Respecting
Differences
Spotlight on Teaching & Learning
What if academic space was more welcoming of different ways of being? Imagine if being in a university setting didn’t mean that people had to learn how to be different types of people. If Indigenous students could just be themselves here and still be able to succeed.Margaret Robinson

When Associate Professor Margaret Robinson began teaching Indigenous Studies courses, she brought a wealth of insight gained during her PhD research, and her time as a journalist — specifically, how to acknowledge and respect differing values and frameworks to enable full participation from all. 

“It's been helpful to realize that academic space is colonial space and it's very classed space. And so being here is about learning to perform in particular ways that for a lot of students are outside their comfort zone,” she observes. “I think it's important that students understand that when they feel like they're failing, it's not because there's something wrong with them. It's because the system is designed to keep them out. I think once they see that, it enables some of the pressure to come off.”

With help from a Teaching and Learning grant, Margaret has been working to change her classroom space by incorporating the Mi’kmaq teaching styles and values she grew up with. She's had success with creating an environment that fosters mutual respect, encourages sharing above competition and ensures coursework and deadlines don’t interfere with the learners’ lives any more than necessary. 

“Competition can be a great way to energize people but it also means that people tend to not want to cooperate with each other,” she explains. “I think we get more out of the classroom learning experience if we collect our learning together.”

 

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