A crowd gathered for the second annual Indigenous Research event, hosted by the Faculty of Education’s Research & Graduate Programs office and First Nations University, Thursday, September 26, as part of the University of Regina’s Indigenous Research Showcase Week. Elder and Master’s student Alma Poitrois shared about her research, taking the audience through several layers of circles, offering a deeper understanding of her Indigenous worldview and a natural curriculum.
Following a break of bannock and tea, a panel moderated by Dr. Kathleen O’Reilly discussed “What is an indigenous research methodology? and Why is it important?” To begin the panel discussion, Dr. Angelina Weenie offered naskwahamākēwin, accompanying the women with song, to honour their courage and process. Dr. Angelina Weenie, Dr. Anna-Leah King, Mary Sasakamoose, and Ida Swan shared their thoughts about indigenous research methodology and its importance from their own experiences and research. The panel discussion highlighted the importance of ceremony as part of the research, of language, of engaging with the heart, of mother, of story, and of song and drum.
Dr. Fatima Pirbhai-Illich (University of Regina) and Dr. Fran Martin (University of Exeter) speak candidly about how working collaboratively across multiple differences, including interculturality, spirituality, disciplinary, and personality differences, though difficult at times, has
informed their research into decolonizing approaches to pedagogy, extended their network of research collaborators, and broadened their vision and impact as well as establishing a lifelong friendship.
Shuana: How would each of you describe yourself personally, academically, and professionally?
Fatima: At a personal level, I describe myself as a human being in relation with the world, and with people around me and nature and so forth. But more so, a very spiritual being; I’m very connected spiritually to both esoteric and to the materiality that we have around us. Academically I categorize myself as being transnational, and professionally as an educator, and a learner. I’m a learner at each stage of everything I do. As a researcher, my focus is to work with marginalized and minoritized communities, to understand what harms and injustices have been done and that continue to be done, and I try to figure out a way to ameliorate the harms and injustices. …to do something that is going to be more sustainable, but also to try to understand issues of power around those injustices and to address the power imbalance so that it’s not just about fixing something, it’s more structural change, systemic. How can we work within an ethical framework that includes my spiritual ways of being and to work ethically with and across difference.
Fran: When I describe myself personally, I start with my family; I’m very connected to my family. I’m a twin. I come from a farming background. I’m gay. Academically and professionally, there is a blending between my personal self and my professional self in terms of who I am: one blends into the other. So, why do I say that? My professional self is an educator even from when I first trained to become a teacher and went into early years education, and then from there went into being a teacher advisor, and then from there into higher education working with preservice teachers and so on. I always have had a desire to make a difference and focused more on student voice, and trying to support those whom I perceived to have less of a voice in their education to have more of a voice in their education. In those early days, I was far less aware of how I acted systematically and institutionally; it was more on an individual basis. I’ve come to know more, far more, about that working with Fatima. …My brothers and sisters and myself are all boarding school survivors. I think it was hugely damaging to us in some ways. It gave us lots of advantages from the type of education we received. But emotionally it was probably quite damaging. So we have all grown up to be people who care about fairness, and obviously a particular view of what fairness means, and justice in different ways. I’m sure that’s from where, partly, the need to support student voice came, because in the boarding school I didn’t have any voice at all.
I went into geography education initially, and that has to do with the farming background and living on and in the land. All of our family ways of being, our family funds of knowledge, revolved around the seasonal and daily patterns of farm life, my dad being a farmer. A lot of that has moved into my interests in being a educator as well.
Fatima: And just as your life revolved around farming, our life was determined by the spiritual aspect. Even while you’re here, Fran, I have to look at a calendar and see what special prayers we have today before I can make a decision about what we can do. The spiritual dimension comes first before anything else.
Shuana: Is it because you’ve had to move a lot, that spirituality is more important than place? Fatima: I come from Tanzania, East Africa, a country that was colonized by the Portuguese, the Germans, the Omanis, and the last ones were the British, and so we’ve had to learn how to adapt with each colonizer. During the time leading to independence and soon after there was a lot of civil unrest, people that could afford it, or even if they couldn’t, would borrow money to send their kids abroad to study. That was the start for me. I went to Kenya to study, and then to Canada to do my bachelor’s degree, and Surrey, UK to do my master’s degree, but I couldn’t get a job. I think in those days (1985-88) Canadians were pretty racist, overtly racist. That’s when the moving from here to there started: life circumstances that forced me to move or to leave and try something different.
