Q & A with AERA 2024 Presenters: Decolonizing Professional Learning

In preparation for AERA 2024, this issue of Lead the Change will feature the stellar presenters in the Educational Change SIG sessions. Our SIG is proud to present 10 sessions featuring different contexts,…

Note from Editors: Alex Lamb (Outgoing); Liz Zumpe (Incoming)

In preparation for AERA 2024, Lead the Change will feature the stellar presenters in the Educational Change SIG sessions. This year, our SIG is proud to present 10 sessions featuring different contexts, perspectives, and methodological approaches to educational change. For these issues of Lead the Change, we worked together as the outgoing and incoming editors to collect presenters’ reflections on educational change. It was a pleasure to learn more about the exciting work happening across the globe, and we look forward to learning more at the conference. This issue features the presenters in the session, “Decolonizing Professional Learning.” Enjoy, and we’ll see you in Philadelphia!

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In this issue:

Addressing Truth and Then Reconciliation Education as Professional Learning
Lisa Howell and Nicholas Ng-A-Fook (University Of Ottawa)

University of Ottawa The 2024 AERA theme is Dismantling Racial Injustice and Constructing Educational Possibilities: A Call to Action. How does your research respond to this call?

Our research has spanned a 6-year collaboration between the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Education, and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (Caring Society). The Caring Society stands with First Nations children, youth, and families so they have equitable opportunities to grow up safely at home, be healthy, get a good education and be proud of who they are. The Caring Society also develops educational resources so that educators and students across Canada can actively participate in social justice reconciliation initiatives (Howell & Ng-A-Fook, 2023a). Transforming educational possibilities was a focus of many of the Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015). Our study contributes to the emerging field of truth and reconciliation research in the context of the age of apology in Canada whereby politicians engage in public expressions of remorse for past injustices. (Howell & Ng-A-Fook, 2023b). Our findings suggest that when educators engage in sustained and collaborative professional learning communities, opportunities emerge for profound (un)learning, and commitments to social justice actions to end structural inequities and systemic racism (see Howell & Ng-A-Fook, 2022, 2023a).

What are some of the ideas you hope the field of Educational Change and the audience at AERA can learn from your work related to practice, policy, and scholarship?

Today, several government institutions and citizens in different parts of the world continue to deny or distance themselves from the violent history and legacy of settler colonial harms (Carleton, 2021; Howell & Ng-A-Fook, 2022). Such active distancing from historical “truths” affords the intergenerational beneficiaries of settler colonialism, including some educators, to superficially recognize the lived experiences of Indigenous Peoples (Coulthard, 2014). Consequently, there is much work to be done within different educational systems to reimagine our future relations both inside and outside the context of public education beyond settler colonial moves to innocence (Madden, 2019; Wark, 2021). It is our hope that our research might provide curricular and pedagogical possibilities for (re)thinking what decolonizing professional (un)learning might look like in practice, and what potential transformational changes emerge when we seek to co-create, co-sustain, and co-support such spaces with educators and partners (Howell et al., 2023).

What excites you about the direction of the field of Educational Change, and how might we share and develop those ideas at AERA 2024?

Over four centuries ago politicians, historians, scholars, policymakers imagined certain settler colonial prospects that now constitute the nation-state that some of us now call Canada. We are excited about the different ways educational change might contribute toward unlearning and reimagining different futurities with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples.

References: (Click to expand)

Carleton, S., 2021. “I don’t need any more education”: Senator Lynn Beyak, residential school denialism, and attacks on truth and reconciliation in Canada. Settler Colonial Studies, 11(4), 466-486. https://doi.org/10.1080/2201473X.2021.1935574.

Coulthard, G.S., 2014. Red skin, White masks: Rejecting the colonial politics of recognition. University of Minnesota Press.

Howell, L., & Ng-A-Fook, N. (2023a). Just Because we’re small doesn’t mean we can’t stand tall: Reconciliation Education in the Elementary School Classroom. Studies in Social Justice, 17(1), pp. 112-135. https://doi.org/10.26522/ssj.v17i1.4044

Howell, L. & Ng-A-Fook, N. (2023b). Truth and then reconciliation research: An emerging field of educational studies. In Robert Tierney, Fazal Rizvi & Kadriye Ercikan (Eds.) International Encyclopedia of Education (pp. 272-282). Elsevier.

Howell, L. & Ng-A-Fook, N. (2022). Unsettling beneficiaries as curriculum inquiries: A case of Senator Lynn Beyak and anti-Indigenous systemic racisms in Canada. Canadian Journal of Education, 45(1), pp. 1-34. https://doi.org/10.53967/cje-rce.v45i1.4787

Howell, L. & Ng-A-Fook, N., & Giroux B. (2023, January).Unsettling professional learning: Heart, spirit, and teacher (un)learning. Education Canada Network Magazine. https://www.edcan.ca/articles/professional-learning-in-a-community-of-relations/

Madden, B. (2019). A de/colonizing theory of truth and reconciliation education. Curriculum Inquiry, 49(3), 284-312.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015). Final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Volume 1: Summary. Honouring the Truth, Reconciling the Future.

James Lormier & Co. Ltd. Wark, J. (2021). Land acknowledgements in the academy: Refusing the settler myth, Curriculum Inquiry, 51(2), 191-209. https://doi.org/10.1080/03626784.2021.1889924

Also in this issue:

Introduction to the Symposium: Decolonizing Professional Learning – Joelle Rodway (Ontario Tech University)
Building Relationships and Decolonizing Possibilities through Education Change Networks – Leyton Schnellert (UBC), Bonny-Lynn Donovan (UBC), Sara Florence Davidson (Simon Fraser University)
Refusing Erasure: Black and Indigenous Women Educational Leaders Talk Back! – Whitneé L. Garrett-Walker (Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana, enrolled member University of San Francisco)
Concluding Thoughts from the Symposium Discussant: Decolonizing Professional Learning – Dr Vidya Shah (York University)

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About Educational Change SIG
Educational Change SIG adopts an interdisciplinary and international approach to understanding many aspects of educational change, including large-scale reform, school-initiated change, school improvement, and classroom-level change.

About the Series
Lead the Change series, featuring renowned educational change experts from around the globe, serves to highlight promising research and practice, to offer expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change, and to spark collaboration within our SIG.

AERA Educational Change SIG