1 The 5R’s: Decolonizing the online space

“This history is not your fault. But it is your responsibility.”

                                                                                               -Nikki Sanchez

In the above video, Nikki Sanchez [Twitter account] speaks to the importance of working towards decolonizing our places and spaces.

A Note About Terminology

Throughout this book, a variety of terminology is used. Clarification on meanings, uses, and background context can be found here [website].

The 5R’s of Indigenous Pedagogy Research Background

As a response to First Nations students’ high attrition and low retention rates while attending post-secondary institutions, Kirkness and Barnhardt (1991, 2001) created a set of best practices to support Indigenous students consisting of respect, relevance, reciprocity, and responsibility, herein referred to as the 4R’s. The authors suggest that a shift is needed – from students accommodating the needs of the institution, to the institution accommodating the needs of the students. This shift requires the institution to reconsider the purpose of higher education for First Nations peoples. Kirkness and Barnhardt (1991) explain how the 4R’s are interwoven in order to create inclusive avenues of success:

What First Nations people are seeking is not a lesser education, and not even an equal education, but rather a better education — an education that respects them for who they are, that is relevant to their view of the world, that offers reciprocity in their relationships with others, and that helps them exercise responsibility over their own lives (p.14).

A fifth element of  “relationships” has been added to this pedagogical framework (Restoule, 2008, 2019). Contextual understanding of the 5R’s is as follows (Tessaro, et. al., 2018, p. 133-135):

Relationships: Relationships are reciprocal between teacher and student, and should foster connection to community and self.

Respect: The need to recognize and respect Indigenous peoples cultural norms and values.

Relevance: Learning should reflect the needs of Indigenous cultures and ways of knowing.

Responsibility: Instructor and learner have a responsibility to uphold culture, as well as personal/social aspects of being.

Reciprocity: Honouring student voice and choice, creating equitable relationships instead of instructor-centred knowledge transmission.

The 5R’s of Indigenous pedagogy serve as important reminders for course designers. How do we decolonize the online space? How can we begin to decolonize our pedagogy, and more importantly, our mindset?

We must begin the work.

Resources to Support Your Learning

TRC Calls to Action [website] This document includes 94 calls to action that Canadians are working towards honouring.

Image: Michael Mohammad @michael_tdsb [Twitter account]

21 things you might not know about the Indian Act: [website]

This book is a great starting point in order to understand the repercussions of The Indian Act on Indigenous Peoples in Canada.


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Facilitating online learning with the 5R's Copyright © 2021 by Joanna Lake and Hayley Atkins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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