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Reflecting on Student Pathways & Learner Mobility during Canada’s National Indigenous History Month

June 1, 2024 Authors: J. Sparks, Postdoctoral Fellow

Every June, National Indigenous History Month is celebrated across Canada. It is a time to recognize the rich history, heritage, resilience, and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. In honour of National Indigenous History Month, Jennifer Sparks reflects on Indigenous-Canadian history and its impact on education pathways.

Every June, National Indigenous History Month is celebrated across Canada. It is a time to recognize the rich history, heritage, resilience, and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. In honour of National Indigenous History Month, I reflected on Indigenous-Canadian history and its impact on education pathways.

I reflected on my positionality as a person of settler ancestry and as a postdoctoral research fellow working with ONCAT. I also reflected on ONCAT’s work in support of equitable opportunities and education outcomes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners in Ontario.  

Below I have shared a curated list of ONCAT sponsored research with my commentary.  It is my hope that others may find these resources useful in supporting reconciliation, equity, and student mobility. Please reach out to me with your resource recommendations so that we may share understanding, learn from one another, and grow this list together. 

Shifting the Landscape: A Framework for Creating Pathways in Indigenous Education

Co-authored by Confederation College, Trent University, and First Nations Technical Institute, this report outlines a comprehensive vision and framework for shifting Ontario’s postsecondary landscape from western-centric pedagogy towards valuing Indigenous ways of knowing. The framework recommends specific strategies for “shifting,” including practical tips for working with communities, cultivating Indigenous studies, and nurturing students and leaders. Strategies were offered under four foundational “roots,” including:  

  • Working with community through interconnection, fostering holistic, genuine connections, and maintaining authentic long-term collaborations;  
  • Cultivating Indigenous studies and scholarship by understanding Indigenous-Canadian histories and legacies, adopting and embedding inclusive pedagogy across curricula, and appreciating traditional ways of knowing;  
  • Nurturing student persistence by encouraging student strengths, being attuned to barriers and students’ needs, including learners’ connections to their culture and community; and  
  • Enriching leadership by leading with compassion, striving to help students feel welcome and acknowledged, and encouraging their sense of belonging.  

The authors note that these strategies are customizable to a variety of institutional contexts and student needs. Overall, this report inspires action in shifting the postsecondary landscape towards a better future for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners.

A Toolkit to Support the Creation of Pathways for Indigenous Learners  

Created through a partnership among colleges, universities, Indigenous Institutes, and students, this resource shares lessons learned and practical examples of supporting pathway development and Indigenous education across the province. As a toolkit, it is comprised of several “how to” guides, including a sample articulation agreement, pathway planning worksheets, asset-mapping tables, and monitoring templates. The real-world examples of institutional partnerships highlighted throughout the toolkit also offer advice on relationship building, collaboration, informed action, and accountability in support of Indigenous learners. In general, the toolkit strives to empower educators and institutions to create pathway opportunities that will not only support student enrolment, retention, and completion, but also learners’ self-determination and autonomy. 

Indigenous Institutes Credential Recognition

In this report, Six Nations Polytechnic reviewed transfer policies, practices, and pathways available to students and graduates from Indigenous Institutes. Their review found that students and graduates from Indigenous Institutes face challenges including structural barriers, when transferring to other institutions. For example, the review found that college and university admission requirements and credit transfer policies varied widely in terms of recognizing learner’s Indigenous academic credentials and prior learning. The report recommended that through the creation of articulation agreements and transfer partnerships with Indigenous Institutes, colleges, and universities may be able to overcome historic barriers and biases. Overall, this report highlights the importance of using inclusive language and establishing institutional policies that welcome Indigenous learners and support Indigenous Institutes as a pivotal third pillar of Ontario’s postsecondary education system.

Indigenous Institutes and Seamless Transfer: Integrating Access and Admissions as Part of Student Mobility

This collaborative resource, co-authored by First Nations Technical Institute, Kenjgewin Teg, and Seven Generations Education Institute, identifies barriers for Indigenous learners in postsecondary admissions and pathway processes. The report includes detailed descriptions of pathway programs and supports for students currently offered at Indigenous Institutes. The report also contains a comprehensive framework for admissions processes that holistically support learners. The framework advocates for the creation of interconnected admissions and pathway processes that recognize learners’ experiences, passions, community service, and creative talents alongside academic achievements. To illustrate the practical application of the framework, the report provides an overview of the Indigenous Institutes’ Good rED Road pathway program which offers multiple access points, support avenues, and education pathways for learners. In summary, this report advocates for a re-alignment of admissions practices and processes to holistically support interconnections between Indigenous learners, institutions, and communities.

Student Transfer Mobility within Indigenous Programs: Pathways of Access or Appropriation?

In this article, authors Lana Ray, Elaine Toombs, and Jeannette Miron summarized findings from their ONCAT-funded research study on postsecondary pathways to and from Indigenous programs in Ontario. The authors noted that pathways are increasingly being used as a strategy to enhance postsecondary access for Indigenous learners. As such, a primary goal of their study was to understand program pathways in Indigenous contexts. The authors found that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners use Indigenous program pathways. Among the study’s participants, non-Indigenous learners were the most frequent users of Indigenous program pathways. Nevertheless, Indigenous students were more likely to transfer into an Indigenous studies program. The authors also discussed potential implications of Indigenous program pathways on students, higher education institutions, and reconciliation. The report suggests that through the adoption of bridging programs, higher education institutions may be able to acknowledge and support the experiences of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. As well, the report notes the value of involving faculty in transfer credit assessment processes and establishing target student ratios as ways to promote program objectives, including prioritizing access and inclusion for Indigenous learners. The authors also advocated that Indigenous programs and pathway development should be a part of wider campus Indigenization strategies, among other activities, aimed at centering Indigenous frameworks of knowing and addressing systemic issues. 

Promoted Keywords: Indigenous

Tags: Indigenous