Shuana: How, where, and when did the two of you meet?
Fatima: We met in Australia. I was on sabbatical in 2013, and Fran was, too. We met through a mutual friend I was staying with while teaching at the Australian Catholic University at that time.
Fran: And, I was in Newcastle, doing some work with a teacher educator there, and I let our mutual friend know that I was in the area because Newcastle is only a train ride away from Sydney. She said, ‘You must come down. I’ve got this other friend staying at the moment and you’d get on.’ So I went.
Fatima: The interesting thing was, we were having a drink, enjoying olive tapenade with pita bread, and we were sitting at the table and as we started to talk, we realized how similar our work was, although in different areas, but so similar and yet here we were, I was from Canada, Fran from the UK, and we were working in silos. And we thought, you know, we should pool our knowledges together and see what we can do with our combined knowledge. Literally that is when we started collaborating.
Shuana: What was the similarity you recognized?
Fatima: The intercultural part was the similarity. Learning to understand difference, it’s an intercultural exchange and Fran’s work also does that. Fran: At that point I was just coming to the end of a research project that looked at the intercultural dimension of study visits for teachers and preservice teachers from the UK to West Africa, in one instance, and southern India in the other instance. The research took a postcolonial lens on the nature of the relationship between the countries and the context that provided for the ways in which individuals interacted with each other and learned from each other, and the ways in which people positioned each other because of that colonial history. We got talking about interculturality and criticality and that’s where it started.
Fatima: I had incorporated critical service learning with the ERDG 425 course where students learn how to work with difference and still having issues around the colonial mentality and colonial educational paradigm that we’re engaged in and Fran was looking at it from the international perspective—Fran: global north, global south—Fatima: The whole point was that if we’re going to try to dismantle colonial ways of thinking, being, viewing, and doing, then doing it in Regina alone is not going to take it far. But if you can do it at a global level, and take it to the seat of colonialism, England, then that would possibly make it more effective, not even effective, more consciousness raising, and— Fran: far-reaching.
Shuana: How did you develop and grow this collaboration? What were your next steps?
Fran: Two things really: first was that we were invited by the academic who I had been staying with in Newcastle to consider putting a chapter together as part of a book that she was editing. We agreed to do that. Fatima was involved in a project in Sydney that presented some possibilities for working together, as well. We also thought if there were opportunities for us to act as visiting scholars at each other’s universities that maybe some other opportunities might present themselves. So we did that. We both sought ways in which we could spend some time in each other’s contexts. Fatima: We sought funding from the University of Exeter, SIDRU [a research unit in the Faculty of Education], and the University of Regina President’s SSHRC grant. Fran: At Exeter, as part of the internationalization of the University, we have two associated visiting academic funding schemes: One for inviting an academic to come and work with you and the other to support you to go and work in another university.
Shuana: What were your initial expectations of this relationship? Did you see how this would unfold?
Fatima: We jointly worked out what we would need to do in order to get to where we are now. That included working with people at the University of Exeter, and working with other partners outside of the Faculty of Education. …Exeter provided that environment to be able to engage in discussions with other colleagues, to build our own thinking, and to move to a different space and place theoretically and at a practical level. I had support from the University of Exeter and the continued support is that I’m considered an important part of their research group, an associate member of the new—Fran: It’s now called the Creativity and Emergent Education Network. This collaboration has developed into a network— we have contacts in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, other members in Canada, some in Brazil, and Europe—which was partly facilitated by our both being invited by Vanessa to—Fatima: the Ethical Internationalization in Higher Education research project. Vanessa Andreotti from UBC had a massive grant. We were about 30-40 collaborators in about 20 universities worldwide. We became part of a fabulous network and we still have this network.
Shuana: The network is a really important aspect, then? Fatima: I think so. I think we have to move out of our comfort zone and be able to reach out to others. But we have to be comfortable in our own skin, and in who we are. Because I think when you are working with other educators from around the world—we all have different talents and strengths and weaknesses—we’ve got to be able to learn how to complement each other rather than compete with each other. The whole concept of competition, which is what the academy, the neo-liberal agenda is pushing, we’ve got to disrupt it… If we understand that we can be successful,…we can be cooperative, but ethically cooperative. We have to let go of a lot of pride and arrogance. It’s all about being humble, about having humility. Fran: Our professional relationship, however, is the core of what we do. Most of the empirical research takes place here. That’s, for us, the focal point of a much larger network.
Shuana: You are both researchers in difference and intercultural relationships, and you also have this dynamic in your relationship. How are differences resolved in your working relationship, and how has this relationship informed your work?
Fatima: Just to foreground, I have spent 55 years of my life learning about the other and learning to live with the other and I still don’t make it. It’s taken me 55 years to be where I am today, to be able to somewhat integrate and to be able to play the game, to navigate who I am outside of my home and who I am inside my home.
Fran: It’s been both the most rewarding and the most uncomfortable of relationships because to be true to the work that we are interested in, we have to really be prepared to look—I had to be prepared to look deep inside myself and become much more aware of the background I come from: the fact that I am British, White, middle to upper class, I’ve had loads of privileges in life. I was completely unaware of how many doors those opened to me that would have been closed to people like Fatima. At the beginning, and not wanting to own some of that stuff, it’s been uncomfortable. It’s been a really, really steep learning curve. But I would say that the way that we learn from our dynamic and theorize around our dynamic—and there have been times that I thought I don’t want to theorize around Fatima’s dynamic anymore; it has felt a bit like that, but obviously that is just in the moment—but if we can’t do it as researchers ourselves, then how can we possibly do it as part of the research we are focussing on or the hope that teachers work with students in particular ways… We have to do the work ourselves, as well, is what I’m saying.
One of the things I’ve learned that is hardest about the critical interculturality is to focus or stick with the differences and try to really start to understand what is behind those differences rather than just staying at the superficial level—it’s not about resolving them, it’s about understanding them as deeply as you possibly can, how differences relate to a whole set of socio-cultural historical complexities. Even in the most apparently innocuous type of conversation, a misunderstanding can arise because of those differences. It’s enriched, I feel, what we’ve done together and what’s been possible and been uncomfortable and—Fatima: difficult.
Fatima: What Fran has been working on over the past 6 years, I’ve had to do since I was five or six. It’s difficult for somebody who hasn’t had that lens before, to start looking from a different lens. I’ve seen Fran struggle and I’ve seen her get frustrated…but I know she’s got to figure it out. I won’t say anything and then she’ll come back, and she’ll say, ‘Oh, I understand.’ At times, I find it frustrating as well, but what I end up doing is I say, ‘Let’s just carry on.’ So it’s a personality difference, but it’s also that the spiritual part of my way is to let it go.
Fran: I sometimes think that if I was not gay, if I had not in the 1970s and 80s struggled with my sexuality, and then subsequently had a lot of counselling and support to be comfortable in my own skin, I’m not sure that we could have worked together in this way. So, although I haven’t had the 50 – 60 years of learning the game and all the rest of it that Fatima has had to learn, there have been elements of difference in me that I’ve had to learn about and be comfortable with. Fatima: She was positioned or categorized as being different, and also as not being acceptable, really. And that understanding of her own identity has kept her open to learn about difference and trying to work with difference.
Shuana: Do you have an intentional strategy for your friendship when differences arise?
Fran: Personally it’s a strategy I’ve developed through counselling: When something feels most uncomfortable, that is the very thing you should look at. Go away and think about, then come back when the heat has died down a little bit.
Fatima: It’s one of my conditions that truthfulness and honesty is in the relationship: honesty has to be on the table all the time or I would walk away.
Shuana: Would you say your working relationship has translated into a lifelong friendship?
Fatima: (laughing) Oh dear! I’m going to have a party on Monday [when Fran leaves for the UK]. I think yes, we’re very close. Fran: You’re one of my best friends. Fatima: I feel very safe with Fran. I feel very safe to tell her what I’m thinking, how I’m thinking. And, trust—it isn’t just about feeling safe, it’s also about trust. Trust has developed over time, over the 6 years that we’ve been working together.
Shuana: What does that future vision look like?
Fatima: This part of the research is complete now. We are moving onto a different level of work, which is informed by the last 10 years of work. It’s not that we are finished working with each other; we are finished with what we’ve been working on. Fran: We are moving into the impact and influence phase. Fatima: We have developed an imaginary of what a decolonial relationship in education would look like, so we’re writing a book for preservice teachers and for educators to see the possibilities of working with difference. And our next phase, now, is to move into professional development for educators in higher education, at the university level. How does someone work in a decolonial way to educate students?… we want to look at it from a decolonial lens, from more pluralistic and more cosmopolitan ways of being and doing.
Fran: A few years ago, at a joint U of Regina/U of Exeter event, we made some contacts with some people in the UK. One contact in particular runs a community interest company, which is working with both in-service teachers and teacher educators. He calls it cooperative values-based education and he has become very interested in what we are doing, and likewise we are interested in what he is doing. He’s trying to work in ways that bring values and ethics back into what counts as education because in the UK we are so driven by the neo-liberal commodified version of education where everything is about assessment, targets, pupils are clients, input/output, everything is value for money…He’s trying to work with teachers who want to work otherwise than colonial. But there is also a decolonizing movement that has started in England, and we’re in at ground zero. Universities are coming to understand that they are not going to be able to do what they have been doing. All the others are focusing on the curriculum. Our focus is on the relationship and then the curriculum will follow.
Shuana: What would you say was the most significant, most exciting moment in your work thus far?
Fatima: When we discovered that we’d actually developed this imaginary that was working, that we could see how this could work in education. We weren’t even sure if it was going to be a heuristic, a framework, or an approach, and then we decided it had to be called an imaginary, because its so many possibilities. Fran: The work is all about trying to re-imagine what educational relationships are all about. Fatima: Within that educational relationship, it’s about relationship to people, to the space, so we’re taking in posthumanism—I don’t like to use the word posthumanism because this concept has existed for thousands of years in other communities…, —Fran: Human and more than human? Fatima: Yes, [the imaginary] encapsulates all that. I’m enthralled with it. We’ve seen how what we’ve been doing each year, how we’ve grown from our own understanding for how we can do it, and we can see the possibilities for our others to take this on.
Fran: I would say that equally my own personal shifts and growth, as a result of this relationship, opening my eyes and understanding to things that I was completely ignorant or unconscious of before. Ignorant in the sense of you don’t know what you don’t know. Fatima: I love working with Fran. Fran: Fatima’s generosity—as we’ve gotten to know each other, we’ve opened up our families to each other, as well, and Fatima has opened up her faith and given me insights that I would never have got otherwise, and that has been immensely rewarding.
Shuana: Key message to other researchers?
Fran: I would always recommend that researchers collaborate but in order to successfully collaborate, first of all you need to be in it for the long term, and secondly, you need to be prepared to stick through all the really, really tricky stuff.
Fatima: Critical relationality is the key to a long-term collaboration.
What is the connection between horses, educational psychology, and Indigenous youth and culture?
Reconnecting with cultural and traditional ways of knowing and being is increasingly seen as a significant part of the healing and learning process for First Nations peoples, whose culture has been historically and systemically oppressed by the colonization process. Language revitalization has been a key focus of cultural preservation and reclamation, but Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is a relatively new and less understood approach to learning and healing, at least among the scientific community. For Indigenous peoples, however, horses have long been viewed as carriers of knowledge and healers. The preservation of the critically endangered Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies, then, is part of the process of cultural reclamation and preservation, and thereby healing and learning, as relations between Indigenous horses and peoples are (re)established.
Dr. Angela McGinnis, an Assistant Professor of educational psychology in the Faculty of Education and an Indigenous Health Researcher, and her graduate student, Kelsey Moore, are conducting SIDRU-funded research to better understand how and why Indigenous youth benefit from working with Indigenous horses, specifically the seven Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies being cared for by Angela and her partner Cullan McGinnis at The Red Pony Stands® Ojibwe Horse Sanctuary. Founded by Angela and Cullan, the Sanctuary “is an Indigenous owned and operated not-for-profit.” The Sanctuary receives some financial support by private and corporate sponsors and donors; however, these supports do not cover all of the costs: Angela says, “The majority of the work and expenses fall on my partner (Cullan) and I to keep the ponies happy and healthy, both physically and spiritually. Our mission is to protect, promote, and preserve the critically endangered Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony breed.”
Angela, Cullan, and the Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies all originate from Treaty 3 territory in Northwestern Ontario. Horses have been part of Angela’s life from her earliest memories at her home in Fort Frances. “I have a picture of me on a horse before I could even walk,” says Angela. Her parents were caretakers of Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies and Nez Perce horses. Angela credits her father as a mentor who has taught her a great deal from his knowledge of working with horses.
Reconnecting with her Métis/Ojibwe cultural identities has been a focus of Angela’s education and healing. Cultural connectedness was a central concept in her research at Western University, where she received a PhD in clinical psychology in 2015. As part of her doctoral research, Angela developed a measure to assist in determining the extent to which cultural connectedness is associated with health and well-being, specifically among First Nations youth. Angela’s findings indicate that cultural connectedness is a positive predictor of mental health. This is critical knowledge because, as Angela says, “the mental health and well-being of youth is one of the most urgent concerns affecting many First Nations communities across Canada.” Angela views her work in educational psychology as “a perfect fit” for the research in which she is engaged. She says healing and learning are inseparable: “You can’t have healing without learning, or learning without healing.”
Since completing her doctoral research, Angela has been seeking to understand how cultural connectedness can be developed through, what she calls, “real-world experiences,” which include strengthened relationships with the land and all its “more-than-human” creatures, particularly the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony. Broadening health research to include the more-than-human world is important to Angela because, she says, “We need to situate well-being within a larger network of social relations, with both the human and more-than-human worlds. We need to focus beyond the individual and extend our understandings about health and well-being to living in relation to all else, not just for the present but for future generations as well.”
With her expertise in psychology and her passion for the preservation of the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony breed, Angela is perfectly situated to bridge, in her words, “often seemingly conflicting world views… I understand Western mental health perspectives, but this work requires an understanding of Indigenous perspectives of holistic wellness to fully understand the role of the ponies in the resilience process.” Angela likens the loss of contact with Indigenous horses experienced by Indigenous communities to the loss of family members: “Part of their family has been ripped away,” she says. Reconnecting Indigenous youth and adults with Indigenous horses brings about “indescribable moments,” says Angela. These moments spark the ‘I remember when…’ stories told by Elders about the ponies and traditional ways of life and are, Angela believes, charged with healing potential. “These are moments that could potentially change someone’s life. To see that happening in front of you, it’s a privilege.” Angela felt especially privileged to hear of the repatriation of the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony to Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation, from which her partner, Cullan, originates. She says, “I was completely moved by the return of three black geldings to this community.” During a recent visit to see the community’s ponies, Cullan had opportunity to meet the geldings for the first time. Angela says, “The reunion of these family members was so powerful—an emotional reuniting. The bond between the geldings and Cullan was instant. It’s a culturally specific relationship that dates back to pre-Colonial contact. This type of relationship can’t be replicated with any other breed of horse.”
Reunions such as these lead to the beginning of relationships with the more-than-human world, and are what Angela calls a “doorway to the culture,” which can help youth make other cultural connections, such as ceremony. For instance, Angela and Cullan’s relationship with the Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies at the Sanctuary has meant that they have sought guidance from local traditional Elders and engaged in horse-specific traditional ceremonies held in communities, such as the Horse Dance. Angela would like to share the doorway experience with her Educational Psychology students: “I want to help students step through that doorway. That’s how we understand how to help others, by experiencing it ourselves. And in return we help the ponies. That’s the whole mutual helping process, helping the horses in their fight against extinction. We need the Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies as much as they need us,” says Angela. She plans to start bringing her students out to the Sanctuary for classes in Spring. A 20-foot tipi will be raised as Angela prepares to bring her students in contact with the ponies and the land.
Master’s student Kelsey Moore, who received a B.Ed. in Indigenous Education from First Nations University of Canada, is now undertaking her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Regina under the supervision of Dr. McGinnis and the mentorship of Life Speaker Noel Starblanket. Kelsey is Métis and grew up in Yorkton. Her lifelong passion for horses began with several summers spent working with youth at horse camps and riding stables and continued with her experience of getting to know the Curly Horse breed at her inlaws’ farm. Her thesis research question perfectly intersects with Angela’s interest in understanding and offering evidence-based research to explain how and why Indigenous youth benefit in both educational outcomes and mental health, through establishing relationships with horses and how Equine Assisted Learning programs can be successfully culturally adapted.
Kelsey and Angela are amazed to have found each other. Angela says, “What are the chances of me finding a student who wants to work with Indigenous horses?” The two researchers are working toward the same ends as those involved in language revitalization: “We are all tackling a shared goal: Cultural preservation,” Angela says. The actual preservation of the critically endangered Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony extends as a metaphor for cultural and identity preservation: “Their mere presence is a counternarrative to the colonial narrative of the extinction of Indigenous horses to the Americas,” says Angela. Indeed, the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony’s survival itself inspires hope. But beyond that, Angela feels that interaction with Indigenous horses gives “Indigenous youth opportunities to connect with horses who have resilience and strength, like their own, that they can identify with, a culturally specific story,” she says.
What exactly is Equine Assisted Learning (EAL)?
Snowshoe and Starblanket (2016) state that EAL “is a relatively new approach to knowledge acquisition that draws primarily on the tenets of experiential learning, that is, learning through hands-on experience with the horse (Dell, Chalmers, Dell, Sauve, & MacKinnon, 2008).”
To deepen her understanding of EAL, Kelsey received EAL certification in August at Cartier Farms, near Prince Albert. Cartier Farms teaches that establishing an experiential hands-on working relationship with horses, with their sensitivity, non-verbal communications, resilience, and forgiving ways, can be an effective approach to learning, to self-knowledge, and to self-evaluation.
Angela, who has been guided by the traditional Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and communities with whom she has worked, sees the potential for healing and learning in culturally adapted EAL. Angela views horses as “more-than-human co-constructors of knowledge.” Horses have much to teach us about the land and living on the land, she says. Elders and Knowledge Keepers have taught Angela that, with their four feet always on the ground, horses have a greater connection with Mother Earth, and through this connection, the Creator. Thus, traditionally, horses have been considered a source of maintaining and recovering holistic wellness.
Upon the arrival of Angela’s first Pony at the Sanctuary, a beautiful stallion, affectionately named Sagineshkawa (Pleasure with my Arrival), she says, “I realized that I should not rush things. I needed to slow down and have humility, especially around a powerful being like a horse…This was the horse that I had to pay attention to and listen to spiritually.” Angela is grateful to all her ponies for their patience in teaching her. Kelsey’s experiences with horses have similarly given her the understanding that she must “slow down and be present in the moment,” she says. “Helping humans slow down is a way that the horses care for us,” says Angela. She views the horse-human relationship as one of mutual caring: “We are caretakers of them and the land, but the ponies also take care of us.”
Yet, there is an urgency that requires speed in this research due to the need for Indigenous youth to be able to access culturally adapted healing and learning programs. As a mother of a toddler, Kelsey had intended to move a bit slower with her research, but she says everything is moving much quicker than she planned or expected. Kelsey’s research, using what Angela describes as “a pure Indigenous research method,” seeks to understand the spiritual and cultural connections between Indigenous youth and Indigenous horses. Incorporating ceremony as research, Kelsey is documenting her interactions and deep listening experiences with the ponies, along with the conversations she has with Elders and Knowledge Keepers to make sense of what she observes.
The two researchers are already envisioning and talking about future plans. Angela says, “We hope to apply for an operating grant to help Kelsey set up her own Indigenous-centered Equine-Assisted Learning and healing program in the community, following the completion of her academic work.”
The Sanctuary has recently gained international attention. It will be featured in a short documentary film currently being produced by National Geographic as part of the Natural Connections Project. The film will document how EAL contributes to the well-being of First Nations youth. Through the film, Angela hopes to showcase “how Indigenous communities are using horses to connect with culture, strengthen positive relationships, and learn through activities with horses and nature.”
On Tuesday, April 10, graduate students from Dr. Marc Spooner’s ED 800 course, an introduction to educational research, hosted a Poster Fair, sharing their poster research proposals around (new and interesting) food and conversations. Spooner, who invited faculty to attend, says, “This is a perfect opportunity for our graduate students to see what ED 800 and research is all about and for faculty to see and discuss what our students are thinking about researching.” Through experiences such as this, Spooner says, students gain “some conference-like experience in a warm, familiar, and supportive environment.”
in education is a peer-reviewed, open access journal that is based in the
Faculty of Education, University of Regina, in Saskatchewan, Canada. The
journal has been in existence since 1993, but published its first issue as
an online journal in December of 2009. The editorial board invites scholarly
articles and reviews of works that explore ideas in teacher education, as
well as broader and more inclusive discussions in education.
We invite you to review the Table of Contents here and then visit our web
site to review articles and items of interest.
Thanks for the continuing interest in our work,
Val Mulholland, Acting Editor-in-Chief
Patrick Lewis, Editor-in-Chief
Shuana Niessen, Managing Editor, in education
Mollenhauer’s Representation: The Role of Preservice Teachers in the Practices of Upbringing (pp. 3-24)
Andrew Foran, Daniel B. Robinson
Story as a Means of Engaging Public Educators and Indigenous Students (pp. 25-42)
Patterns in Contemporary Canadian Picture Books: Radical Change in Action (pp. 43-70)
Beverley Brenna, Shuwen Sun, Yina Liu
Early Career Teachers’ Evolving Content-Area Literacy Practices (pp. 71-86)
Anne Murray-Orr, Jennifer Mitton-Kukner
A Review of The Way of the Teacher: A Path for Personal Growth and Professional Fulfillment by Sandra Finney and Jane Thurgood Sagal (pp. 87-88)
Dr. Paul Hart will be presenting as part of a Keynote Panel for the Research Symposium at the 45th annual North American Association for Environmental Education conference in mid-October. This conference, to be held in Madison, Wisconsin, “will link powerful stories of innovation and success in EE (Environmental Education) from around the world with how environmental education builds community and creates purposeful change.” David Suzuki is listed as one of the Keynote Speakers.
Dr. Hart’s “interactive panel will address the challenges of maintaining and communicating rigor in research from several positions based on panelist’s individual perspectives. Given these diverse questions and perspectives, panelists will create openings for our ongoing discussions of what counts as quality across diverse genres of EE research.”
Assistant Professor in Early Childhood Education, Dr. Christine Massing, was recognized by the Canadian Association of Teacher Education(CATE) with the CATE Award for her doctoral dissertation, An Ethnographic Study of Immigrant and Refugee Women’sKnowledge Construction in an Early Childhood Teacher Education Program at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE) Congress held in Calgary in May, 2016.
This honor acknowledges Christine’s excellent work and important contribution to Canadian teacher education research.
The following is an interview with Christine about her research, which explored how immigrant and refugee women construct understandings of the authoritative or dominant discourse of early childhood in relation to their own beliefs, values, knowledges, and experiences:
What circumstances/situation led you to research the topic of your dissertation?
At the time I was contemplating doctoral studies, I was teaching in an early childhood program specifically designed for immigrants and refugees. At the end of my first year, one of my students, a refugee from Somalia who had raised 10 university-educated children, expressed to me that she now realized that her approach to mediating her children’s disputes had been “wrong.” Through conversations with my students over the next year, I came to understand that some of the theories and practices they were learning in the program were dissonant with their own understandings. Because I have also lived and taught in diverse contexts—Japan, Egypt, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, and in two First Nations communities here in Canada—their comments resonated with me to some extent (although as a temporary visitor I did not experience such discontinuities between worldviews as acutely as my students did). I felt concerned that many of these women—all of whom had extensive experience as mothers, teachers, or caregivers in their home countries—might believe that they needed to abandon all that they knew about teaching and caring for young children to be accepted in Canadian school and preschool settings. Despite their candor, I sensed that they were reticent to be too critical of the program and, by extension, me as an instructor so I felt I might elicit more details as a researcher.
How has your research impacted your personal and/or professional life?
On a personal level, I have appreciated the friendships I have developed with many of my research participants and I have learned so much from them. Professionally, this research has assisted me in identifying some of the funds of knowledge that immigrants and refugees bring to early childhood theory and practice, which, in turn, enriches my own work with teacher candidates. I hope to mobilize these new understandings to guide teacher candidates toward being more responsive to culturally and linguistically diverse children and their families. This research has also deepened my understanding of how teacher candidates navigate unfamiliar content in their coursework and internships and inflect their practice with their own beliefs and values. If students have time and space for dialogue with the content and practices they are learning, they can populate their practice with their own intentions and meanings and make it their own.
What do you hope your research might accomplish in the field of education?
