Resources for instructors to decolonize and indigenize teaching and learning

This resource list contains specific actions you can take to create more equitable and inclusive classrooms, courses, and learning experiences for our students. The ‘Additional Resources’ section includes other resources related to equity and more intensive educational opportunities.

This resource list was created by Student Engagement and Retention Specialist Madison Nichols and Associate Professor Shannon Majowicz, with support from Hossam Bakir and Satveer Dhillon, members of the School of Public Health Sciences Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisory Group.

Featured resource

Keele University: Keele Manifesto for Decolonising the Curriculum

Practically all academic disciplines have been influenced by a history of colonial thinking where Western attitudes have dominated academic narratives and practices. The “Keele Manifesto for Decolonising the Curriculum” explains exactly what it would mean to decolonise the university curriculum and what needs to be done to rethink, reframe, and reconstruct the curriculum.  It is highly recommended that you read through the manifesto and its numbered list for decolonising the curriculum before reading the rest of this document.

Resources for critical conversations and inclusive teaching

University of Michigan: Guidelines for Discussing Difficult or High-Stakes Topics

The guidelines provided on this webpage can help professors facilitate classroom discussion around controversial issues. These discussions can help outline expectations for respect, define boundaries, and provide closure within the classroom.

Quick tips:

  • Work with students to generate ground rules or discussion guidelines, or present a set of guidelines and then work with students to accept or modify them
  • Commit to learning, not debating – comment in order to share information, not to persuade
  • Prepare specific questions to use if the class is silent or hesitant about speaking (e.g., “What makes this hard to discuss?” and “What needs to be clarified at this point?”)

University of Saskatchewan: Critical Conversations in the Classroom

This resource outlines how critical conversations in the classroom can be used as learning opportunities that can teach everyone involved. 

Quick tips:

  • Professor must relinquish control (personal and professional) and shift away from a role as expert on the material to a moderator of the guidelines in order to allow for student courage and participation
  • Move from avoidance towards engagement (from “I don’t want to get it wrong” to “Please tell me if I get this wrong”)
  • Bring humility to the conversation and avoid blanket statements
  • Do not ask someone from a specific group to represent the views of their entire community

University of Saskatchewan: Inclusive and Culturally Responsive Teaching

This resource summarizes strategies for inclusion and responsive teaching. Professors who plan for inclusive and culturally responsive teaching are putting in place the systems that will help them respond to differences in the classroom.

Quick tips:

  • Build community with norms that reflect who the students are by inviting them to provide their own input and views about the syllabus (e.g., weighting for course objectives, submitting work, academic integrity)
  • In order to get to know your students and show that you care about their wellbeing, share a list of questions and ask students to pick one to answer via discussion board (try to respond to your students’ answers and encourage discussion)
  • Let students know you by sharing small anecdotes of experience in your discipline and stories from your own academic pursuits

University of Toronto: Teaching Assistants’ Training Program (Accessible and Inclusive Teaching)

This training program from the University of Toronto outlines how to engage in accessible and inclusive teaching. Topics covered include equity, representation, community, support, privilege, power, and justice in the classroom.

Quick tips:

  • Pay attention and react to trends in conversations (Who is speaking up? Who is staying silent? Why? How can your facilitation support new voices joining?)
  • Learn when to follow your agenda and when to take an Equity Pause
  • Do not assume that students looking at their computers (or phones) should not receive a high participation mark (they may be reviewing course materials, looking up definitions, or using assistive technology)
  • Diversifying the types of assessments that you use provides more students the opportunity to excel
  • When planning lectures or course readings, make sure to elevate historically marginalized voices

Resources for decolonizing the syllabus and teaching race

A Motivation for Decolonizing Statistics

This written reflection focuses on the fact that scientific disciplines (e.g., statistics, mathematics) also have colonial roots, were developed in colonial contexts, and are used to the advantage of systems of oppression. Scientific disciplines must be included in the interrogation of oppressive practices and colonial history.

