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ONCAT Indigenous Language Revitalization Pathways – project closed October 29, 2021

In 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada published its final report, which contained 94 Calls to Action – recommendations for spurring movement toward healing the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples in Canada. The sixteenth Call to Action was for “post-secondary institutions to create university and college degree and diploma programs in Aboriginal languages.” Although several Ontario universities offer language courses as part of baccalaureate studies, Six Nations Polytechnic (SNP) is the first post-secondary institution to establish an Indigenous language university degree: The Bachelor of Arts in Ogwehoweh Languages (BAOL). The BAOL seeks to further the development of Ogwehoweh cultural understanding within an Ogwehoweh language context. Taught in-person at Six Nations Polytechnic’s campus in Ohsweken, this fully accredited three-year undergraduate degree focuses on Mohawk or Cayuga language and is organized into four streams: language, grammar, lifelong learning, and community engagement.

This project proposes the development of pathways between SNP’s Bachelor of Arts in Ogwehoweh Languages and other Indigenous Studies postsecondary programs for language promotion, student mobility, and building relationships according to the Dish with One Spoon.

Indigenous Teaching & Learning

part of the Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS) by eCampus Ontario, SNP has been funded to develop a new online course. In this course, students will identify their own goals as educators and assemble a teaching portfolio that reflects on Indigenous teaching and learning practices. Additionally, students will be introduced to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and the challenges it may present. SoTL is an inquiry into teaching and learning processes in higher education contexts that entails critical pedagogical research, teacher self-reflection, and knowledge mobilization through networks of instructors. Further, the course will consider the current state of Indigenous education.

Exploring Indigenous Foods & Food Sovereignty

As part of the Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS) by eCampus Ontario, SNP has been funded to create a new open educational resource (OER). This OER is being developed through the local lens of SNP and will introduce learners to Indigenous foods and food sovereignty and the cultural significance of foods within traditional food systems, including the connection to community and knowledge sharing.

The Trades Math Practice Application assists pre-apprenticeship learners with refreshing the math concepts necessary to form successful outcomes as an apprentice. This application can be useful in all trades from welders, to mechanics, to cooks and machinists. It allows learners to practice basic foundational math concepts and assess their skill level(s) and can be customized to each individual learner.

The app is now in the testing and editing phase of development and corrections are being made as we learn about them. Once testing is completed, the application will migrate and be hosted on the Six Nations Polytechnic domain and will be available for all to use freely. It will also be presented as an OER to meet with Ministry requirements in early 2022 and be available to others to use as a free resource.

Indigenous e-Learning Assessment Strategies

The disparity in educational attainment for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Ontarians is thoroughly documented; less well-explored are effective strategies for increasing the parity of these outcomes. Change is underway, but not only is the pace slow and uneven, Indigenous community-based educators and learners are often left out of the mix. One of the areas where Indigenous educational parity is particularly lagging – and where principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion have yet to fully embrace decolonization – is assessment strategies. “Alternative assessments” (also known as “authentic assessments”) are an important advancement in inclusive, learner-focused approaches to knowledge and competency evaluation. But because these do not arise from, and have yet to be specifically considered from, an Indigenous pedagogical perspective, their efficacy (or even potential efficacy) in supporting Indigenous learners remains unknown. In response, this collaborative, participatory, original research-based project developed a modular course for assessing Indigenous learners and decolonizing assessment in online and hybrid learning environments. Offered as a microcredential, and piloted in October 2021, it provides an introductory-to-intermediate treatment of current trends in alternative/authentic postsecondary assessments, focused through a decolonizing lens. Four modules build a cumulative understanding of how Indigenous pedagogies are operationalized in not only accurately and effectively assessing Indigenous students, but in using assessments to support learner intellectual self-determination and cognitive flourishing. The course approach interweaves theory and practice, providing hands-on applications in college, university, and skilled trades programs.

HyFlex Design in Indigenous Teaching & Learning

The practical bridge that HyFlex (“hybrid flexible”) course design builds between online and on-campus delivery could allow IIs to close the gap with their college and university colleagues and move into broader virtual learning initiatives. More than merely fair, such a shift is essential for the future financial viability of local education in Indigenous communities, while risk-proofing IIs against further unpredictable shocks (such as COVID-19). HyFlex learning is also a promising pathway to digital fluency for Indigenous students, as skillfully crafted hybrid-flexible courses allow a “soft onboarding” into realms of engagement that will be mandatory in the future socioeconomic landscape. More fundamentally, HyFlex courses meet Indigenous learners where they are: Students are empowered to manage the pace of their lives, adapting educational commitments to other, equally important responsibilities in the home, workplace, or community. Similarly, synchronous and asynchronous options reduce access barriers in underserviced Indigenous communities – whether they are physically or digitally remote. Unfortunately, HyFlex has all of the challenges of in-person and online teaching, while introducing wholly new ones. This project responded to these challenges through the collaborative, participatory, original research-based development of a modular course demonstrating approaches to HyFlex design and teaching that advance the decolonization of learning. In it, participants explore principles and techniques that operationalize Indigenous pedagogies, through four interactive modules covering a range of topics: From connecting culturally through tech and choosing the right tools to mount an Indigenous online classroom, to understand the centrality of place-based learning in remote contexts, testing Indigenous methods across modalities and adapting (or transforming) course learning outcomes accordingly, and using Indigenous pedagogies to rethink assumptions about the HyFlex model itself.

Toward a Comprehensive Post-Secondary Education Model for Six Nations of the Grand River

In response to the priorities and positions articulated through First Nations’ review of university and college programs, the 2019 Federal Budget included dedicated “engagement funding” to support the development of regional approaches to post-secondary education. It is well documented that the resources available through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP), along with funding for Indigenous Institutes’ curriculum development and delivery through the Post-Secondary Partnerships Program (PSPP), is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of Indigenous learners and catalyze the requisite capacity development at community-based institutions of higher learning. In response, and in conjunction with and under the oversight of the Grand River Post-Secondary Education Office Steering Committee, the Six Nations Polytechnic project team has undertaken a sweeping, community-centred research study using both primary and secondary sources (including extensive, multi-modal consultations), a fine-grained data analysis, and a strategic evaluation of findings resulting in recommendations for a Comprehensive Post-Secondary Education Model for Six Nations of the Grand River.