When Children Ask “Why” Part 1

If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that I have two major sources of inspiration: Ann Pelo and Margie Carter’s From Teaching to Thinking, and my outdoor education experience in high school with the late Mike Elrick. I’ve been returning to their wisdom in the past few months with a refreshed lens, and I am taking away new insights.

I often think about the way Ann describes her experiences outdoors with children, in-particular the stories of the skunk and the trees in Chapters 1 and 2 of FTtT. While I read some of her writing this morning, I was prompted to think about how I could bring these attitudes into the workshops I’ll be facilitating over the next few months. How can I translate some of this inspiration into digestible prompts for diverse groups of educators?

While reading Ann’s story, I imagined myself in her position. What would I do in response to children asking ‘why do the leaves change colour?’. What have I done in the past? I can’t quite remember. I thought about how some educators would say that they would reflect the question back to the child “I don’t know…why do you think they might change colour?”. Another might say that they would discuss the changing seasons or the amount light during fall. Another might say they don’t know, so they would engage in research to bring books into the classroom to answer the question. Another might say that, since there are filling many other roles while outdoors, such as counting children, putting on mittens, and watching for parents, they are unlikely to feel like they have time to appropriately answer this question and do it justice. Someone might say that in their culture changing colours of leaves holds particular significance. There are so many beautiful ways to respond to this question as well as systemic factors to consider.

I contrast these answers to what Ann did in her experience, which I elude to below. And then I re-thought what I would do again: what would I do if I had enough time, space, and resources to respond in a way that aligns with my pedagogical commitments?

When young children ask “why”, as in, “why do the leaves change colour”, I doubt they are searching for an answer.

I honestly believe, instead, they are reaching for guidance on how to think about this perplexing concept. They might be looking for how to build their skills to follow their curiosities. They might be asking “how do I respond to this inquiry?” or “what should I do when I feel this sense of wonder” or even “this feeling of reverence is powerful! Am I okay?”.

Our job as ECEs is not to be a first responder in these moments. It’s not to react with answers, wisdom, or solutions. I believe, instead, that our job is to take our training and use it to linger in these moments of questioning. Rather than answering in-the-moment, how might we slow down time for children and think though these dilemmas with them. If our job/training/philosophy is to scaffold children’s schemas in meaningful ways, then it’s clear that providing quick answers does a disservice to children’s learning. Instead, I wonder, how might we answer this question slowly, over time? How might we collaborate to think about our own answers to this question? Is a scientific fact really what is being asked for here? Or is it a larger life question about birth, death, and transformation as Ann suggests. Thinking in this way, my role as a co-learner might not even be to think in scientific terms about this. Nor is it to bring in books about trees and seasons. Perhaps, instead it is simply to commit to watching the trees more, learning from our senses, and creating our own language to articulate what we experience here. What do we call it when we feel the exhilaration of noticing a leaf fall, twirling from branch to ground?

Ultimately, I am currently thinking about how children are seeking guidance on their own learning, rather than factual answers, when they ask why. Providing provocations through engaging environmental set up, the use of open-ended play/learning materials, and the intentional use of questions can extend these curiosities through scaffolded guidance, support, and co-learning.


Here I will be reflecting on my experience over the past semester, especially near the end as my knowledge became synthesized, how I created some concrete next-steps for my pedagogical practice, and my reflections on the process of creating and listening to our podcasts.


What I learned about my own teaching practice after creating and listening to our podcasts.

The process of creating and editing my podcast was incredibly enlightening. First, by reviewing literature on the topic of Indigenous Pedagogies (the general topic of our podcast) I came to better understand the current state of the literature in this area (i.e., focusing on decolonizing academia, Indigenizing campuses, and not just inserting Indigenous history or cultural knowledge into a curriculum). Second, reviewing the information from the studies for the purposes of sharing the information prompted me to enter into relationship with this knowledge, preserve its context where possible, and better understand what I know and don’t yet know on this topic. The many conversations that Anna and I had before doing the podcast helped me feel like I was doing the topic justice and flushing out some of my own ideas as I grappled to better understand Indigenous Pedagogies on a personal level, by way of decolonizing my own mind. Anna mentioned so many new concepts to me, introduced me to new language, and reminded me of additional perspectives I would have never thought of. For example, Anna described a kind of elasticity that feels present in the processes of unlearning/relearning the settler-colonialism of educational processes and how despite any “progress” that is made in terms of unsettling Anna’s understanding or worldview, how it returns to default, colonial, capitalist ways of operating. This was an experience that feels very true for myself as well, and so I referred to it as a “snap back” that happens (in our podcast). By including this in our podcast, it felt as though we were making a case that understanding and discussing Indigenous Pedagogies in higher-ed is not the same process that may occur with disseminating other pedagogical strategies, because it is a personal process for everyone and the knowledge is highly contextual. Considering the ways in which this knowledge is moved from person to person is part of understanding and respecting Indigenous pedagogies. Next, having the 1 hour conversation with Anna for the podcast was so illuminating in terms of how we spontaneously found ways to fit our knowledge together and how we realized the ways in which our articles complement each other, contributing to a larger conversation of SoTL.

Then, listening back to my podcast to begin editing it revealed so many of my remaining biases and mis-steps; I called them cringe-worthy moments with Anna because it felt like I said things that I didn’t mean or that could be misinterpreted. These revelations are one of the biggest take-aways from this process because now I can concrete topics to continue gaining understanding on and to better understand before I speak about them. It also helped me to further synthesize the information into a story that can be followed by listeners, which, is helping me continue to build my ability to articulate my rationale for why academia must prioritize Indigenous pedagogies where appropriate.

Finally, shifting our podcast from the editing stages to the final product brought out so many feelings of pride for me. It felt like Anna and I created a landmark in time, marking our current understanding of Indigenous pedagogies. Regarding my own teaching practice, this represents a catalyst from which I can now be transformed as I now move into deeper relationships with the specific areas of knowledge we excluded from the podcast. I for-see myself circling back to many of the articles we used with a new lens, seeking cues for how to introduce Indigenous pedagogy to undergraduate or graduate students while I try my hand at prioritizing some of the strategies that I have already mentioned in my SoTL snap shot, micro-teaching session, and in the podcast with Anna. A main next-step I have for myself, since I am currently a TA and not an instructor, is to support students in self-pacing their learning where possible. There are three ways I do this: negotiating with instructors for no late penalty for students in the majority of scenarios when students reach out to request extra time, providing students with resources that scaffolds their learning by either giving next steps for how to improve their grade or higher-lever resources that go beyond the parameters of a course, and by advocating for grading assignments by way of accounting for student growth, rather than meeting objective expectations. For this semester, this has worked well, but I imagine these goals taking on new forms in the future.

How the content of the podcasts related to or informed my teaching practice.