Quick tips:

  • Teach students about the ethically dubious applications of statistics, from eugenics to racist crime-prediction algorithms (do not give the false impression that all techniques are perfect)
  • Teach students about non-Western statisticians and avoid worshipping the “founding fathers” of statistics
  • Teach more than just applications which only relate to business; broaden the number of problems being taught in the classroom beyond this
  • Engage critically and self-reflexively when searching for solutions by including dialogue and discussion in the scientific disciplines, instead of just focusing on concrete solutions  

Bryn Mawr College: Revolutionizing my Syllabus (The Process)

Professor Chanelle Wilson shares her syllabus revision and decolonization process by explaining how she referenced the “Keele Manifesto for Decolonising the Curriculum” to guide her process. 

Quick tips:

  • List out the possibilities and challenges that currently exist within your discipline (What could students love about it? What might alienate others?)
  • Make a list of things that you are learning about yourself, your practices, your discipline (How are you complicit in colonization? What are the ways you are fighting it?)
  • Challenge the dynamic of hierarchies in the classroom, in which the professor is at the top and is followed by students based on how they perform and participate (this involves recognizing your power in instructional spaces and planning to mitigate it, possibly by work with students to create structure and procedures together)
  • Share information with students in a way that does not prioritize the regurgitation of the professor’s ideas, but instead encourages deep reflection on the part of the student
  • Constantly look for new opportunities for learning, and alter activities and assignments based on the group of students 
  • Communicate with students throughout the term to understand their experience – one way to do this is to have students fill out an anonymous mid-term evaluation, then share the results with them and discuss ways to move forward

Chaudhary, V. B., & Berhe, A. A. (2020). Ten simple rules for building an antiracist lab. PLOS Computational Biology, 16(10). 

Abstract: As scientists are increasingly acknowledging the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in science, there is a need for clear direction on how to take antiracist action. Here we present 10 rules to help labs develop antiracists policies and action in an effort to promote racial and ethnic diversity, equity, and inclusion in science.

Quick tips:

  • Lead informed discussions about antiracism in your lab regularly
  • Address racism in your lab and field safety guidelines
  • Publish papers and write grants with BIPOC colleagues
  • Evaluate your lab’s mentoring practices
  • Amplify voices of BIPOC scientists in your field
  • Support BIPOC in their efforts to organize
  • Intentionally recruit BIPOC students and staff
  • Adopt a dynamic research agenda
  • Advocate for racially diverse leadership in science
  • Hold the powerful accountable and don’t expect gratitude

Decentering Power in Health Policy and Systems Research: Theorising from the Margins

This article focuses on engaging in critical decolonial studies in the field of health policy system research. The article outlines why more needs to be done to build the capacity of scholars to question the implied assumptions of the dominant discourse on health systems.

Quick tips:

  • Framing: need to name and engage explicitly with the hidden powers and different types of power that operate to reinforce coloniality in research
  • Voice and space: consider the intersections of gender inequality, race, education, professionalization, and occupational hierarchies
  • Praxis: marginalized and Indigenous voices need to be centred and we need to be creating other ways of making sense of the world (e.g., knowledge paradigm that frames decolonial research in health, drawing explicitly on decolonial theories and approaches)

Decolonizing the Syllabus, Part 1 by Kim Solga, Western University

Professor Kim Solga’s blog post reflects on her journey towards decolonizing her syllabus and moving away from the white, male, traditional course content that previously had a large influence throughout the course of the term as a whole and in shaping coursework.

Quick tips:

  • Provide land acknowledgements in the syllabus and encourage students to write their own land acknowledgement
  • Move away from the traditionally most dominant white male voices in your discipline and instead open with perspectives on the discipline from non-White and non-dominant voices

Decolonizing the Syllabus, Part 2 by Kim Solga, Western University

Professor Kim Solga continues her discussion on decolonizing her syllabus, focusing on the responsibility for professors to renovate and improve courses that are not decolonized as well as they should be.

