Aboriginal science symposium: enabling Aboriginal student success in post-secondary institutions
Citation: Kulig JC, Duke M, Solowoniuk J, Weaselfat R, Shade C, Lamb M, Wojtowicz B. Aboriginal science symposium: enabling Aboriginal student success in post-secondary institutions. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2010; 10: 1324. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=1324 (Accessed 18 October 2017)
Context: Research in the sciences is now beginning to acknowledge what many Aboriginal educators and students have experienced or witnessed in educational curricula, a general dismissal of Indigenous knowledge as being considered scientifically ‘worthy’. This is the result of educational institutions’, and the systems within which they are placed, failure to teach from broad cultural orientations. Aboriginal persons are under-represented in post-secondary education programs, with a similar disparity in the limited number of Aboriginal persons holding careers in health, science and engineering occupations.
Issues: The University of Lethbridge is attempting to increase the number of Aboriginal students who successfully complete programs in a variety of areas. To that end, the Support Program for Aboriginal Nursing Students (SPANS) commenced in Fall 2007 in order to increase the numbers of Aboriginal students who enter and complete the 4 year nursing program. At one time there were as few as 2–3 Aboriginal nursing students across the 4 years of the program. Since SPANS began there are now 34 students of Aboriginal background across all 4 years of the nursing program. This is noteworthy because statistically there are only 1200 Aboriginal Registered Nurses in Canada, a daunting statistic that is alarming low. One of the objectives of SPANS is to enhance the nursing faculty and clinical instructors’ understanding of Aboriginal science so that it can be integrated into the current curriculum. With this aim, an Aboriginal Science Symposium was held in May 2009 to bring nursing faculty together with other University faculty and experts in Aboriginal science. The symposium attempted to highlight the links between programs in nursing and health sciences and the need for integration with Aboriginal science. The 3 specific symposium objectives were to: (1) generate an understanding of traditional scientific knowledge; (2) bridge Aboriginal and Western scientific thought, toward and; (3) understand ways of implementing and raising awareness of how Aboriginal knowledge and understanding of science can be applied to help inform and improve teaching in all educational science settings.
Lessons learned: From keynote addresses, panel group discussions, and breakout sessions, participant responses to the symposium objectives coalesced into 4 themes: (1) Aboriginal ways of knowing: informing Western science curricula; (2) Elders and community, enhancing science education; (3) Aboriginal student experience in the science classroom; and (4) strategies and advice to meet the needs of the Aboriginal science student.
Key words: Aboriginal, Aboriginal science, Aboriginal ways of knowing, Canada, conference, health sciences students, Indigenous knowledge, symposium.
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