You are Invited

Join scholars and education practitioners who are deeply committed to university learning, teaching, and research that articulates, strengthens, and sustains democratic principles and practices in education.

purpose and objectives

This symposium arises out of a recognition of the urgency and criticality of teaching and learning for participation in democratic life. This event brings together scholars and education practitioners who are deeply committed to university learning, teaching, and research that articulates, strengthens, and sustains democratic principles and practices in education. Participants will reflect on the concept of the “unbounded classroom”, and the implications of expansive and consequential approaches to university teaching and to the activation of knowledge for a democratic society. The symposium is intended to connect university scholars and practitioners on the cutting edge of pedagogical invention, revision, elaboration, and disruption in higher learning.  

The objectives of the series include: Mobilize knowledge on the scholarship of democratic pedagogies; examine the institutional context for enhancing the practice of democratic pedagogies; and identify areas of priority for further collaboration and research.


This symposium builds upon recent research at Simon Fraser University that examined the multiple ways that teaching methods and practices allow students to participate in decision-making and collaboration within the classroom, as well as learning activities that engage students in democratic life outside the classroom. This series of roundtable discussions will take place over three half-days with a core group of invited scholars and practitioners from diverse disciplines all sharing an interest in, and commitment to university teaching that engages and guides students in democratic participation. These interests include curricular design, pedagogical purposes and goals, pedagogical skill and efficacy, and broad structural/institutional support for the achievement of the goals of democratic education. Stated simply, the participants will focus on what is being taught, how it is taught, why it is taught and what supports and enhances these efforts. 

Faculty who aim to teach beyond "unidirectional" and "transactional" approaches that move outside the bounds of the classroom, are necessarily faced with established methods of delivery, institutional conventions and structures that have both history and authority, and formal and informal expectations and practices administrative metrics of outcomes and accountability, evaluation methods, and more. Alternatively, democratic education is understood not as a purveyor of specific ideology, but as teaching and learning that is experiential, participatory, and critical, where the classroom is a resource, but one that is "boundless", that is, where learning also takes place in communities, on campuses, in civil society organizations, in business and government. Community-based research and service-learning are, perhaps, the most commonly adopted forms of democratic education and are employed to immerse students in the community in order to build democratic skills and values by requiring their adoption and use for successful course completion.


These roundtables will examine the unique dimension of teaching and learning for democratic participation: the scholarship of democratic pedagogy; pedagogic practice of democratic education; the role of institutional support for democratic education; and community-based practice and research. 

The interaction and exchanges from the symposium will be documented in a post-event paper for peer-reviewed publication and contribute to deeper understanding of the university, and the classroom in particular, as sites for strengthening democratic life -- perspectives that have implications for educational leadership and policy in higher learning.

Program Outline

Wednesday, November 3rd, 9:00 am - 12:00 pm PDT

  • Topic #1: Democracy and University: Why University Teaching and Learning Matters to Democracy

Panelists: Genevieve Fuji-Johnson, Tony Penikett, Christina Parker
Moderator: Brenda Morrison

  • Topic #2: Innovations in the Unbounded Classroom: Course Design, Pedagogic Methods, Evaluation, and Critical Hope

Panelists: Martin Laba, Bettina von Lieres, Tim Shaffer
Moderator: Joanna Ashworth

Thursday, November 4th, 9:00 am - 12:00 pm PDT

  • Topic #3: Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Democratic Participation: Making the Connections

Panelists: Paola Ardiles, June Francis, Sume Ndumbe-Eyoh
Moderator: Bee Brigidi

  • Topic #4: Experiential Democracy: Community-Engaged Research and the University as Bridge Builder 

Panelists: Brenda Morrison, Stuart Poyntz, Kari Grain
Moderator: Am Johal

Friday, November 5th, 9:00 am - 12:00 pm PDT

  • Topic #5: Truth and Reconciliation: Disrupting the Colonial Project inside Academia and Beyond 

Panelists: Clifford Atleo, Mary Drinkwater, Jessie Williams
Moderator: Brenda Morrison

  • Knowledge synthesis