Quick tips:

  • The course needs to empower students, giving them a sense of ownership over the material and their experience of it (e.g., allow students to select a number of readings from a list of potential readings with a diverse range of authors)
  • Do not hierarchize readings, in which the White men appear to be “first” or “most important”
  • Include broad research questions in the syllabus that can be applied to any of the readings

Two Questions (and a whole lot more about decolonizing the classroom) – guest post by Anna Griffith

Instructor Anna Griffith reports on her experiences decolonizing her theatre history and performance studies classes (content and structure) at the University of the Fraser Valley. 

Quick tips:

  • Framing and negotiation (the Day One Negotiation Class): provide students with the syllabus and allow them to voice what they want to learn about, then adjust the syllabus accordingly (this can be done as a group discussion) and negotiate the weight of assignments and co-create the first rubrics
  • Change power dynamics for brief moments by offering students a louder voice in their learning and positioning yourself as a facilitator rather than an expert
  • Grade assignments based on the labour and effort put into achieving high levels of academic writing, rather than favouring the clear, academically rigorous writing of the discipline (there are implicit racial and class biases in the latter)
  • Emphasize that writing, learning, and creating take time, effort, practice, and revision by including process-based assignments (e.g., submit first draft, peerreview, revise, submit second draft)

Vanderbilt University: Teaching Race (Pedagogy and Practice)

This guide summarizes some of the common challenges that instructors may encounter and offers five broad pedagogical principles for teaching racial justice, with three possible strategies for implementing each principle in the classroom.

Quick tips:

  • Re-evaluate curriculum to increase representation of previously marginalized knowledge or underrepresented perspectives (e.g., through required readings)
  • Encourage student reflexivity (e.g., provide assignments that require students to make connections between the course content and their lived experiences)
  • Include a statement on the syllabus reminding students that while repetition is comforting, learning new things – especially things that challenge previously held beliefs, is not (this can also be said in class, as appropriate)
  • Assess student knowledge and preconceptions: can be done during the first class via an ungraded pre-test
  • Engage students’ arguments, even when they are flawed (e.g., “strategic empathy” and “calling out while calling in”)
  • Engage the affective and embodied dimensions of learning through a variety of forms (e.g., pairing cognitive and experiential activities, slowing down to allow time for students to more deeply engage course content, and incorporating sensory ways of knowing, such as including mindfulness practices)
  • Diversify course content by including some of the following with assigned readings: (auto)biographical narratives/memoirs, theatre, video, spoken-word, social media, music, visual art, advertisements, and games 
  • Incorporating active and collaborative learning activities (e.g., individual, group, and whole class experiences) makes classes more accessible to students of colour, women, and first-generation students
  • Diversify forms of assessment by including assignments that involve videos and digital stories, multi-media assignments, and visual mapping activities
  • Learn your students’ names and use them
  • Create a low-stakes assignment for students to visit your and your TA’s office hours during the first two weeks of the term
  • Be transparent about your commitment to racial justice, while also reflecting humility and your stance as a life-long learner. Let students know that you welcome hearing about their experience in the course, and how you can be more effective
  • Professors bring their best to teaching racial justice content when they are part of a learning community that offers ongoing support, challenge, and innovation (e.g., consider looking into some of the groups within the Faculty Association)

Zidani, S. (2020). Whose pedagogy is it anyway? Decolonizing the syllabus through a critical embrace of difference. Media, Culture & Society.

Abstract: This essay brings communication, culture, and media studies theories into conversation with critical pedagogy (participatory culture, critical and decolonial pedagogical theories, and Black and transnational feminist pedagogy) to suggest changes in the organization of syllabi and class activities. This essay presents an approach for designing syllabi that centers the students rather than the Western-rooted tradition.