From listening to my peers’ podcasts, I learned about effective, evidenced-based teaching practices that support students’ motivations. In the podcast about effective teaching, they discussed one study about teaching of foreign language and the effectiveness of inductive, active learning, and interactive or integrated techniques that include the use of technology and visuals to support the shift in teaching from teacher-centred to student-centred. Regarding the study with 7 strategies for effective teaching, I learned something new: that communicating high expectations can be really effective for students’ learning. Both articles discussed active learning, respecting students as individuals with unique skills, preferences, and motivations, which, are all strategies that are reflected in the Papp (2020) article that I used throughout this semester. Papp’s article discussed student-centred pedagogy that supports students holistically by offering self-paced work opportunities, promoting Indigenous culture, and providing financial and familial support where necessary. Finally, my peers mentioned that the role of reciprocity and collaboration needs more attention – this is something that I the Papp article also discusses and something I modelled in my micro-teaching session.

Regarding the podcast about student motivation, I loved learning about the ABCRM acronym of autonomy, belongingness (something that connects with Indigenous pedagogies and that is well-documented in early learning pedagogies), competency (highly connected to early learning), and relatedness/meaningfulness (something that is also highly discussed in early learning through the use of emergent/responsive curriculum. This acronym is something I will keep in mind in my teaching practice because it already aligns with my teaching philosophy statement. Additionally, the idea of students using RRP and a whole class performing at once sounds so fun, which reminds my of the play-based pedagogy that I am so familiar with. It is no wonder why this increased feelings of autonomy that was mentioned, because that is part of the aim of play-based learning, since it is self-directed and voluntary. The role of co-operative learning in student motivation is something I feel like we have experienced a lot this semester with shared google docs and other methods of collaboration, which I plan to continue to use in my own teaching practice since I saw how effective it was.

How I can use SoTL literature to inform your teaching practice

I have already begun to consult SoTL literature to inform my teaching practice. I have been curious about the role of self-reflection in learning because I noticed how some spaces have prompted transformational change. In our last class I asked for how to learn more and was prompted to consult Mezirow’s work. From here, I learned of the stages of transformational learning: disorientation, self-reflection/examination/assessing assumptions, planning next steps including what resources are required, and building experience and confidence in trying out these new roles. Patricia Cranton adds to this conversation the critical role of consulting additional perspectives and the role of each learner as an individual. This demonstrates my comfort with exploring and understanding new areas within SoTL that are of interest to me in building my teaching practice. I plan to use what I learned from transformative learning in my teaching practice, but this has also taught me that I can now search the literature to find strategies or concepts that meet the unique needs of my students and support the situations in which I am teaching.

Challenge: one limitation I have noticed when I consult the SoTL literature, is that I would like to continue to engage in conversations with others about how to effectively use the strategies in various contacts and realities. It’s one thing to read about the use of these strategies in ideal situations or in different parts of the world, but I feel that it is important to continue to engage in considering how it can be applied in particular institutions.

My comfort with evaluating SoTL literature and understanding its relevance to your own teaching practice.

I have an emerging ability to evaluate the SoTL literature, and I have certainly seen this skill improve over the course of the semester. In my first draft of my SoTL Snapshot, I misinterpreted what the researchers did in the study (I think because I was not used to reading qualitative summaries of teaching strategies, rather than an evaluation of the strategies). This represented a poor ability to identify the key information in a resource, analyze its accuracy, and evaluate its relevance and appropriateness for the purposes of my snapshot/ use of the article. It took me some time to get oriented to the lingo and culture of the SoTL literature, and navigating several articles for the purposes of creating our podcast, communicating our information about pedagogy effectively, and making a meaningful contribution to SoTL conversations elevated my comfort and confidence in being able to wade through information related to SoTL. I have come to place in my journey where I now prefer to read about innovative strategies that support reimagining and decolonizing learning spaces rather than that quantitatively evaluate strategies in order that have broad, generalizable results. I am more interested in unique experiences that will help me navigate more specific problems or situations that I encounter in my teaching practice.

Future Plans. I have realized through writing this reflection that another thing I took away from the Effective Teaching Practices podcast was the reminder to evaluate the methods, analysis, and interpretation of SoTL articles. Being reminded that I can critically appraise SoTL literature supported me in using my graduate level training to determine the effectiveness of the strategies that were evaluated in the articles. I have been told that I have strong literature searching and synthesizing skills by my advisor, and I have therefore been wondering if I should take on a project in which I do a literature review on a SOTL concepts such as Indigenous pedagogy and experiential Learning, or the overlaps between early childhood education pedagogy’s and higher education strategies. I also have an emerging interest in starting a podcast about pedagogies. This interest was born from my experience in creating a podcast for this course, but further activated when I listen to some higher-ed podcasts. I immediately felt compelled to contribute to this kind of conversation with my own perspective, as well as to elevate other people’s voices and to use my skills of active listening, audio editing, and and literature searching to mobilize knowledge in society.

Learning goals

I adjusted my goals slightly in order to make them more aligned with the parameters of this course. They are listed here.

Goal 1: By the end of this semester, I will be facilitate a 10-minute interaction lesson with students through zoom. To achieve this, I will implement activities in my micro-teaching session, including menti, jamboard or kahoot, which ask the learners to contribute collaboratively to answering questions or reflect upon the information that is being discussed. If I can implement these tools, receive student engagement through their use of these tools, and if I am able to respond to my peers’ answers, I will feel I have achieved this goal.

Goal 2: By the end of this semester, I will improve my confidence and self-efficacy in terms of implementing one teaching strategy that is culturally responsive by being aligned with Indigenous pedagogical practices. To do this, I will review three peer-reviewed articles on Indigenous pedagogy and teaching approaches, and discuss them with my project partner for the podcast. I will feel successful in this goal if by the end of the semester I can describe, in detail, one teaching strategy that I can use virtually that is rooted in Indigenous pedagogy and that is appropriate for me, a white settler, to implement in a University class setting.

Goal 3: By the end of the semester, I will be able to discuss the considerations for creating assignment instructions that are rooted in universal design for learning and/or universal instructional design. For example, I will be able to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of including student choice in how they create/present their assignment, in order to support the engagement and expression elements of UDL. I hope to learn more about universally accessible learning strategies through this course (such as the “late bank” article from SoTL snapshot). My will keep a list of ways of strategies that I learn about, including how and when I might want to use them, can be incorporated into assignments that I have an influence in creating.

Meeting my goals.

I met my modified goals, but I also recognize I still have a long way to go before I feel like I can really use these skills in reality. I modified each of my goals slightly to better fit with the course expectations and assignments, and this allowed me to meet all three of these goals. I have documented why I couldn’t reach my goals in a previous reflection, and after getting feedback from Jessi I decided to adjust them to better fit the course, which is reflected above. I am now leaving the class with a high comfort in using collaborative technology to facilitate active learning (e.g., jam board or google docs), with one Indigenous pedagogical strategy I can describe and implement (prioritizing student knowledge and culture by supporting self-reflection in lessons), and a list of strategies that we discussed in class, read about in our readings, and/or learned from guest lecturers (as well as some advantages and disadvantages to know when and how to use each strategy). I have realized that there is value not only in evaluating my progress towards a goal, but keeping a goal a living document that can flex with the needs or resources available to me. It was really valuable seeing how I couldn’t reach my goals, but the logical next step was just to adjust these goals to be more achievable and realistic so that I can feel successful.

