4.7.3 Innovative approaches to culturally inclusive education
As noted earlier, we were impressed by the scope and interconnectedness between the AESN inquiries we heard about. There is a strong sense of community in this small district. Partly as a result of its size and partly because of its desire to breathe life to the district motto: “global learning in a rural setting,” the district has cultivated partnership with others in neighbouring schools/districts. In this way, they have found support and continued to develop approaches that work for their student population and extend the walls of their classrooms. We also saw however, that this district is using technologically innovative approaches to inquiry and culturally responsive teaching methods in ways not evident in other parts of the provincial AES Network . We know some of this comes of necessity, as many of the students in this district participate in online study due to limitations of course offerings. Yet it is also clear that these teachers are using creative and inventive content that is critically engaging students in ways that challenge status quo ways of thinking about Aboriginal peoples for both themselves and their students and to extend the limits of more traditional pedagogy and practice. Is it possible to say that the Network created this work? Perhaps not, but it is, we believe, possible to attribute the Network with creating the conditions necessary for such work and helping grow the work. By conditions we refer specifically to the goals of inquiry such as: puzzling through new approaches and ideas, acting on hunches, taking risks, doing research, sharing ideas with others in the Network, trying out ideas, and being unafraid of failure because it will help determine a path towards a more successful approach. The Network, and the district staff that support and embraces its work, has provided a space for teachers to broaden their scope of thinking, take risks and engage in inquiries designed to challenge their thinking in order to enhance their students’ success. As one teacher noted:
“The most important thing is how the collaborative process breathes life into the content we are bringing to the classroom. The energy and excitement and conversation helps us to move beyond the prescribed learning outcomes, into a realm of deeper learning. The conversations really enrich and expand our capacity in Aboriginal education.”
This is an important impact of the AESN : it creates the conditions that enable innovation and context specific approaches that work for teachers so they can focus on the deep learning of all learners.