Indigenous Leading Practices in Post-Secondary Education
In 2012, the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training (the Ministry) launched the Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training Policy Framework and Action Plan (the Policy Framework), which commits to improving outcomes for Indigenous learners. A key objective of the Policy Framework is that public post-secondary institutions will implement policies, programs and services based on leading practices.
Leading practices are practices that lead to successful outcomes. These examples were collected by the Ministry and the B.C. Aboriginal Post-Secondary Coordinators in public post-secondary institutions, with input from the Indigenous Leadership of Post-Secondary Education institutions in British Columbia, Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training Partners, First Nations Education Steering Committee and Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association.
The following leading practices have been identified as strong examples with positive results.
- Develop Terms of Reference1 with Aboriginal communities.
- Work with local communities and ensure broad representation – urban and Métis organizations, and Indigenous institutes, learners and Elders.
- Ensure advisory council has a direct link to the president and/or board and that Indigenous community leadership is informed.
- Ensure advisory council actions respect local formal protocols.
- Ensure regular meetings based on the needs of the community. Meetings that encourage strong relationships, accountability and reporting.
- Adopt consensus-based or joint decision-making where member voices have equal weight.
- Use methods that ensure respectful dialogue. Use dispute resolution techniques, when required.
Case Study Summary
The case study featured in this section highlights some ways institutes can facilitate respectful, ongoing dialogue with Aboriginal Advisory Committees. In this case study, the Aboriginal Education Council (AEC) at North Island College (NIC) invited 35 First Nation communities and 12 Aboriginal organizations to discuss the College's strategic Aboriginal education plan over a 3-5 year period. Through those discussions, Terms of Reference and three regional Aboriginal advisory councils were created. These advisory councils meet three times a year with the Aboriginal Education Council. Most committee members are working professionals, such as Post-Secondary Education Managers or Coordinators, although Aboriginal student representation is welcomed. Because the majority of members are busy working professionals, one challenge the AEC faces is scheduling. To address this barrier, telephone calls are made to those who are unable to attend meetings and, occasionally, the AEC does telephone conference calls. Ultimately, this case study exemplifies some of the leading practices in Aboriginal advisory councils: how to work with Aboriginal communities to develop Terms of Reference, how to work with local communities to ensure broad representation, and how to ensure regular meetings based on the needs of the community.
1 Definition: Background, objectives, purpose, membership, roles and responsibilities, and scope of responsibility/authority of the committee.
- Support knowledge keepers in teaching protocols and expectations for care and use of Culturally Welcoming Spaces and Gathering Places.
- Recognize traditional territory/ies through protocols, traditional names and symbols.
- Portray Indigenous diversity of the region and institution in respectful ways.
- Support inclusive, intercultural learning and exchange, while balancing Indigenous cultural safety considerations.
- Include indoor/outdoor reception space for cultural events and ceremonies (e.g., Smudge, traditional food preparation, etc.).
- Establish outdoor garden area with Indigenous plants, spaces for ceremonies, etc.
- Provide student supports and academic resources in the culturally welcoming spaces at all public post-secondary institution campuses (e.g., tutoring/study skills, childcare, kitchen, internet access and phone service, etc.). Or provide referrals if those resources are not available.
Case Study Summary
The case study featured in this section highlights some ways to utilize gathering places to share cultural protocols, pedagogy/ies and practices with community members. In this example, the University of the Fraser Valley’s Gathering Space is discussed. The Aboriginal Centre, located at the Canada Education Park campus in Chilliwack, is modelled after a Stó:lō longhouse. It seats 200 people and has a sunken floor surrounded by layered bench seating. As a result of how this Gathering Place was designed, people using the space engage with a Stó:lō worldview that positions “the floor” as the ideal place to learn from because its central and everyone can see each other. The set-up of the space, the sunken floor and benches, requires instructors/facilitators to shift their methods of instruction to be on “the floor”. This, in turn, has enabled cultural learning for instructors and students alike. While classes happen in this space, Indigenous ceremonies are prioritized. If there is a conflict between a class and an Indigenous ceremony/event, classes are bumped. This means it is necessary to have a back-up space for classes scheduled in the Gathering Place. Ultimately, this case study illustrates how the design of a Gathering Space and the sorts of events hosted out of that space can contribute to cultural learning.
Leading Practices in Student Housing for Indigenous Learners and Their Families
- Put in place priority access housing policies and spaces for Indigenous learners and families.
- Engage a variety of Indigenous partners (staff, learners, Elders and community) in the design and development of student housing.
- Consider Indigenous values and current sustainability practices in the housing design process.
- Provide day visit space for Elder-in-Residence.
- Include Indigenous activities and ceremonies in residence activities and promote intercultural programs.
- Ensure lounges and commons are available for group or individual study. Ensure space is available for health and well-being events and family gatherings.
- Make resources about Indigenous housing options available well before the start of the school year.
Case Study Summary
The case study featured in this section highlights the University of Victoria (UVic), which provides varied priority housing options for Aboriginal students. UVic has created a Dedicated Indigenous Housing Partnership with the Office of Indigenous Affairs (INAF) and UVic Residence Services, making efforts to engage with a number of Aboriginal partners. The housing options include single-bed rooms, cluster rooms and family units, which reflect the diverse needs of Aboriginal students. UVic is in the process of discussing a new residence and intends to consult Aboriginal partners while designing this space. While residences do not currently include cultural activities and ceremonies, UVic is at the beginning stages of finding creative solutions so that Aboriginal learners are able to smudge. Ultimately, this case study exemplifies the leading practice of prioritizing housing for Aboriginal learners and their families and suggests some ways that post-secondary institutions can begin to engage a variety of Aboriginal partners in the design of student housing and include Aboriginal activities/ceremonies in residences.
Leading Practices in Building Awareness of Indigenous Knowledge
- Acknowledge the relevance to post-secondary institutions activities associated with Article 31 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Work with communities to develop and put in place cultural protocols and practices. Create knowledge-sharing agreements and messaging for sharing traditional and sacred knowledge.
- Leading Practices in Research and Data Collection
- Adopt ethical Indigenous research methods and approaches. For example, Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct for Research involving First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada (Chapter 9). Use culturally-appropriate, respectful methods that are specific to the project and community and that are led by collaborative practice and partnerships between communities and institutions.
- Understand Indigenous data collection processes and the collaborative research design. Understand the principles of ownership, control, access and protection. Use understanding of Indigenous methodologies and collaborative approaches to teach researchers how to avoid unintended cultural appropriation.
- Ensure Indigenous community representation on Ethics Boards. Where possible, help communities to develop their own review practices.
- Leading Practices in Pedagogy, Curriculum and Teaching Resources
- Ensure that appropriate permissions or recognition are in place in the development and use of education resources, and that they are specific and co-developed with communities.
- Ensure that Indigenous curriculum and resources are accessible to community members and local education programs. Make sure the way in which communities access curriculum and resources is co-developed and based on community needs.
- Continue community and institution sharing beyond a single course.
Case Study Summary
The following case study highlights some ways post-secondary institutions can work with communities to drive research projects, adopt ethical Indigenous research methods, and share knowledge beyond a specific course. This case study outlines an eight-year international, multi-sectoral research project, The Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH), which was led by Dr. George Nicholas through Simon Fraser University. The project explores the rights, values, and responsibilities of material culture, cultural knowledge and the practice of heritage research. IPinCH draws on the expertise and input of scholars, heritage professionals, community members, policy makers, and Indigenous organizations across the globe. The project serves as a practical resource and network of support for communities and researchers engaged in cultural heritage work. IPinCH values a collaborative approach and engages the community in the research process. Communities determine the research goals and the practical and theoretical outputs. Findings from this project have been shared through conferences, papers, a resource guide for creators/designers, a blog, videos and resources for Indigenous community members, researchers, policy makers and the public. This project exemplifies the leading practices of working with communities, using ethical Indigenous research methods and sharing knowledge beyond specific courses.
Leading Practices in Partnerships
- Work with Indigenous community partners, both in discussions and writing of agreements. Partnerships should show respect and an exchange of effort from all sides.
- Use institutional and community leadership oversight in ways that are sustainable and valued on the community side.
- Ensure communication between Indigenous community and institutional leadership is clear, responsive and mutual.
