: firstly, the recognition that Indigenous people in Canada are diverse including: First Nations (Status and Non Status), Métis, Inuit, mixed-heritage, urban and rural populations. Indigenization should therefore reflect a diversity of cultural learning and understanding that includes the three constitutionally recognized groups — First Nations, Métis and Inuit. Secondly, in order to bring a culturally relevant, holistic lens to the task I utilize Indigenous approaches such as the medicine wheel to focus on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual processes.

[i] The term Aboriginal is used as a category that includes First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, as specified in section 35.2 of the Constitution Act, 198, I employ the term occasionally but only in reference to names, government programs or definitions. When possible I avoid using the term Aboriginal since it is not viewed favourably by many Indigenous people because it is a word constructed by the Canadian government and is problematic in that it homogenizes the three distinct cultural groups. I employ the term Indigenous which is more inclusive, and culturally relevant since it refers to First Nations Status and Non-Status Indians, Metis, Inuit and also mixed Indigenous people in the national and international context. The United Nations defines Indigenous as “Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them (United Nations 2004).

[ii] Battiste 2002, pg 29.

[iii] CBE is premised on the theory that educators need to reinforce rather than suppress learners’ cultural identities to prevent failure (Kanu 2005, Barker 2009, Whitbeck et al. 2001, Demmert & Towner 2003, Fulford 2007, Kavanash 2006).

[iv] Andragogy is a specific theoretical and practical approach, based on a humanistic conception of self-directed and autonomous learners and teachers as facilitators of learning particularly for adults (Knowles 1980).

© Copyright 2017 Cheryl Matthew

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: