James McNinch and Valerie Mulholland

University of Regina

A glance at the titles of the articles in this issue of in education (Autumn 2015) brings many words to mind to describe the contemporary educational landscape: eclectic, emotional, complex, and bureaucratic, to name but a few.

A closer look, however, points to some shared visions in this landscape: education as a site of struggle, resistance, and courage; places of respect and reciprocity; places of mentorship and of collaboration and sharing; places that accommodate and even celebrate difference, and places that seek new paths to understanding. All of the articles discuss various transformative aspects of the educational work the authors are doing.

The peer-reviewed articles in Volume 21, Number 2 of in education serve to remind us that education is above all a human endeavour. This is its wonder and its curse. These articles show not only the initiatives of individuals, but also the flaws in the educational systems and structures we have built. Brenda McMahon’s qualitative study seeks to understand the experiences of successful university students whose prior experiences in high school were a struggle. One implication of the study is recognition of “the role that educators can play in creating equitable, democratic schools” (p. 19). Jesse Butler in his analysis of Ontario’s Indigenous Education Policy quotes Thomas King’s tongue in-cheek definition of government policy: “For an individual, one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again in the same way and expecting different results. For a government, such behaviour is called … policy” (p. 27). I am reminded that in education we, by necessity, are in a constant state of flux, understanding the need to constantly revise and re-envision. This is what learning is.

In this issue, human learning is tied to key words such as resilience, relationships, identity, and transformation. In their article on duoethnographic inquiry, Jackie Seidel and Laurie Hill quote Derrida’s description of the inability to decide “not as inaction or paralysis in the face of a decision, but as the responsibility and necessity to choose. He insists that this is the beginning ground of all ethics and politics.” The authors add, “and we propose this as the beginning ground of all pedagogical work, too” (p. 52). The articles in this issue reflect what they describe as “the deeply personal yet public nature of curriculum [and all educational] work” (p. 63).

In a very personal exploration, Michele Tanaka’s account of “supporting preservice teachers in their personal journeys towards decolonizing and indigenizing” uses poetic expression to describe her search for courage to leave patterned thinking and knowing aside. She writes, “It would be easier if there were prescriptive steps as to how to decolonize or take an indigenous approach, but this is impossible given our complexity as individuals and in relationship” (p. 82). Similarly, Damara Goff Paris’s illustrated article on Art-Based Ways of Knowing shows transformation through “identification with Indigenous art forms, strength in spirituality, and evolution of cultural identities” (p. 141). Similarly, using Innu poems and translations, and visuals, Julie Vaudrin-Charette explores post-colonial “pedagogical implications lying within public and intimate territories of silenced narratives and the narrative(s) of silence(s) in our various practices as educators” (p.150).

Christine Nelson and Natalie Youngbull’s inquiry uses Tribal Critical Race theory to reveal how Indigenous undergraduates “tapped into their own supply of indigenous knowledge to relate their mentoring experience to building relationships, being a positive influence on their respective tribal communities, and recognizing that learning is cyclical” (p.104). In contrast, Elizabeth Ann Munro, Jennifer Mitton-Kukner, and Deborah Graham’s self-study caused undergraduates “to inquire deeply into their assessment histories.” Students in the study were confronted with competing versions of assessment philosophy that created tension and reflection. They conclude, “Our self-study has raised awareness of how fundamental collaboration is to our work as teacher educators.” Transformation, then, does not develop in isolation, and its achievement takes time. We might take solace, then, in Herman Michell’s explanation of Bush Cree storytelling methodology, which recognizes the inextricable connections between language, story, and philosophy. Michell says, “Bush Cree stories are open-ended, allowing for a diversity of possible meanings with no beginning and no ending” (p. 176). To be immersed in this methodology evokes the key words common to the educational landscape evoked in this issue.

This issue of in education provides multiple examples of educational transformations from which we might learn, embracing a diverse range of articles on which to ponder: topics range from schools as sites for personal transformation for at-risk students; an analysis of Ontario’s Indigenous education policy with recommendations for 2016; a duoethnographic inquiry into the highs and lows of the long-term process of implementing a new and innovative field-experience curriculum; and assessment education of preservice teachers to transformative inquiry as a mode of inquiry that resonates with Indigenist inquiry, allowing educators to respond purposefully to issues such as ecological sustainability, social justice, and holistic health and wellness; realizing Indigenous knowledge through a service-learning model; using arts-based ways of knowing to explore the topic of leadership and identity with Native American Deaf women; reading silenced narratives through Innu poetry towards reconciliation of international relations; and finally, using Bush Cree storytelling methods for teaching, healing, and transforming. The idea of a fundamental change in perspective or frame of reference is at the heart of transformative learning (King, 2002).

Our spring 2016 issue will be a special issue on Indigenous education, so there will be more to explore on the theme of Indigenous education.


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