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Teaching about race and racism in the classroom: Managing the Indigenous elephant in the room

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) Ed.D.
Date created
Author: Ward, Cheryl
In order to gain an understanding of the knowledge, self-awareness, and skills that educators require to successfully manage Indigenous-specific racism, I interviewed 10 educators and followed this with a focus group. I employed qualitative methods to determine what happens when anti-Indigenous racism is taken up by educators? What are the characteristics of anti-Indigenous racism that makes it challenging to manage in a classroom? And what are the strategies that seem to be successful as well as those that are not? The participants in the study self-identified as Indigenous (4), as White (3), and as racialized (3). Drawing on the findings, I conclude by outlining recommendations for educators addressing anti-Indigenous racism. This thesis is an exploration of the way in which anti-Indigenous racism manifests in adult education classrooms. The findings from this thesis support the literature that exposes the high level of violence related to anti-Indigenous racism in education environments. Findings revealed that taking up anti-Indigenous racism in ways that are effective requires high levels of knowledge, self-awareness, and the skills to address the accompanying violence and racist ideology that supports it. Other key themes from the findings include the challenges of addressing resistance, and the traumatic impact of anti-Indigenous violence on educators, particularly those who are Indigenous. The racial standpoint and identity of the educator emerged as a significant factor and can inform the ways in which anti-Indigenous racism is negotiated in the classroom. Educators also identified strategies they use to manage and confront anti-Indigenous attitudes and behaviour providing examples of those that were successful as well as those that were not. Anti-Indigenous racism is not new and what it is clear from this research is that in order to disrupt the unacceptable levels of anti-Indigenous attitudes and behaviours in the classroom, educators will need to equip themselves with an enhanced inventory of strategies in order to participate in meaningful change. This study will contribute to the growing body of work that critically addresses the pedagogy used to confront the way in which colonial history continues to manifest in the education system.
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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Van der Wey, Dolores
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