- When partnering, public institutions need to be willing to provide resources – human and financial.
- Provide help for shared access to resources (such as library, internet, faculty expertise) for community partners.
- Change course/program offerings to meet specific community needs.
- Plan transition strategies for learners to transition to further education/training, or to work.
Case Study Summary
The case study in this section highlights the relationship between Camosun College and the WSÁNEĆ School Board (WSB). This relationship exemplifies some key leading practices in partnerships, namely how to create respectful agreements and how to use institutional and community leadership in ways that are sustainable and valued on the community side. Camosun College signed a five-year Relationship Agreement in 2012 with the WSÁNEĆ School Board (WSB) that builds on previous agreements. It took a year to develop a written agreement that reflected the shared values of the two organizations to serve the educational needs of the WSÁNEĆ people and communities. Following the goals and purposes of the agreement, Camosun helped the Saanich Adult Education Centre and UVic to establish a SENĆOŦEN language program, even though doing so may not have been in Camosun’s best interest. Camosun made this decision because the College knew that language training is a priority for the WSÁNEĆ community and that the University was best positioned to provide this education. In making this decision, they showed leadership that is valued on the community side.
Leading Practices in Assessment and Benchmarking
- Pre-Assessment Leading Practices
- Provide enough preparation and time to encourage respectful working relationships between institution and community staff with the focus of understanding the broader context of Indigenous learner needs and the available resources to address them.
- Arrange suitable space, technology and assessment tools, particularly when supporting smaller communities.
- Develop ways to make sure learner records and forms get submitted before starting assessment.
- Create an individualized learning plan for each community learner. Create the plan early in the pre-assessment phase and while institution staff are in the community.
- Provide practice material (web links to resources if required) and chances for review before the assessment.
- Ensure that test instruments are culturally inclusive, bias-reduced and generate many data/methods to improve decision making.
- Plan for Elder, cultural support and counselling resources before, during, and after the assessment.
- Build trust with learners. Ensure that learners have an upfront overview of the assessment process and purpose.
- Assessment Leading Practices
- Integrate cultural elements into the assessment room to offer the learner a source of comfort.
- Ensure that the learner understands that the assessment process and purpose is not a final step. Assessment is the first step in the education/training or learning plan.
- Use alternative methods, such as dialogue, letter writing and problem solving to assess learner skill levels.
- Provide learners with in-person feedback. Feedback should use cultural debriefing tools, e.g., personal oral story, to discover the unique needs of each learner. Feedback should construct relevant, individualized education/training and career plans.
- Post-Assessment Leading Practices
- Use strength-based advising to identify and build on learner strengths.
- Provide learners the chance to explore and identify other assessment methods that best fit their needs.
- Ensure learners are aware of the academic, cultural, personal and financial supports available for their education/training and career plans.
- Provide opportunities to explore upgrading and other options to get learners into their chosen programs, etc.
- Promote learner independence by teaching and encouraging online self-registration while being sensitive to the technological capacity within the community.
- Debrief effectiveness of the assessment process, including accommodation for disabilities. Identify barriers and ways to provide learners with continued support.
- Facilitate initial and ongoing communication between band education coordinators and upgrading instructors to prevent misunderstandings about the placement process and purpose.
- Benchmarking Leading Practices
- Adopt benchmarks for recognizing, describing and measuring proficiency in literacy, essential skills and adult upgrading. Use measures/tools created or selected in collaboration with the community.
- Use benchmarking tools that assess the progress of adult literacy learners in community literacy programs. Tools should measure and document a learner’s skill level in five domains (math, reading, writing, oral communications, information technology and participation). Tools should be used at various points (e.g. intake and exit points), including quarterly or midway assessment points, in the learning process so the learner has a chance to address any areas for improvement.
- Adopt First Nations language benchmarks, where they exist, to assess proficiency, progress and ability in First Nations language acquisition, comprehension and speaking (and/or fluency).
- Understand that benchmarks are a guide to learning, not a prescription, and they do not assume a standardized curriculum.
- Encourage the use, development and sharing of resources and research that promotes emerging Indigenous-focused standards in program assessments. Make sure that the research and resources integrate cultural practices, test instruments, and tools for adult literacy and upgrading.
