Steps to Decolonizing the Classroom

Step One – Mindset

Rekindling the Sacred: Toward a Decolonizing Pedagogy in Higher Education (Shahjahan, Wagner & Wane, 2009) asks us to undertake the following:

  • Emphasize in our teaching the importance of self, subjectivity and interdependence with others who form our community.
  • Create a learning environment that begins by nurturing the inner self, the inner connections and allows space for personal development.
  • Acknowledge and accept that there are multiple ways of knowing and theorizing equity issues, and to use these methods to make an inclusive curriculum and pedagogy.
  • Allow for alternative epistemological viewpoints to be expressed and legitimized within the classroom.
  • Promote a sense of compassion, respect, and understanding among all participants.
  • Acknowledge humility in teaching and learning and accept the uncertainty and discomfort that arises within the classroom.
  • Promote a language and embodiment of healing among students in anti-oppressive pedagogy.
  • Recover a sense of sacredness in knowing, teaching, and learning.

As defined in Cultures of Curriculum (Joseph, 2010), several characteristics of the Developing Self and Spirit culture of curriculum are different than engineering’s First Principles culture of curriculum. This may make it difficult to synthesize spirituality in an engineering classroom.

Step Two – Learning

This entire course is your starting place for learning! Throughout, you’ll learn more about facilitating discussions, understanding ways of knowing, applying systems thinking, and looking at specific parts of First Nations governance & land rights. All of these are crucial to your application of decolonization in the classroom.

You are always encouraged to seek out opportunities to learn more in order to commit to continuous, lifelong learning of this subject.  Throughout this process don’t be afraid to think critically, challenge your assumptions, and ask questions!

More learning resources are linked on the “Decolonization – Additional Resources” page.

Step Three – Action

We recognize that implementing decolonization in your classroom, even after you have the right mindset and knowledge, can be intimidating. Stefanie Marotta’s De-colonizing Classrooms is a helpful place to begin.

Remember, we have to take a step back and assess our work culture and classroom environment before diving into the details of applying this to engineering.  You can incorporate a decolonizing framework by (McGregor, 2012):

  • Including content that illustrates the rights of Indigenous peoples
  • Creating opportunities to learn from the land or local community(ies)
  • Inclusion of elders for instruction (and ensuring they are paid for their contributions)
  • Using learning resources that do not perpetuate colonialism, colonial myths, or stereotypes
  • Forming relationships with local Indigenous community members so that while they can give you suggestions of appropriate resources and/or materials, you can determine a way to give back to them and/or their community

Remember, we are not incorporating specific Indigenous practices into our teaching (that is Indigenization), but making space for them.


Exercise – Reflection on Teaching Practices

Ask yourself (UBC Equity & Inclusion Office, n.d.):

  • What parts of my discipline and course curriculum are inherently colonial?
  • Who are the learners in your class? What background do they have coming into this?
  • How can I include multiple perspectives in my teaching?
  • Is a territorial acknowledgment spoken in my classroom? If so, how often?
  • How diverse are my approaches to pedagogy? How can diverse cultures enrich or add to my approaches to pedagogy?
  • Does my syllabus include a land acknowledgment?
  • Is my classroom environment accessible? Am I flexible in my delivery style?
  • Do students have a space to draw from their lived experiences in my classroom


Joseph, P.B. (Ed.). (2010). Cultures of Curriculum (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Marotta, S. (2021). De-colonizing Classrooms [Emerging Voices project]. Ryerson School of Journalism, Ryerson University.

McGregor, H. E. (2012). Decolonizing Pedagogies Teacher Reference Booklet. Vancouver School Board. Retrieved from

Shahjahan, R. A., Wagner, A., & Wane, N. (2009). Rekindling the sacred: Toward a decolonizing pedagogy in higher education. Journal of Thought, 44(1-2), 59-75. doi:10.2307/jthought.44.1-2.59. Retrieved from

UBC Equity & Inclusion Office. (n.d.). Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in Teaching and Learning [Online course]. Canvas@UBC. Course URL:



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Decolonizing the Engineering Curriculum Copyright © 2022 by Pamela Wolf, Ben Harris, Nika Martinussen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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