Challenge. I am left wondering how I can then scaffold my learning and maintain high expectations for myself and my learning journeys. Since I’ve met these goals, I feel like I need a challenge to continue forward in my learning journey. Therefore, I would like to create 3 new goals that I can work on over the summer semester that will extend the learning that has occurred in this course.

Future plans:

Goal 1: By September I would like to gather 10-20 articles that will help me draw connections between Indigenous pedagogies and experiential learning concepts that are captured in SoTL, with the purpose of working towards creating a literature review with a peer. I am particularly interested in place-based education, significant life experiences, and the role of the whole person in these pedagogies.

Goal 2: By September I would like to gather 10-20 articles that will help me draw connections between early childhood education and care practices and post-secondary education pedagogies. I am particularly interested in the role of belonging, how visibility can be brought to learning processes, hands-on/active learning, and responsive or emergent curriculum.

Goal 3: Decide if I have the resources to start a podcast about Play and Pedagogy whereby I would interview many educators and “experts” to discuss their pedagogical approaches, how they learned what they know, how they think learning happens, and what “knowledge” even is. I would like to linger on the boundaries of education, recreation, and occupation. My first barrier to doing this is understanding if there is funding available to produce the podcast and whether I can manage doing so during my Masters. This kind of journey would push me to learn about many areas of SoTL well beyond my comfort level, to evaluate many competing theories and practices, and to integrate this information into digestible content for listeners. Whether or not I end up starting a podcast is less important to me than the process of mapping out which topics and educators I would like to continue to have conversations with about SoTL, pedagogy, and playful learning, and deciding in which capacity I want to connect with them.

Overall, my plan is still applicable to me and I think by progressing into these three goals I will be able to extend my learning about Indigenous pedagogies, better understand how many instructors and educators facilitate active learning in various settings, and how educators strive for inclusive assessments in their many iterations over their career. This leads me in a slightly new direction than I had intended, but changing course when it feels right is an important part of my learning and research process.

Micro-teaching lesson: Changes I noticed and next steps to elevate my teaching practice.

As I reflected on in a previous post, I made many changes that resulted in the learners being able to meet the learning objectives. I also reflected on the role of practice, feedback, and how to support reflection during in-class activities. From these reflections I have realized I would like to commit to maintaining connections with peers as a way of having a Community of Practice to continue conversations about our teaching practices. Continuing to seek constructive feedback and help from others who are also interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning is how I hope I can continue to refine my pedagogical practice and continue to learn from the meaningful experiences that occurred during this semester.

Next steps to improve my teaching practice.

Some of my next steps are captured in the goals I listed above, but when I integrate these steps into the reflections I’ve had about my micro-teaching, I realize that pedagogy is not a private endeavour. I deeply believe that learning happens in healthy relationships, like in communities where individuals feel supported to active experiment with their knowledge and take risks/be wrong/grow from discomfort. This has deepened two of my pedagogical commitments: one, that I must continue my development through discussing pedagogy with peers, and two, that as an educator I can support student learning by providing opportunities for students to build long-lasting and meaningful connections to one another. I am still feeling unclear about how communities can be supported across a variety of classes regarding discipline, class size, and method of delivery, but I feel grounded in figuring this out as I go as part of my teaching practice.

Lessons learned that I will take into my future teaching practice.

I feel like I have identified and described many lessons learned that I will take into my future teaching practice. Most of these lessons involve an interest in delving deeper into the scholarship of teaching and learning, participating in research in this area, and acting as a researcher about my own teaching practice. I plan to gather many sources of evidence, as we discussed in week 11, to analyze my own teaching documents and methods as well as the learning that students are demonstrating – and whether the tasks and assessments I create even support students in making their learning visible. I was really inspired by our chat with Gavan, and I have started reading his posts on Twitter and his 3 teaching things newsletter. This course is a bit like another catalyst for my learning as an educator because I am now equipped to continue my learning journey about SoTL through the higher ed podcasts (I’ve been liking Teaching in Higher Ed), I started reading a copy of the Spark of Learning, and through many reflections I’ve realized that I might be interested in starting a podcast about some of the connections I see. Continuing to reflect through this blog will hopefully continue to extend and expand my learning and development.

Goal Progression Reflection

Here, I will be reflecting on my progression towards achieving the goals I set for myself this semester. For context, my goals are included here:

Goal 1: By the end of this semester, I will be able to facilitate a 20-minute interaction lesson with students through zoom. To achieve this, I will implement activities in my micro-teaching session, including menti, jamboard or kahoot, which ask the learners to contribute collaboratively to answering questions or reflect upon the information that is being discussed. If I can implement these tools, receive student engagement through their use of these tools, and if I am able to respond to my peers’ answers, I will feel I have achieved this goal.

Goal 2: By the end of this semester, I will be able to implement one teaching strategy for online seminars that is culturally responsive to Indigenous students’ needs and that is aligned with Indigenous pedagogical practices. To do this, I will review four to five peer-reviewed articles on Indigenous pedagogy and teaching approaches and create short summaries (much like the ones in the SOTL snapshots) for my own learning and reflection. I may decide to post them on my blog. While I would like to gauge this goal by getting feedback from an Indigenous student, I also feel that asking such a thing may be inappropriate at this time. If this is not possible, instead, when I create my teaching philosophy statement, I will integrate my new knowledge about an Indigenous pedagogical approach into my statement. I will feel successful in this goal if by the end of the semester I can describe, in detail, one teaching strategy that I can use virtually that is rooted in Indigenous pedagogy and that is appropriate for me, a white settler, to implement in a University class setting.

Goal 3: By the end of the semester, I will be able to create assignment instructions that are rooted in inclusion and equity, such that the grading criteria is as universally accessible as possible to students from diverse cultural backgrounds, lived experiences, disabilities, and identities. I hope to learn more about universally accessible learning strategies through this course (such as the “late bank” article from SoTL snapshot). My aim is to take what I learn in moments like these and keep a list of ways that these can be incorporated into an assignment I make.

Have you met your learning goals checkpoints or already reached some goals? If you have not, how much have you deviated from them?

Regarding my first goal, this is something that cannot be fully achieved within the parameters of this course, since our micro-teaching session is 10 minutes. However, I have already met part of this goal, since I facilitated my mircro-teaching session using menti and a jamboard. I felt really proud of my self for using these tools in these capacities and it went well. In my role as a TA I gave 2 80 minute lectures last week using jamboard, menti, and googledocs, and I had very high student engagement. I even asked for feedback on my lessons via Qualtrics and got really positive feedback around how clear my instructing was. This let me know that my use of these tools in practice might be going quite well. Something I noticed during my microteaching session, however, that is a challenge in terms of me reaching this goal completely, is that I did not have high engagement on the jamboard. This is likely due to what I reflected on last week (too much content for a 10 minute lesson). To address this, I am making some changes to that portion of my activity, so that it is much more manageable for the 10 minute lesson. I don’t believe I’ve deviated from the goal in any other way yet.