Quick tips:

  • Anchoring a class in the core questions of the field, instead of in texts belonging to what is considered the “forefathers” of the field, is a more accurate representation of the field and of the classroom
  • Professors must constantly be self-reflexive, re-examining the power dynamics in the classroom and their role within them
  • Organization of the syllabus should not be based on a time-sequence logic, but rather surrounding single or multiple centers consisting of issues, questions, or problems that concern the topic of the class (chronological or linear structures of the syllabus benefit dominant power by pushing knowledge into a historicist structure which originated and serves Western-centric thought)
  • A decolonized syllabus refuses a single authoritative voice and deliberately spreads silenced, trivialized, diverse, and even disagreeing pieces across the whole syllabus (encourages critical thinking and questioning, instead of merely acquainting students with the dominant knowledge and reaffirming the status quo of power relations)
  • Use examples based on present cultural trends, news, and current events that are connected to the students’ interests and experience

Resources for decolonizing the syllabus through Indigenization

Aikenhead, G. S., & Elliott, D. (2010). An emerging decolonizing science education in Canada. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education, 10, 321-338.

Abstract: The article describes developments in science education since 2006 related to an agenda to decolonize the Pan-Canadian Science Framework by recognizing Indigenous knowledge as being foundational to understanding the physical world. Of particular interest is the Province of Saskatchewan’s curriculum renewal that integrates Indigenous knowledge into school science, guided by continuous collaboration with Saskatchewan’s Indigenous communities and with a textbook publisher to support a decolonizing, place-based, culturally responsive science instruction.

Quick tips:

  • Avoid tokenism and neo-colonialism (teach students to understand how scientists think, behave, and believe without students being expected to think, behave, and believe that way themselves)
  • Shift perspective from treating the two cultural ways of knowing nature (Indigenous and Eurocentric) as mutually exclusive, to treating them as complementary (Indigenous knowledge is not addressed as a stand-alone unit of study or an add-on to a unit of study, but is integral to each unit of study)
  • Four components to successful cross-cultural science programs: (1) coming to know, (2) cross-cultural pedagogy, (3) social and ecological justice, and (4) ecological literacy
  • This process requires collaboration with Indigenous groups (this can help teach place-based Indigenous knowledge)

Decolonizing your Syllabus? You Might have Missed some Steps

This short essay explains how you need to go further than simply including some Indigenous writers on your reading schedule; just doing this is tokenism and can be a form of colonialism itself.

Quick tips:

  • Understanding how (some) Indigenous thinkers articulate what decolonization is and is not is important if your goal is not to appropriate or misuse Indigenous meanings
  • Learn and teach about the colonial roots and ongoing structures of colonialism in your discipline 
  • Create a syllabus that shows how your discipline benefits from and perpetuates colonialism, then work with students and colleagues to teach, do research, and become citizens who do not perpetuate those patterns 

Iseke-Barnes, J. M. (2008). Pedagogies for decolonizing. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 31(1), 123-148.

Abstract: This article provides examples of introductory activities that engage students in initial steps to understanding the systemic structure of colonization. The understandings explored by students through these activities are then taken up through Indigenous literatures in university contexts in order to contribute to the ongoing decolonization of knowledge in the university and to explore Indigenous understandings of pedagogies.

Quick tips:

  • Read through Activity 1 & 2 in article
  • Work in a teaching circle format (begin classes by identifying who you are, where you come from, and identify some of the community-based understandings that inform your teaching. Then, ask students to identify who they are, where they come from, and some of the location-based understandings that they bring to the class)

Redvers, N., Schultz, C., Vera Prince, M., Cunningham, M., Jones, R., & Blondin, B. (2020). Indigenous perspectives on education for sustainable healthcare. Medical Teacher, 42(10), 10851090.

Abstract: There is an urgent need in the health professions education community to prioritize environmentally sustainable healthcare practice, which must include and prioritize Indigenous voices and Indigenous knowledge systems.

