Educational Environment and the Development of Learners

Responsibility 1-3

  1. Review programming to recommend approaches to pedagogy in curriculum to create a relatable and inclusive environment.
  2. Develop recommendations and resources to include BIPOC scholarship and research in curriculum.
  3. Provide recommendations for the development of cultural awareness in language and teaching, including for case studies and examples.

Background

A participatory-based approach that included student voices at the undergraduate and the graduate level, in consultation with experts in anti-racist pedagogy and curriculum design, was used. The recommendations involve critical evaluation of the selection of course materials; the inclusion of diverse teaching practices and non-Western knowledge systems, ways of being and doing; and the recognition that Western thoughts and approaches are not universal and are particular modes of arriving at truth.

Recommendations

Recommendation 16

Embed mechanisms and resources to ensure that curriculum, individual courses, and teaching practices are decolonized to create a more inclusive teaching and learning environment by:

  • A | Developing tools and frameworks to guide faculties, departments, and programs in decolonizing curriculum and teaching practices.
  • B | Modifying the cyclical review process for academic programs to require that every program undertake a review of its curriculum through a lens of decolonization.
  • C | Ensuring that support/expertise in decolonizing practices are available.

Recommendation 17

Create and maintain a comprehensive inventory of all courses with substantial Indigenous and Black content (including Indigenous knowledges, cultures, histories, languages, politics).

Recommendation 18

Develop resources and supports and create mechanisms for greater levels of Black, Indigenous, and other racialized undergraduate and graduate student engagement towards inclusive learning environments by:

  • A | Including these student voices in curriculum and program review committees.
  • B | Including these student voices in the creation of a variety of formal and informal pathways and mechanisms for feedback when there are concerns with the learning environment.
  • C | Providing workshops/resources for teaching assistants on creating inclusive learning environments.

Recommendation 19

Ensure the development, implementation, and continuing refinement of holistic methods of teaching assessment that make use of multiple sources of information, which may be the best approach for racialized professors:

  • A | Use both Student Course Perception Surveys and Peer Reviews of Teaching to assess the quality of learning environment – in particular the racial, ethnic, cultural and gender inclusivity of the learning environment.
  • B | Use newly available disaggregated data about race to improve understanding of differences in student course perception scores, in aid of fairer assessment of racialized instructors.

Recommendation 20

Invest in the creation of diverse physical spaces and places on campus where different ways of teaching and learning can occur, including space for land-based teaching, community gatherings, sacred fires, drumming circles, and other elements central to making non-Western spaces.

Recommendation 21

Train faculty and departmental review committee members on how to evaluate non-Western based (particularly, Indigenous) research, teaching, and service and ensure that these members evaluate bodies of work with appropriate lenses.

Responsibility 4

Make recommendations to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing, content, perspective, discourse, and approaches as appropriate.

Background

As a research-intensive institution, the University of Waterloo can make a direct impact on the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and other racialized members of its campus community through a re-evaluation of the research enterprise. The Taskforce recognizes that historically (and currently) “other” ways of being, knowing, and doing have been excluded and rendered invisible by the predominance of Western research models and practices.

The Taskforce’s goal in setting out the recommendations below is not to eliminate Western-based research practices, but to expand the understanding of what is considered “bold, innovative, and excellent” research and research methodologies. With the aim to decolonize research and research administration, these recommendations have been informed by the experiences shared by Black, Indigenous, and other racialized faculty and students involved in research endeavours – as well as scans of other institutions and research into best practices.

Recommendations

Recommendation 22

Create a Centre or Institute for Indigenous Research Excellence that supports Indigenous communities with identifying their research needs and areas of interest and assists these communities with achieving their research goals through partnerships with University researchers.

Recommendation 23

Mandate training for all non-Indigenous faculty members, staff, and students engaging in Indigenous research.

Recommendation 24

Consult with Indigenous community members who have existing relationships with the University (including staff, students, and faculty), to create a policy on conducting research with Indigenous communities and on Indigenous lands and waters.

Recommendation 25

Ensure representation of different ways of knowing and being; equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism training; and best practices for the Research Ethics Board membership, so it has the capacity to support, assess, and approve ethics requests for research which impacts or involves racialized communities, with particular emphasis on Indigenous communities.

Recommendation 26

Ensure diverse/broad membership and equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism training for dissertation and thesis committees to better evaluate non-Western research methodologies and projects (and formally recognize the contributions of faculty, particularly Black, Indigenous, and other racialized faculty, who may be tasked with more expectations on their labour for serving on these committees).

Responsibility 5-6

  1. Provide recommendations for the development of BIPOC entrance and other scholarships.
  2. Advise on strategies related to approaches for introducing a transitional year program for high-school students.

Background 

The Taskforce’s recommendations with respect to scholarships, transition year programming, and admissions are all motivated by the goal of creating more equitable access to the University’s academic programs. Black, Indigenous, and other racialized students are judged in equal measure with white students, even though Black, Indigenous, and other racialized students are structurally disadvantaged. Institutions such as the University of Toronto and McMaster University have acknowledged this structural disadvantage by creating scholarships, transition year programming, and admission practices that address these systemic issues. Equitable access to the University’s academic programs improves the experience for all students by creating a more diverse and vibrant learning environment that reflects the Canadian society.

Recommendations

Recommendation 27

Set specific admission goals for domestic Indigenous and Black students, at the undergraduate level, with a goal of creating a student body that reflects the make-up of the Canadian high school population by 2025.

A | Set faculty-by-faculty goals to ensure opportunities in all fields of study.

B | Publicly acknowledge the Jay Treaty for Indigenous undergraduate and graduate students from the United States.

C | Develop programs and metrics to increase high school recruitment and outreach to Black and Indigenous students.

Recommendation 28

Identify and address any barriers in admission processes that may negatively impact Black, Indigenous, and other racialized students, acknowledging that for undergraduate and graduate programs where admissions are highly competitive, it is already standard practice to consider additional criteria besides grades.

  • A | Train staff in appropriate application of criteria.
  • B | Implement mechanisms for Black, Indigenous, and other racialized students to provide supplementary evidence of their ability and commitment to success.
  • C | Investigate if application fees may be unintended barriers.

Recommendation 29

Increase the number and value of scholarships and other funding opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and other racialized students (e.g., needs-based financial support for tuition subsidies, emergency loans, affordable childcare, housing, nutritious food), and identify and eliminate barriers to access these funds.

Recommendation 30

Provide clear communications with students (across multiple platforms and formats) about the financial costs of attending university, so that racialized students from backgrounds where university education has not been the norm can make informed decisions about applying.

Recommendation 31

Create a Transitional Year Program to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the student body by supporting Black, Indigenous, and other racialized students who are close to achieving the usual admission standards for their preferred programs but are unable to. These programs should assist students in enhancing their skills, demonstrating their abilities, and becoming ready to succeed.