An Indigenous Knowledge Mobilization Packsack: Utilizing Indigenous Learning Outcomes to Promote and Assess Critical Thinking and Global Citizenship

An Indigenous Knowledge Mobilization Packsack: Utilizing Indigenous Learning Outcomes to Promote and Assess Critical Thinking and Global Citizenship was written by the Negahweewin Research Centre.

Confederation College explores approaches to integrating and measuring Indigenous Ways of Knowing in college classrooms

A new report published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) explores the challenges met and lessons learned from infusing Indigenous learning outcomes in a wide variety of postsecondary courses and programs, not just those focused specifically on Indigenous scholarship and studies.

The report, An Indigenous Knowledge Mobilization Packsack: Utilizing Indigenous Learning Outcomes to Promote and Assess Critical Thinking and Global Citizenship details an ongoing Confederation College project. The project was partially funded by HEQCO and was a part of HEQCO’s Learning Outcomes Assessment Consortium.

The project is a valuable resource for other institutions looking for ways to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action from 2015. It offers a measurement of critical thinking that is informed by Indigenous Ways of Knowing and insight into the needs of faculty involved in this important work. The report also details lessons learned by the researchers after testing and developing an assessment tool that is consistent with both Indigenous and western understandings of critical thinking.

In 2007, the Negahneewin Council gifted Confederation College with a set of seven Indigenous Learning Outcomes (ILOs). Infusing these ILOs into program-specific courses throughout the college is intended to provide all students, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, with an understanding of Indigenous worldviews. The ILOs can also allow students to draw connections to their own field and provide them with a broad understanding of historical and political awareness relevant to every graduate.

This specific project built on a need to develop an assessment process to determine how well the ILOs were being implemented at Confederation that could become a model for the teaching and assessment of Indigenous knowledge across the Canadian postsecondary education landscape. The result was the distilling of four R words that are fundamental to Indigenous Ways of Knowing (responsibility, respect, realization and reflection) into a focus on “relationships” which the report notes “are the substance of all the other Rs and the foundation for any approach to critical thinking based in Indigenous Ways of Knowing.”

The project has unfolded over two phases. The first involved the Negahweewin Research Centre investigating topics related to learning outcomes such as creating and using rubrics, identifying rubrics focused on critical thinking, defining critical thinking within a western context and defining what it means to “think well” within an Indigenous context. In the second phase, Confederation continued to promote critical thinking and global citizenship, but the deliverables and objectives were modified in this phase to reflect lessons learned in phase one.

The outcome was the introduction of the Indigenous Knowledge Mobilization Packsack which was tested in four classrooms at Confederation and continues to be refined and expanded. The Packsack is a collection of documents that are situated in an “Indigenous knowledge environment,” which is broadly defined as a visual framework demonstrating a conceptual setting where Indigenous Ways of Knowing overlap and nurture western critical-thinking skills. The packsack re-centres four critical thinking “modes” (storytelling, interdependent thinking, practicing humility and experiential learning) into relationship-based activities and draws lines between Indigenous Ways of Knowing and corresponding (western) skillsets.

Successfully expanding use of the ILOs will hinge on the ability of faculty members to change their modes of thinking and be open to new methods of evaluation. In order to help promote these shifts in thinking, the researchers found that meeting with stakeholders in small groups or even one-on-one allowed for increased trust and more successful collaboration. Additionally, when faculty were permitted to choose which of the four modes works best for them it can help overcome some of the hesitation or “benign resistance” encountered thus far.

The researchers state that this work should be viewed “as required for teachers who seek to be accountable for their history as Canadians and thus accountable to their community as citizens with their teaching. Seen in this light, the inclusion of Indigenous Ways of Knowing across postsecondary education is not an option — it is a necessity.”

HEQCO and Confederation College committed to a second phase of this project that will inform faculty capacity development and support ILO implementation. Further classroom testing will both help to further define the packsack and begin to build a bank of rubrics that have worked well and can continue to be used moving forward.