Regarding my second goal, I have read 3 articles about Indigenous pedagogy and while I did not reflect on them directly here, I integrated several strategies into my micro-teaching session and cited the authors in my previous post. While I still have a long way to go in terms of how to implement Indigenous pedagogy without further stealing Indigenous wisdom, I am quite pleased that I was able to attempt this and that I stuck to my commitment to doing so. While I cannot meet the second half of my goal through this course since we are not creating teaching philosophy statements, I have signed up to attend the teaching dossier cafes with OTL and I hope that through those workshops that I can begin to create my teaching philosophy statement. Additionally, and for context, I created a teaching philosophy statement last year as part of my training as an educator, so I am hoping to work with that one since it already includes many of the elements of SoTL (e.g., active learning and fostering inclusive learning environments). Learning about Indigenous pedagogy has really challenged me as an educator, academic, and white person, and I am hoping that this is something I continue to learn about. I have begun to make some future plans to continue my learning journey about Indigenous pedagogy through helping to create the Catalyst Truth and Reconciliation Program curriculum on Courselink by engaging with many resources related to decolonizing academia and understanding Indigenous pedagogy in practice. Additionally, I am hoping to engage in SoTL work related to Indigenous pedagogy with a fellow masters student. In this way, this goal has expanded beyond a one-semester item to achieve, and evolved into a broader axiological commitment. The only way I have deviated from this goal, is that I have noticed a need to read articles, books, poems, and hear spoken word about Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing, culture, truth, and reconciliation by Indigenous authors – beyond SoTL articles about Indigenous pedagogy. This means reading broader texts about concepts I have to understand in order to effectively implement the Indigenous pedagogical strategies I have learned.

Regarding my third goal, I am pleased to see that I am much more familiar with UDL and UID a this time, but I feel that I have not progressed towards this goal as much as I would have liked. I feel that the closest I have come to this goal is assessing the pre-created syllabus. I have started a list of strategies that I hear about within this course (which is great), but a challenge of this, I have realized, is that I am missing the chance to actually practice these in reality. I don’t believe there is actually an opportunity for me to create an assessment within this class, and in order for me to fully feel like I have met this goal, I would like to actually try creating a few assessments in reality. In the future I should make sure that there are in fact ways for me to meet my goals within the context in which they were created. Finally, I have deviated from feeling committed to this goal, and I think this is because I have realized that in addition to UDL and IUD, relational pedagogy also plays a role in my decision-making processes related to how accessible and relevant my lessons and assessments are as an instructor. This was something Dale mentioned in a class, and something that has stuck with me ever since.

What have you learned are your greatest strengths, so far?

I have learned a lot about my strengths and areas for improvement within this course. Most obviously, I have realized that I have become a fairly brave student. Whether that is due to my age (30), number of years in higher ed (8), other life experience (living with a mental illness as a privileged white woman), or the learning I’ve done lately (related to power, privilege, and experiences of equity-seeking groups), I have began to speak up about difficult topics, hopefully in a fairly inclusive way. One challenge I have noticed in doing this, however, is that perhaps not everyone is feeling as brave as I am. Some folks may feel called-out when I don’t intend that to be the impact of these conversations, or engagement in particular topics may feel burdensome to the marginalized students in the class. One of my ideas about my future plans as a student, is to consider who has the capacity and power to be a brave student, who space safes are for, and who is excluded in these spaces or conversations and to what extent? As a fairly young, white, “mad”, queer, cis-woman inclusion of myself does not inherently mean inclusion of a non-binary peer, a BIPOC guest speaker, or an instructor who is older than me. Therefore, I plan to continue thinking about and reflecting on when, where, and why I will use my bravery in these learning environments. I would also like for my peers and instructor to continue to give me feedback on their perspective when I speak up about something or if I am sharing my opinion too frequently.

What are your biggest areas for improvement?

One thing I have struggled with in this course is fully understanding the expectations. Since this course is pass/fail and I have some of the knowledge of pedagogical best practices, I have felt a little bit like perhaps I didn’t need to read everything fully in order to grasp it. That has turned out to not be the case. I have so much more to learn about SoTL and to be successful in this course I need to ensure I still prioritize reading the materials. In particular, understanding how topics I’ve learned about previously (e.g., active learning or Bloom’s taxonomy) can be used in new contexts such as online learning or syllabi, and this proves I can’t assume I know how to do these things without fully reading the new materials and engaging in the activities. For the remainder of the course I plan to have a more open mind/growth mindset so that I can receive this new information with grace.

Do you feel that anything hindered you from reaching your checkpoints or goals? Had anything helped you?

A few things have helped and hindered me in my progression towards my goals. While I have mentioned a few things, I would like to add that my own motivation has been a driving factor in working towards my second goal outside of class. I have pretty clear and deep commitments to understanding Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing, decolonizing my own life, and fostering allyship in various avenues of my life. This larger vision and purpose has really resulted in my prioritization of my second goal, and has also presented additional opportunities within my life from which I can learn, practice, and build my skillset related to Indigenous pedagogy.

Something that has hindered me in this goal is my lack of connections with Indigenous pedagogistas, or knowledge-holders, from whom I can be mentored. Dale mentioned in a class that I connect with people on campus to continue to learn in the ways that I want to for this goals.

Additionally, something that is hindering my completion of all of my goals is poor planning when I made the goal. Several of my goals cannot be completed within the parameters of this class. Whether that was optimism on my part when creating goals, or not fully understanding the opportunities within the class, I now cannot fully meet the goals I set out.

What would you do differently if you were to write your learning goals again? Are there learning goals would you like to add? Any you would like to remove?

As mentioned above, some of the specific elements of my goals cannot be achieved within this class, so next time I write goals I would ensure that there are opportunities for me to meet them (e.g., a chance to create an assessment during this class) within the parameters present.

Additionally, my goals include several elements, so in the future I might want to include less detail in my goals so that they can be achieved in a slightly boarder way (e.g., focus my final goal on one UDL strategy). A challenge for me in doing that, means that I have to read all the course materials ahead of time, ask more clarifying questions, ask for feedback, and maybe even do some research before hand so that my goal is not so complex. Additionally, I may consider adjusting my goals slightly to include the knowledge I have now. For example, here is how I might re-write my third goal with my knowledge of UDL and UID now:

NEW Goal 3: By the end of the semester, I will be able to create assignment instructions that I believe is equitable, accessible, and fosters belonging in students. To do this, I will use a strategy that are rooted in Universal Design for Learning from SoTL. For example, I will try creating assignment instructions that include the option for student choice in how they present their assignment, in order to support the engagement and expression elements of UDL. I will also start a list to keep track of strategies like this that I might like to use, including how to use these strategies in practice and what assessment practices I may need to adopt in order have my assessments match these expectations.

I wouldn’t add goals at this time, since I feel like these goals are still relevant to me. Hopefully, in the future I can expand on these goals and continue my learning journey in SoTL beyond this course.

A White Woman Pondering Power and Privilege in Classrooms

The discussion that occurred during our class about power in the classroom is still resonating within me – not because we found solutions, but because we got into some questions and wonderings. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about power and privilege within SoTL, especially when it comes to grading things like spelling and grammar/use of the English language, microaggressions in feedback, and how we may need to reimagine many of the principles that are defined in SoTL in order to decolonize and deconstruct the ableist, racist, and classist structures that are upheld by academic institutions.

