SIPI faculty intentionally developed the series to include local and national Indigenous voices. SIPI faculty member and project director Dr. Danielle Lansing shares how they developed the dialogue sessions. “Improving our program and making it more relevant to Indigenous teachers is at the forefront of our planning. There’s always room for enhancement. We thought about the support we’ve needed to think about specific areas of improvement including revisions to our program of study, curriculum and community outreach. Along the way we developed a community map of resources and community partners. This helped us identify key thought leaders we wanted to learn from.” Using their community map, SIPI developed a 4 part speaker series to be delivered online via Zoom.
The first two dialogue sessions featured Drs. Jeremy Garcia and Valerie Shirley from the University of Arizona’s Indigenous Teacher Education Program (ITEP). The speakers presented the Indigenous frameworks that guide their programming as well as examples of student projects and assessments. These presentations inspired SIPI faculty to reflect on and refine existing student projects. Faculty also reviewed and analyzed course and program level outcomes. Tangible examples of key components of an Indigenous Teacher Education Program were inspiring and instructive to SIPI faculty. SIPI faculty were especially impressed with how the ITEP program implements innovative methods for assessing students at the course level. ITEP currently employs digital storytelling as a medium for supporting students in reflecting on paradigm shifts and the evolution of their perspectives. Students are able to capture their unique learning journey through a medium that allows for their personal creative expression. Many students included powerful images, music and their Native language into their digital stories. SIPI hopes to employ more performance-based assessments into their courses in the near future.
A key component of the dialogue sessions included the engagement of fellow Tribal College and University (TCU) faculty members from across the nation. The College Fund assisted in disseminating invitations to fellow TCUs and created a space to develop a national discourse around Indigenous teacher education. Each session included an informative presentation followed by opportunities for questions and answers. The dialogue series was facilitated by Dr. Leola Tsinnajinnie Paquin, a former SIPI faculty member and current Native American Studies assistant professor at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Paquin served as a supportive discussant for each session. TCU faculty from Navajo Technical University, Northwest Indian College, Lac Courte Oreille Ojibwe College, and Stone Child College attended as well as many others.
The positive impact of SIPI’s virtual dialogue includes increased awareness of SIPI’s IECE programming and the convening of perspectives that inform teacher education. The dialogue series illustrates the importance of collegiality between TCUs. Virtual sessions provided an accessible venue for sharing resources with fellow TCUs. Discussions made for a robust learning experience and professional development at no cost to participants. Virtual strengths-based dialogue has proven to be a valuable form of professional development for SIPI faculty.