UAA Initiatives

The Design—Alaska Native Ways Of Teaching And Learning Faculty Intensive

In conjunction with the Project Director (myself, a white woman), Alaska Native leaders, Elders, educators and community members designed a new faculty intensive using much the same structure as the previous intensives, but centered around Alaska Native issues and learning strategies. We recruited a second cohort of 18 faculty fellows from among the participants in the previous four Difficult Dialogues cohorts, based on their demonstrated leadership, motivation, and commitment. Again, these Fellows were expected to apply what they learned in the classroom, participate in assessment activities, and share their learning with their colleagues. Assignments were given to small groups of faculty to develop strategies for applying several of these ways of teaching and learning in at least one of their courses.

Faculty were introduced to several traditional Alaska Native ways of teaching and learning, including experiential and applied learning, place and community-based learning, non-verbal learning, storytelling, and an organic earth-based pace, incorporating silences and pauses that provide time to reflect. They also participated in key difficult dialogues between Alaska Native communities and the academy, concerning such topics as sustainability of life systems, the role of spirituality in education, the relationship between Western science and research and Alaska Native communities, institutional racism, and the lack of Alaska Native faculty and ways of teaching in the academy.

One day of the intensive took place on tribal lands some 20 miles north of the campuses. Alaska Native Elders from four different indigenous nations spoke to the group, and each represented tribe made a presentation about its history and lands. An Alaska Native dance group performed and engaged the faculty in dancing, and faculty members presented non-verbal stories derived from their lives. At the end of the day, the group ate traditional foods together outside on the land. At various times during the week, guest presenters from the Alaska Native community shared their experience and expertise on topics ranging from our first-ever K-6th grade Alaska Native charter school, to Alaska Native storytelling, to what our Alaska Native students need today. In addition, Alaska Native faculty and staff participated in a “fishbowl” exercise in which they shared their experience of institutional racism at one of the universities, and how they believe that racism affects Alaska Native students. Interactive theater was employed to help faculty participants grapple with incidents involving institutional racism.

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