In a course I took last semester I wrote a spoken word poem about research as reconciliation (as I currently understand it), and how I saw connections to music through this idea of deep listening (with the whole body/mind), an on-going two-way conversation, and dance of accountability in call-and-response style. I concluded the poem with some current axiological commitments, epistemological justice ideas, relational ontological orientations, ideas about seeking equity and inclusion in various learning environments, and this notion that I must “know” responsibly. This idea that I have responsibility, is extended within all my relations (including the more-than-human ones), and inherent to me because I hold many privileges and power as a TA, RA, white, able-bodied, cis-gendered, white, woman who has lived in Guelph all her life. I often think of privilege in terms of (lack of) lived experiences and, in some ways, gifts. Robin Wall Kimmerer discusses two aspects of receiving gifts: one is that I am now in reciprocal debt, and two “with gifts comes responsibility”. Likewise, “with great power comes great responsibility”. My point here is that I feel I have stepped into, and feel grounded by, my responsibilities within academia.

Reflection 3 – Micro-Teaching Session

As I move into my reflection on my micro-teaching session, I bring in many of the concepts I have been pondering about power and privilege in classrooms. My micro-teaching session was about epistemology and I was using Indigenous pedagogical strategies. In my preparation for facilitating this sessions, I read three articles and a book chapter related to Indigenous pedagogy and Indigenization within academia. I decided that I was not going to do a lecture for my 10 min session. I wasn’t going to teach about Indigenous content or use slides either. I did this because even though the use of slides and visuals are typically part of SoTL best practice, they did not align with Indigenous pedagogy as I am currently understanding about it. For my own learning, I wanted to err on the side of practicing these skills, rather than practicing my use of slides and visuals.

I ended up seeing a lot of overlap in the strategies I was reading about, and realized that I could implement several pedagogical strategies at once to break down the hierarchy that typically exists in teacher-student classroom dynamics. Therefore, I intentionally used 7 strategies (a lot, I see now) in my micro-teaching session. I put a lot of care into facilitating a lesson that was decolonized as much as possible, because this is what I had learned about in the articles I read, and because this felt like the step I really wanted to practice in terms of my skill set. The 7 strategies I used included:

  • Employing non-hierarchical teaching structure, as in no “us” and “them” culture between teacher and students (Papp, 2020). I did this by not presenting slides and instead having a more casual conversation. I also encouraged students to change their location (e.g., sit on a couch and turn off the camera) in order to mimic the environment described in Papp’s article.
  • Using a culturally responsive and affirming activity (Papp, 2020). I did this by encouraging students to include their own personal truths and what is individually meaningful. I included a medicine wheel as a prompt to think beyond academic forms of knowledge in order to think about embodied knowledge.
  • Employing relational pedagogy: building community, collaboration, trust, value and respect for each other’s ideas (Papp, 2020). I did this a little bit by including self-reflection and group activities rooted in the student’s personal knowledge. I tried to model being an accomplice for students’ success, rather than an evaluator.
  • Employing experiential learning (Papp, 2020). I tried to demonstrate this through the activities being connected to students own knowledge. It is difficult to facilitate experiential learning virtually in 10 minutes, but my aim was for this to be an internal experience of reconceptualizing knowledge.
  • Peer mentoring (Ragoonaden & Meuller, 2017). While I didn’t explicitly have students mentor each other, I encouraged students who answered that they knew about epistemology to take on a leadership role within the activity that we are going to do. The activity was collaborative and allowed for learning to happen between students via the jamboard. I also included an “up-vote” feature to build some feelings of connections between students.
  • Including (centring) Indigenous worldviews (Papp, 2020). This lesson is less about transferring any type of specific knowledge and instead encourages students to use self-reflection and embodied knowledge to generate their own insights, and then categorize their current knowledge by three broad categories of epistemology. I prompted students to think of how the medicine wheel might reflect the three broad types of epistemology, without directly teaching Indigenous content.
  • Allowing students to self-pace the main learning task (Papp, 2020). I did this by allowing students to continue to work on the jamboard at their own pace after the class.
  • Including Indigenous knowledges throughout the lesson at a variety of levels, not just in the content (as per Pidgeon’s (2016) lit review). I did this by not teaching directly about Indigenous worldviews, but by imploring my strategies in a variety of ways and by empowering students to think beyond Eurocentric ideals of knowledge.

Clearly, I thought deeply about how to implement Indigenous pedagogy in practice from the articles I read. I also need to acknowledge that much of my understanding thus far comes from the conversations I have had with faculty and peers around decolonization, Indigenization, and reconciliation. Having been taught by Kim Anderson for a few guest lectures helped me challenge my own understanding of Indigenizing curriculum. Additionally, my mentorship by Andrea Breen was truly transformative for me in terms of understanding my own positionality and impacts of my privilege. There is no “how-to” guide for decolonizing academia, despite the above list that I provided. Like I said, I am a white woman, and for me to attempt to facilitate a lesson plan based on Indigenous pedagogy that I simply read about rather than getting mentored on by an Indigenous individual can be considered problematic.

All this to say that I knew I had a lot packed into my micro teaching session, which was intentional given the responsibility I felt for doing this task justice. And yet, when I facilitated my session, it felt like it fell flat.

What went well

I am very proud to say that I felt like I took a risk in trying to decolonize my own pedagogical practice. It was a valuable learning moment for me. I very clearly used BOPPS model (I did a pre and post assessment with menti), I used many active learning strategies (a jam board for a group activity), and I said my learning outcomes at the start of my lesson.

What did not go well

The concept of time is not something that is necessarily translated directly in Indigenous cultures, as I currently understand them. Having a 10 minute teaching session in and of itself goes against many cultural practices and beliefs of the peoples of Turtle Island (I think). Instead, learning unfolds overtime, and is something we are in relation with. Therefore the initial set up of the activity went against my understanding of how I could implement Indigenous pedagogy respectfully.

Beyond that, my initial reaction to facilitating my lesson was that it was way too full. I spoke quickly, despite being fairly calm, and I didn’t have enough time to allow my learners to try the last activity. I realized that without any visual information learners couldn’t refer back to some of the things I was saying.

I had mentioned in my session that I didn’t include slides on purpose, but I didn’t say why I did this, because it was tied to creating a non-hierarchical learning environment which was one of my strategies for using Indigenous pedagogy. I thought that this would be obvious to my learners, and that it would be silly to explain my teaching strategy when I was going to demonstrate it any way. But through feedback, I learned something different: it was suggested that I could have explained why I was not using slides. This was a useful perspective to consider and something I still contemplating for my next session. I likely just need to find a concise way to say what I said above, although I feel uncertain about making a link between a lack of slides and Indigenous pedagogy because I am not an expert on this concept, and many Indigenous instructors likely use slides. This tension is something I am working through as a white person, particularly in ensuring that I am not co-opting Indigenous oral traditions but that I am also growing my own capacity to teach outside of the traditional academic structure. Perhaps for the scope of this assignment, I need to just use slides. I’ll have to see how I feel after thinking about it some more.

Challenge: While I completely understand and agree with this feedback, I don’t understand how I could also create the time to explain my teaching strategies to create that transparency for learners in a 10 min teaching session. I could have easily spent 10 minutes explaining Indigenous pedagogy, and it felt like knowing some of the basic concepts of Indigenous pedagogy would be a prerequisite for me to have meaningful feedback from my peers. To do this topic justice, I think it would help to have a brief time ahead of the lesson where I can explain my intentions and why Indigenous pedagogy often doesn’t align with typical pedagogical approaches in University. I suppose my question is: who is my target audience and what relationship do we already have to one another when I do this micro teaching session?

Another piece of feedback I got was that I could include a written version of my learning objectives for learners to refer back to and for visual organization purposes. I hadn’t considered that what I was doing was inaccessible to students and not helpful for their learning. This is a piece of feedback I am going to use in my next session, but I am not going to do it via slides. I am either going to type it in the chat or put it in the jamboard link. Doing so just does not align currently with my understanding of Indigenous pedagogy and goes against my values for doing this concept justice, as I have mentioned.

Challenge: The irony to all this is that in all my effort to decolonize a lesson plan, I was kind of told … not to do that. I had quite an emotional reaction to this and nearly had to turn off my camera to hide tears that were forming. I wasn’t upset that I got constructive feedback – I crave that, and I attempt to welcome it with grace. I was upset that I felt resistance to my attempt to implement Indigenous pedagogy…in a session DESIGNED to facilitate Indigenous pedagogy. I thought “if I can’t feel supported in decolonizing a 10 min lesson that is ABOUT imploring Indigenous pedagogy, why are we including it in this class and how would be actually decolonize this institution?” I felt really disappointed and discouraged in that moment. This strong initial reaction led me to linger on the feedback I got and to deconstruct the feedback and my reaction.

What I learned about being an educator and myself

After having a strong reaction to getting feedback about my teaching session I realized I had some deconstructing to do. I had initially attributed all of this feedback to just be about Indigenous pedagogy, instead of attributing it to my own pedagogical skills. I starting asking myself: how much of the ownership to facilitate a session using Indigenous pedagogical strategies is on me? How much is on the learners and my peers and instructor in this course? I realized that I have some responsibility to take here. I can implement the ideas I discussed above, but I also also accept that I am not going to be an expert at using Indigenous pedagogical skills the first time I do so. To expect myself to be good at it is actually a very colonizing idea – that I can just take Indigenous concepts and benefit from them. So I’ve realized that I need to continue to build these skills, and perhaps it goes beyond the scope of this course to find a mentor to help me with this. That being said, I also would ask that if I am expected to demonstrate my skills in this area that my peers and instructor are able to understand this area of SoTL and think deeply about what it means to decolonize a lesson plan.

Future Implications: Since I realized that I need to consider that the challenges that occurred could be co-owned by myself, my peers, and the instructor, I have come back to this idea of the importance of reflective practice and getting effective feedback. If I am not clear in my teaching strategy, regardless of how decolonized it may be, then I’m not being a good instructor. I would like to seek out a mentor or webinar or other learning space where I can practice some of the skills I mentioned and get feedback on them from people who are skilled in the area of Indigenous pedagogy.

Which feedback I will implement

At the time of writing this I am still reflecting on all of the feedback I got. I likely will implement the things I have mentioned above, in the ways I have mentioned them. Additionally, I asked my group about my topic choice (epistemology) I was given some feedback that perhaps it was a heavy topic. I was given feedback that I could include more Indigenous examples in the examples section that I had for the three types of epistemological orientations. Initially, I thought this was a great idea and a huge oversight on my part. But upon reflection, I realized that this is akin to simple injecting Indigenous content into my lesson. So I have decided I will include only 1/4 written examples in each section that is rooted in Indigenous Ways of Knowing, but I will verbally explain the active learning task using a land-based example. I think that in doing so this will make a more explicit connection between my topic of epistemology, Indigenous Ways of Knowing, and these 7 Indigenous pedagogical strategies I listed above.

While I wasn’t given direct feedback on the use of my 7 strategies explicitly, I am thinking I will need to just focus on one or two in order for my peers to give me feedback on those strategies specifically. I think it perhaps wasn’t obvious to my peers and instructor that I had tried to decolonize the entire lesson plan, and in many ways perhaps that was not the point of this task. While implementing the 7 strategies was helpful and meaningful for my own learning, I am thinking about focusing on, say, just not using slides, and getting feedback on how that felt as learners. There are additional features that may help with processing auditory information from an accessibility perspective, such as the transcript feature in zoom. Finding creative ways to still provide a lesson that is aligned with Indigenous pedagogy tricky, and it is a task that may require some flexible thinking from the learners. I may simply have to state that.

Additional Reflections

Giving Feedback

I wanted to reflect on some additional challenges I noticed while giving feedback to peers. If my peers had used the BOPPS model, it was easy to give feedback on those features. If they didn’t, but then wanted feedback on the BOPPS model, I hope it prompted some self-reflection for my peers. It felt like perhaps not the most productive use of our time otherwise. Additionally, I noticed that one of my peers did not implement a specific learning strategy but instead taught about it. I think some further clarification may need to be made, despite us as students asking many times about what the micro-teaching session was designed to accomplish.

Some feedback comments I heard from one student came across as concerning to me. These comments included that the one of our classmates should “smile more” when presenting and that their session was good for not being a native English language speaker. Neither of these feedback comments were asked for by the peer that had just facilitated their micro-teaching session. These comments were affirmed by the instructor which I found further concerning. In the moment, I understood that maybe prior conversations had elicited these comments in ways that I was not aware of, but I found them very startling, inappropriate, and condescending. I know that not everyone has the same knowledge about comments that are considered to be microaggressions, but I nontheless had a strong emotional reaction to this. I was happy to see some pushback on the second comment from another peer who spoke English as a second language. My thoughts were along the lines of “if we can’t give each other feedback that doesn’t include microaggressions related English speaking abilities, what does it mean that we are perpetuating as instructors? What views do we hold of students who may not speak English fluently or who do not smile?”. There are ways to give feedback on each other’s facial expressions or energy without directly telling an individual that they should smile more. I wish I had spoken up in the moment to challenge these comments and in the future I plan to address them in a gentle way. Additionally, it would be great to discuss microaggressions ahead of giving feedback to one another in order to consider how to address this is in the future.

