This thesis explores how a practice in phenomenological art inquiry might help pre-service teachers begin decolonizing themselves so they are better prepared to include Indigenous education in their lessons in sensitive and culturally relevant ways. Drawing on a review of literature in the areas of critical pedagogy, Indigenous education, and phenomenology, two central questions drive this research: 1) how might student teacher engagement in phenomenological art inquiry, informed by Ann Curry-Stevens’ framework for transformative education for privileged learners (2007), impact on student teachers’ perceptions of Indigenous peoples and education and help them enact more holistic approaches to Indigenous education that avoid replicating colonial stereotypes? and 2) how might art precipitate the kind of ontological uncertainty necessary for transformative education to ensue? To address these questions, a pre-service teacher education program called Starting from Now, Learning to See was developed to assist participants in acquiring the dispositions and strategies necessary to deliver effective and inclusive Indigenous education to their students. The program exposed student teachers to several examples of political- and identity-based contemporary Aboriginal art with the aim of disrupting their perceptions of Indigenous peoples, while at the same time providing alternate, and arguably more inclusive, versions of the Canadian narrative. In particular, students were asked to undertake a process of phenomenological art inquiry in relation to the art works presented. This process asked them to become aware of their own reactions and responses not only to the aesthetics of each work, but also to the discourses each work introduced, such as the impact of colonization on Indigenous peoples, misrepresentation, and erasure. The program was implemented with a cohort of 30 pre-service teachers in the Professional Development Program (PDP) at Simon Fraser University during five sessions over a 4-month period. A qualitative study using thematic analysis explored participants’ written reflections and a multimodal social semiotic discourse analysis was used to examine participants’ phenomenological inquiry into Indigenous artwork. The findings indicated that learning to engage with art in a dialogic and phenomenological fashion is highly effective in helping student teachers detect and correct gaps in their knowledge by offering them a point of entry into Indigenous teaching and learning that is both contemporary and relevant. There was also considerable evidence of on-going resistance to the inclusion of Indigenous education in schools both from participants, from Faculty Associates and others at the school sites in which their practicums were set, which points to the need for post-secondary institutions to increase their efforts to improve the depth and degree to which they support Indigenous education. In particular, more needs to be done to provide careful instruction, ideally from Indigenous mentors, and ample time for student teachers to absorb and internalise the concepts associated with Indigenous education, especially given that the current structure of PDP embeds this aspect of instruction within larger pedagogical discourses. The study also revealed a pressing need for improved Indigenous education in our K-12 systems, as many students arrived in the PDP with significant self-identified deficits in their knowledge and understanding of Indigenous peoples.
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Thesis advisor: O'Neill, Suzie
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