When I undertook this research, I had the impression that my immigrant and refugee students simply appropriated the dominant practices because they wanted to “fit in” and be seen as professionals. However, I was surprised to find that in some situations the participants rebelled against the authoritative practices, instead enacting their own beliefs and practices when their supervisors were not looking. Therefore, they risked failing their placements because they strongly believed that some of the dominant practices were not in the best interests of the children. It is my hope that early childhood sites and teacher education programs will begin to acknowledge the validity of what Bakhtin refers to as “multiple, polyphonic voices” so culturally and linguistically diverse teacher candidates can imbue their practice with their own knowledges and beliefs. I believe that such practices will provide richer and more meaningful experiences for immigrant and refugee children and their families who will be supported in their diverse ways of being and becoming.
Was it difficult to achieve your research goals? How did you overcome obstacles (if any), whether personal or professional?
The primary concern I had in doing this research was gaining the trust of participants because I was researching in a program for immigrant and refugee early childhood students and was very obviously an outsider. Although the participants knew that I was a doctoral student and early childhood instructor, for three semesters, I sat in classes alongside them and participated in all of the course experiences as a student in the program. Many of my participants were Muslim so the fact that I had lived and worked in Egypt was particularly helpful in building trust. They did come to accept me as “one of them” so much so that they invited me to participate in their activities and transgressions (such as skipping class!).
The following excerpt from Christine’s dissertation illustrates the tensions faced by immigrant/refugee early childhood students, something she considers to be at the heart of her research:
Ameena’s explanation actualizes this tension between personal or cultural ways of being with children and the authoritative discourse of professionalism: “Professional means you do how they teach you [in the ECTE program] even if they (supervisor or instructors) don’t see you…. Joanne [an educator], she’s more professional in how she talks to the kids, how the kids love her. Everything she does in a real way, the right way, and a real way” (Interview, February 28, 2013). Joanne is perceived as holding the “right” professional knowledge, but she is also “real,” acting intuitively and applying what she personally knows about children. Consistent with Wenger’s (2000) work, the professional educator must be able to mobilize her personal understandings and refine the expected competencies. Since the practical knowledges of immigrant and refugee students or educators are excluded from the authoritative discourse, it is difficult for them to legitimately apply their own understandings in this manner. Essentially, these women are positioned as needing to change themselves otherwise their learning trajectory will never lead to full, legitimate participation in the early childhood community of practice (Wenger, 1998).
Abstract: In my former role as an early childhood education instructor working with immigrant and refugee women, I came to understand that they might experience a dissonance between the authoritative discourse (Bahktin, 1981) of early childhood, inscribed with western theories and values, taught in the program and their own intuitive, tacit, and practical knowledges. The purpose of this study, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Killam Trusts, was to explore how twenty immigrant/refugee women constructed understandings of this authoritative discourse as they negotiated their professional identities during their coursework and field placements in an early childhood teacher education program. Using an ethnographic methodology, I was immersed in the participants’ coursework and practicum experiences for two to three days a week over three semesters of study, collecting qualitative data through field notes, spatial mapping, interviews, focus groups, and artifacts/documents. One of the most significant findings of this research pertained to the participants’ own responses when confronted by discontinuities between the professional expectations in the field and their own knowledges, practices, beliefs, and values. Consistent with the limited scholarship in this field, the participants did sometimes feel compelled to suppress their own beliefs and enact what they had learned in the program in order to be seen as professionals. However, this research elucidated two additional responses. First, the participants sometimes resisted or rejected the authoritative discourse in favour of their own cultural practices. On other occasions, they authored their own hybridized professional identities derived both from the professional expectations in the community of practice as well as from their own cultural and religious beliefs and values about how to teach and care for young children. This research contributes to our understanding of the knowledges and experiences immigrant and refugee women bring to the field which can be mobilized to support the meaningful inclusion of immigrant/refugee children and their families in schools or early childhood settings.
Supervisor: Dr. Anna Kirova, professor of early childhood education at the University of Alberta,
Committee members: Dr. Heather Blair and Dr. Lynne Wiltse.
Date defended: October 26
Congratulations to Dr. Sean Lessard, whose dissertation has been selected for the 2015 Outstanding Teacher Education Doctoral Dissertation Award at the University of Alberta.
The Centre for Research for Teacher Education and Development committee in the Faculty of Education, University of Alberta unanimously agreed that “there are many outstanding aspects of your dissertation, each of which opens enormous possibility for teacher education and for teacher education research. We also saw ways in which your research is significant for professions beyond education and in the lives of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth and families across Canada.”