Future implications: These kinds of mistakes can happen to anyone. Even though I identified concerning comments, I myself am not immune from saying a microaggressive comment to a peer or student within any of my roles. While there are many webinars and learning opportunities related to anti-racism and EDI, I am wondering about learning how to respond as an educator when we make these mistakes or when we are given feedback that something we did may have been inappropriate. How can we get that feedback from peers? I’d rather be told by somebody I trust that what I’ve said is problematic than to hurt a group of students. How can we create learning environments that hold space for calling each other into having these tough conversations? I would rather be part of a brave learning environment that had the capacity to stretch in order to address these concepts than focus on mastering content. And yet, as a white cis-gendered, able-bodied person, I shouldn’t be the one to fully decide this. I have heard from my Black friends that being in school right now as the only Black student in a class is exhausting. There are many conversations where white people are reflecting on their privilege and the Black student is simply called in for their perspective. We may need learning spaces where white learners don’t need to burden Black students with their reflections without reinventing segregation. Therefore, I am just wondering about seeking out and/or creating on going learning opportunities and spaces for educators to engage in reflective practice that relates to deconstructing how they handled situations. This things obviously informally exist in that I can ask peers or friends for their perspective, but this feedback is not necessarily informed by SoTL. I plan to continue to think about this situation and how I might support myself and my peers in learning from our mistakes, where appropriate.

Syllabus and Lesson Plan Reflections

Reflection 2: Evaluating a Syllabus

What I learned from the evaluation of the syllabus

The syllabus evaluation exercise prompted me to think about communicating expectations and to students. I chose this course outline because I know that it includes scaffolding assignments and trains students on designing program plans for young children. The course is called Program Design for Children and is a second year course with in the Child Studies program here at Guelph, in FRHD. There is a lot of cross over with this content and lesson planning for adults. But the interesting thing that I noticed is that these scaffolded assignments which include summative feedback are not well described to students who read the syllabus. A student likely just sees the 3 assignments with different grades attached, but there isn’t a clear description that these assignments all build on each other (in reality I know they do, since I’ve taken the course and TA the course and spoken at length with the department about this). Further, only one assignment is thoroughly explained, and no grading breakdown was provided within this document. A light-bulb moment for me and inference I made from this is that by these standards, a course outline must stand on its own without needing to make these connections for students through verbal instructions. I wonder whether University instructors are aware that this is best practice in SoTL. Syllabi are often explained in the first week of class with a break down of major assignments, so I wonder how many instructors rely on this clarification process to discuss the nuances of the syllabus with the learners.

Additionally, while I really liked the learning outcomes, realizing that they did not cover the full range of Fink’s dimensions was interesting. I initially thought that this was an oversight for the course, and that the instructor should consider adding some higher-level skills from the list. Since I know the placement of this course within the larger program curricula, I was able to realize, though, that this might actually not be what the course needs. This course is the first of three courses that scaffold students learning wile they get trained as educators. There are good reasons that some of the higher-level skills are not included here, because students are learning the basic applied skills for observing behaviour, analyzing behaviour from a developmental perspective, and beginning to understand how they might scaffold children’s development using their interests and current abilities. Upon even further reflection, however, I realized that this course also does include some of those higher-level skills such as application (by applying developmental knowledge so that a program plan is developmentally appropriate), and integration (by connecting observations to developmental theory and next-steps in the program plans as an educator), and additional skills such as: collaborating to create a group project, responding to children’s developmental needs, identifying developmental skills from observations, and creating a plan (the students literally create 3 versions of a program plan). These skills are demonstrated by students in a very applied way that we do not typically consider within academia, but they are skills present in these assignments (which I only know from taking and TA’ing the course). After looking back on the learning objectives for this reflection, I see that they do in fact include some of these examples I mentioned, so perhaps I didn’t realize at the time that these covered more of Fink’s dimensions than I originally documented. Regardless I believe the learning outcomes could be adjusted slightly to reflect how students are in fact engaging in the continuum of Fink’s dimensions, even if in different ways that was is typical for academic undergraduate training.

Challenges: One main challenge for choosing a syllabus that I have familiarity with is that I could have been a bit biased in my analysis, such that I was rating it harsher than one of my peers might. In the future it would be interesting for me to do this again with a syllabus that I am not familiar with, to see if I would have interpreted it differently.

Future Implications: I have seen Blooms taxonomy used when developing programs with young children so I know that it is possible to take Fink’s dimensions and align then with the a course’s goals for students. I think that we need to learn about Fink’s dimensions in a way that allows us as future instructors to be flexible with how we apply these verbs in order to fit the expectations of the course. Additionally, I liked learning that sometimes courses intentionally don’t include all dimensions if they are part of a larger scaffolded experience for students. I am wondering if there is away to clearly communicate that to students within the syllabi so that students understand the connections that the learning outcomes have for their future and past courses within a particular program.

Focus of the syllabus

The syllabus is mostly content-focused, and I was “let down” by this because of the irony of a course for educators not including learning-focused elements. Although the learning outcomes provide clear descriptions of some of the learning, there is not a description about what students will learn each week or through each assignment or assessment. Like we discussed in class, having a learning-focused syllabi coveys a warm and welcoming tone, non-hierarchical, student-centred approach to the structure of the class. I feel like it is a hugely missed opportunity to not include at least a few sentences about what students will have the opportunity to learn about each week. This could easily be modified by adding in sentences to the schedule under the content covered each week. Additionally, including more about what learning the students are engaging in within the descriptions in each of the assessments would be an easy way to add in additional information.

Challenge: As noted from the article we read about learning-focused syllabi, there was not a resounding appreciation for the learning-focused syllabi from the individuals in the study. One of the things participants talked about was the syllabus being confusing and long. I also worry about this when learning-centred syllabi. From an accessibility stand point, a long and wordy document may be less helpful in ensuring students can have success in the course, even if it does create a welcoming tone to the document. I hope in the future that I can consider including elements of learning and a warm tone without making the document inaccessible to my students.

Reflection 3: Reflecting on my design of, and feedback from, my lesson plan

Difficult parts of creating a lesson plan

I had a lot of difficulty understanding what we could make the lesson plan about. I ended up not being able to get a lot of feedback on my lesson plan because my partner and I were figuring out what to teach about versus what strategies we could use during the feedback session. I found the most challenging part filling in all the components of the BOPPS model into a 10 minute activity. This was an excellent learning opportunity for me because I tend to plan really long guest lectures so I have a lot to learn in predicting how long each part of the lesson plan will take.

Since I am running a “work shop” on emergent curriculum as a TA in a few weeks, I initially wanted to plan my lesson around this topic as some practice ahead of time. But once I realized I had to use an Indigenous pedagogical strategy, this topic no longer felt aligned with the strategy that I wanted to demonstrate or practice. I brought this up during my feedback session with my peer and they agreed. In response to this realization, I changed my topic to be about epistemology, or Ways of Knowing, since this can clearly be taught using Indigenous pedagogical strategies, at least as I know them to be. Again, fitting this topic and my strategy into 10 minutes was a challenge! But I just did my best to remember that the point of this is for me to practice this skill.

Most difficult part about receiving feedback

My peer gave me honest and helpful feedback. I am fortunate in that my undergrad training really opened me up to receiving feedback with grace, and I welcomed her insight. The main challenge was that she wasn’t as knowledgable about Indigenous pedagogy as I had hoped, so it might have been helpful to discuss it with my group member who is doing the same topic as I am. I tried to explain what I could, but Indigenous pedagogy can go against the things that have allowed us to be successful in academia (as grad students) so it’s not something that can just be explained simply in a 20 minute period. To understand the topic it needs to be revisited again and again, like many things in Indigenous culture, as I currently understand it. So, this was part of the feedback process that felt clunky for me, and not particularly helpful on this strategy.

