Understanding The Needs of Indigenous Students

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipients: Sheri Fabian and Tamara O’Doherty, School of Criminology

Project team: Angela Peters, Matthew Provost, and Ben Smyth, research assistants

Timeframe: January 2017 to February 2021

Funding: $6,000

Final report:

Description: We wish to better understand the needs and experiences of Indigenous students at SFU with a particular focus on learning what they experience in various classroom environments when Indigenous issues are presented.

We propose a participatory action research project in which we work with SFU Indigenous students to conduct our study. Indigenous students will be involved in all aspects of the study including the planning and creation of research instruments and will participate in data collection, transcription, data analysis and report preparation. We have designed the project in accordance with collaborative action research principles; we propose a series of focus groups with Indigenous students to transform the students from research subjects to active and equal co-creators of knowledge. This process will increase our accountability to the student collaborators as we will develop the research parameters together, we will bring data back to the students throughout the project, and ensure the student collaborators guide the final report and recommendations.

Questions addressed:

  • What tools will be effective in gathering data regarding the experiences of Indigenous students at SFU when Indigenous issues are presented in classes?
  • What measures and questions will capture Indigenous students’ experiences in our classrooms?
  • How do Indigenous students define Indigenous issues? What are the experiences of Indigenous students at SFU when Indigenous issues are presented in classes?
  • Based on the study results, what recommendations can we offer to other faculty?

Knowledge sharing: We share our findings with colleagues informally on a regular basis and in more formal sessions as listed above. In addition, we wrote a brief contribution to our department newsletter as a way of disseminating information about the project to our colleagues and students. Finally, we were invited to present our findings to the Department of Psychology faculty and graduate students in October, 2019.

We consider this to be the pre-research phase of a much longer undertaking. We are in the process of completing plans for the next steps. We unsuccessfully sought additional funding from SFU’s community engagement program and we will seek out another small grant from student engagement. We also hope to write a short article about the process of capacity-building that we experienced over the past few years. We were accepted to present our findings at the 2020 S’TEṈISTOLW̱ conference; however, due to Covid, the conference has been postponed.

Keywords: Indigenous students, Indigenous Methodologies, Collaborative Action Research, Capacity-Building, Reconciliation, Decolonizing, Student-led