Quick tips:

  • Acknowledge difficult historical truths (by doing so, the path to health equity for all on the planet is more likely to be attainable)
  • Understand and better acknowledge the ‘patterns of privilege’ in current health professions education, planetary health movements, and sustainable healthcare education landscapes
  • Recognize that colonization is a fundamental determinant of Indigenous health

Additonal Resources


Mental Health America: Racial Trauma

This webpage explains racial trauma and provides examples of how it is experienced. It is crucial that you are able to acknowledge and validate that racial trauma is real.

Trauma-Informed Teaching

The University of Buffalo School of Social Work has created a number of traumainformed teaching resources to guide both curriculum content and curriculum delivery. 

Bates, M., & Haack, K. (2020). Everyone must be able to breathe: a plan to support diversity and inclusion in respiratory physiology. American Journal of Physiology

This journal article outlines steps that physiologists can take to support diversity and inclusion. Many of these steps can also be done by other academics and professionals, such as educating yourself, exploring your own implicit biases, and being an advocate.

Checklist for White Allies Against Racism

This checklist shows what constitutes “ally behaviour” on the part of white anti-racists. It is a great resource for white allies to refer to when engaging in anti-racism. 

National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health: Racism and Health Equity

This document was designed to encourage public health to act on racism as a key structural determinant of health inequities.

Universities Canada: Principles of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

This webpage outlines Universities Canada’s Seven Inclusive Excellence Principles. 

University of Alberta: Indigenous Canada Free Course on Coursera

Indigenous Canada is a Massive Open Online Course from the University of Alberta Faculty of Native Studies. This course explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada. This course can be taken for free, or you can pay a fee to receive a certificate upon completion. The course is 12 weeks of study, 2 – 3 hours/week.

University Resources

Equity Office Education and Training

The Equity Office offers a number of trainings and workshops, such as: Equity 101 (EQ101), Anti-Blackness at the Intersections (EQ204), Understanding Racism and Racial Microaggressions within the University Context (EQ 202), Taking Responsibility in the Anti-Racist Movement (EQ201), and Radical Solidarity for a Collective Future (EQ205).

Equity Office Anti-Racism Resources

The Equity Office has a non-exhaustive list of resources that focus on understanding racism and providing tools for campus community members to engage in anti-racism work across campus. Some examples include: Addressing Anti-Black Racism in our Schools, 103 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice, and Confronting Racism is Not About the Needs and Feelings of White People

“How to be Anti-Racist & Challenge Anti-Black Racism” ARTS 130 Online Course by Dr. Christopher TaylorThis online course by Dr. Christopher Taylor consists of seven modules that address the following topics: positionality, power, equality versus equity, race and racism, whiteness, anti-Black racism, and confronting anti-Black racism.


Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble

Through analysis and research, Noble explains how search engines, such as Google, have a biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of colour, specifically women of colour. 

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson

Through researched narrative and stories about real people, Wilkerson explores how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings. 

How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi

This book presents a widening circle of antiracist ideas that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.  

Managing Cultural Diversity in Technical Professions, Lionel Laroche

Provides strategies to improve communication and increase productivity among culturally diverse technical professionals, teams, and departments.

Me and White Supremacy: A 28-Day Challenge to Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor, Layla F. Saad

Readers will learn to understand their white privilege and participation in white supremacy, so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on Black, Indigenous, and people of colour. This book will help readers examine and hold themselves responsible for the ways in which they uphold white supremacy. 

Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out, Ruth King

King helps readers examine the complexity of racial identity and the dynamics of oppression. This book includes guided instructions on how to work with intense emotions mindfully. 

Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

Bonilla-Silva challenges colour-blind racism and the arguments, phrases, and stories that white people use to account for, and justify, racial inequalities. The fifth edition of this book includes content on the current racial climate. 

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi

This book reveals the history of racist ideas in America, while also inspiring hope for an antiracist future. 

White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo

This book explores the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality. 

For more book recommendations, visit The Anti-Racist Reading List.