Admittedly, it was hard to hear that my lesson plan wasn’t as clear as I thought it would be since I have some experience writing lesson plans. I helped me realized that there is still so much for me to learn about creating program plans, and I will never be fully competent in understanding every learner’s perspective. In this way, continuing to learn and get feedback on my lesson plans and teaching strategies is essential for my ongoing professional development. Even when feeling saturating in knowledge in the area of how learning happens, there will always be more for me to learn, and additional perspectives to consider.

Effective Feedback as an Educator

I don’t like thinking of myself as a teacher or having a teaching practice per se. I don’t “teach” as my main responsibility, even as an early childhood educator. I co-learn. I walk with children and students as they learn. My practice is to be a responsive and caring adult (not an expert). I am trained to respond to the needs and curiosities of my learners, by observing and analyzing their skills and interests and extending these abilities through meaningful and engaging activities. In this regard, reflective practice is essential to being a responsive educator who can grow with students. By extension, receiving feedback is a crucial piece of expanding our self-awareness, understanding our impacts on learners, and continuing to adjust our practice over time. There will never be a time where an educator can stop learning about being an effective educator, especially because every group of students is unique. And feedback from others is necessary because we aren’t usually able to fully see past our own biases or to interpret our ideas from the students perspective. I hope I am able to continue to engage in professional development that allows me to have direct feedback on my skills in action (not just learning about concepts without applying them and seeing how it works out).

Additionally, I have realized that practicing something without getting feedback is not always sufficient to ensure that the necessary growth can take place. Practicing without feedback would be like practicing playing music without ever listening to yourself on a recording or getting people to tell you their reactions. It’s a different experience to get direct feedback on your ideas or performance than the act of practicing those ideas or performance. I think that there really isn’t a replacement for getting feedback from others on our pedagogical decisions.

Feedback I am Using

My peer mentioned keeping my active learning activity very simple because I had a lot packed in. I realized that I agreed, and that it might be too much to complete in 10 mins. I realized that I could use this feedback AND implement an additional strategy from the articles I read on Indigenous pedagogy. I could allow students to self-pace their completion of this activity beyond the scope of the lesson plan, which is reflective of how students self-paced their completion of courses in the study I read for my SoTL snapshot (Papp, 2020). I decided to use this feedback in a unique way, and I would not have had this realization without a peer mentioning it in a way that prompted me to think differently about it.

My peer also liked that I included a jamboard and menti link, so I am going to keep both.

Feedback I am not using

My peer mentioned that my topic choice of epistemology was a big topic to discuss in 10 minutes. We chatted a bit about it and I agreed. I probably should change the topic. However, I decided that I wanted to try it anyway because a different topic was not coming to mind that would allow me to utilize an Indigenous pedagogical strategy. From my reading, it is not enough to simple inject Indigenous content into courses in order to decolonize academia, so I felt strongly about avoiding doing that. Instead, I wanted to teach about an academic topic by using documented Indigenous pedagogical strategies like I had learned about. I felt that this was a great extension on the learning I have been doing about Indigenizing the curriculum over the past year or so, and would be a good challenge for myself. I have other opportunities to teach simpler topics so this felt like a risk that I wanted to try for my own learning and growth. We will see how it works out.

Future implications

For the scope of this course, it proved challenging to finish my lesson plan on the topic of epistemology and I had to significantly cut down the content in order to included all the strategies and BOPPS items that I wanted to. I am wondering what is more important for my learning: to demonstrate I can implement BOPPPS in a 10 min lesson plan or to try to decolonize my own pedagogical practice at a deeper level. I can’t seem to do both and meet the expectations of this assignment. I am craving more practicing with implementing Indigenous pedagogy and I am trying to find a way that I can continue to learn about this topic outside of this course.

Personal Philosophy Statement

As an aspiring ECE, and a student planning on pursuing graduate work in the helping profession that is related to child development, I put a lot of thought into creating a personal philosophy statement regarding working with families. Although this particular statement is heavily related to educating, I believe it applies to working with young children across various capacities. I am sharing it here to indicate to my audience a transparent presentation of my values.

Personal Philosophy Statement

My personal philosophy for working with children and families considers the notion that all individuals are competent, curious, capable, and curious life-long learners who are entitled to access to life-long and developmentally appropriate learning opportunities within the context of, and in collaboration with, their community and family (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2014). I employ a relationships-based approach while working with children and families and believe that we can all learn from and grow with each other best through our relationships. Further, I highly consider the neurocognitive processes and right-brain to right-brain synchronicity when building these relationships. My personal approach to teaching focuses on the social-emotional readiness for learning and facilitating emergent and responsive key experiences that consider familial and cultural contexts to help children actively engage in their learning in meaningful ways (HighScope inspired). Thus, I believe good teaching employs a wide variety of observational, facilitative, and assessment strategies in order to offer unique opportunities to each specific group of learners to allow them to explore their interests independently.

More specifically, I believe that high-quality teaching practices requires an ebb and flow between: minimal direct instruction (Montessori-inspired); scaffolding for extending learning (constructivist approach); behaviour guidance in collaboration with the learners (HighScope inspired); preparation of the environment to not only act as the “third teacher” (Reggio Emilia inspired) but also to help offer a calm learning environment (Shanker, 2016); monitoring and modifying for facilitating belonging, engagement, wellbeing, and expression (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2014); facilitating active engagement with, and investigation of, the learning materials (constructivist approaches); assessing and considering stages of development in program planning (Piaget’s stages and Best Start Panel on Early Learning, 2014); and hands-off supervision during times of exploration, experimentation, and opportunities for logical consequences to unfold (Montessori approach).

Moreover, I execute the Self Reg steps when children are upset (Shanker, 2016) in order to relieve their stress and prepare them for learning. This approach works well, but sometimes requires collaboration others to truly uncover and resolve conflicts. I use the HighScope conflict resolution approach wherever possible (The Active Learner, 2018), which is extremely effective in revolving immediate conflict, but requires substantiable follow-up for resolving on-going tension between individuals. However, both of these incidents and interventions would cause me to reflect on the environmental influences, including the influence of routines and expectations, on the learning space and consider whether there are changes I could make to further facilitate safe, nurturing, supportive, engaging, and developmentally appropriate learning opportunities. Additionally, when considering various developmental and interests of the children in my care, I incorporate physical objects as well as books and pictures that are responsive to (and that sometimes combine) these factors. This process is very trial-and-error based and often requires in-the-moment modifications to ensure appropriate engagement. We may remain on these topics until the children indicate they are satisfied and no longer curious about the topic.

Emergent interests and abilities, play, and inquiry are at the heart of my pedagogical practice and made possible through program plans that are developed based on observation, documentation, and reflections. A circular, rather than linear, view could be used when considering my approach (Stacey, 2009). Further, although ideal programming is child-centered and open-ended, my teaching practice also includes my personal strengths and natural talents, so that I can capitalize on my shared interests with the children, am a present and active co-learner, and form authentic relationships. More specifically, nature-based play, music, expression through movement are some of modes I prefer to use while teaching.