Case Study Summary
This case study highlights an example of an assessment tool, the Community Based Assessment (CBA) service used through Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) that provides practice opportunities for students, offers strength-based feedback, and builds trust. The CBA partners with Aboriginal communities to provide prospective post-secondary students with opportunities to test out their knowledge. The service includes in-community assessment preparation, supervision, review and the creation of individual education plans for each prospective learner. An assessment summary outlines and identifies possible educational priorities and opportunities for the community. The summary provides the learner with the experiential learning and information necessary to start and/or return to their education journey. If computer space is available, a Career Cruising workshop can also be administered. Supervisors are Test of Workplace Essential Skills (TOWES) certified and TOWES administration can be arranged during a CBA. This personalized process gives learners time to practice assessments and get feedback and support in an environment that is culturally welcoming.
- Engage communities to understand their unique barriers and pathways to post-secondary education to identify capacity gaps and to support education planning for transition.
- Work with high school and post-secondary education/training personnel and organizations, including counsellors, Indigenous education support workers, First Nations education coordinators, Indigenous Institutes/Adult education centers, etc., that provide Indigenous transition support, and include families and/or community outreach workers, where appropriate.
- Support upgrading and study skills to ensure learner readiness for academic success.
- Support strategies that provide continued learner supports from community to public post-secondary institution that mobilize institution/school and community personnel and resources.
- Engage the community to work on transition plans for Indigenous learners of all ages in the community and in high schools. Ensure support includes Elders, peer mentors and Indigenous transition planners.
- Provide cultural competency training, including community exchanges, for staff and faculty development in order to provide a seamless continuum of student support from community to public post-secondary institution.
Case Study Summary
The case study featured in this section highlights one leading practice in Aboriginal K-12 Post-Secondary Transitions: working with high school and post-secondary education/training personnel and organizations to provide Aboriginal transition support. In this example, Okanagan College Aboriginal Transition Planners are discussed. These planners are an important resource for Indigenous students who are interested in attending Okanagan College or who are already enrolled. Planners act as the main point of contact for recruitment and as a community liaison. The role of the Aboriginal Transition Planner is also to work with students to develop and put in place an individual plan so that they can find the right path to achieve their goals and navigate through the course and program options available.
- Identify and recruit Indigenous student role models who have successfully managed transitions and challenges, particularly in fields where Indigenous students are underrepresented, i.e., engineering, applied science, teaching, law, commerce, etc. Ensure that Indigenous mentors/role models have community experience and knowledge of Indigenous perspectives embedded in their life and practice; and, ensure a role for Elders to participate in this process.
- Ensure that Indigenous peer mentors have the training they need for one-on-one relationship-building. Make sure that the training teaches them how to advise and refer mentees to other resources when necessary.
- Provide opportunities for formal and informal mentoring, when there is student interest, in order to foster effective and authentic relationship development.
- Provide non-Indigenous mentors of Indigenous students with cultural awareness training that includes the local impacts of residential schools.
- Provide faculty and staff with cultural competency training so that they can mentor students.
- Work with other student leadership groups on campus to create a sense of community and build trust and mutual support. For example, student ambassadors, international peer helpers and student residence assistants, etc.
Case Study Summary
The case study featured in this section highlights Vancouver Island’s Aboriginal Mentorship Program, ‘Su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins. This mentorship program aligns with the following leading practices: ensuring that Aboriginal peer mentors/role models have the training they need for one-on-one relationship building; providing faculty and staff with cultural competency training; and, working with other student groups on campus to create a sense of community. ‘Su’luqw’a’ training covers the following topics: mentorship (from an Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspective), self-awareness, communication, and resources available for students on and off campus. Trained mentors are provided with leadership opportunities, such as facilitating KAIROS Blanket Exercises to faculty. While facilitating workshops, new and younger Cousins shadow experienced mentors, which enables them to learn through observation. The Cousins are also involved in professional development opportunities offered through the Office of Aboriginal Education & Engagement and in Learning Circles where they provide their insight and feedback on their experiences as students. An Elder is also part of the ‘Su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins program. Ultimately, this program exemplifies ways to train mentors and faculty while also building community.