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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Designing learning experiences with equity-seeking youth : strength-based strategies for sustaining culture, community and creativity Keefe, Anna


Despite Canada’s public commitments to equity and diversity, the nation’s education systems are not adequately meeting the needs of culturally and linguistically non-dominant youth. Aboriginal youth in Canada frequently have negative and incomplete educational experiences as a result of racism, deficit perspectives, inequitable funding, and the exclusion of their ways of being and knowing (Drummond & Rosenbluth, 2013; Hare & Pidgeon, 2011; Kanu, 2002). Similarly, newcomer youth are excluded from mainstream education systems and programs through a lack of cultural competence, while alternative spaces such as those run by settlement organizations are underfunded (Van Ngo, 2009). As Canada grows increasingly diverse through immigration and begins to acknowledge historic and ongoing infringement on the rights of Aboriginal peoples, what counts as quality education must be revisited and recreated together. My study considers the teaching and learning processes that work for non-dominant youth seeking equity, including how practitioners and young people negotiate the value of different communicative repertoires with each other and with society. I examine the kinds of learning processes that equity-seeking youth and practitioners want to create together, what strategies they use to move towards their vision, and how they imagine their work could be better sustained despite conflict with dominant systems. I anchor my study with insights gained through interviews with 12 experienced educators and social workers from across Canada. I also conducted research through two partnerships; one with youth and educators at a First Nations high school, and one with newcomer youth and facilitators in a creative arts program run by a settlement organization. My findings elaborate on existing evidence in the field of culturally sustaining education in formal and informal contexts regarding the importance of relationships and the value of enabling the full communicative repertoires of learners. Additionally, I uncover new ideas about how relational pedagogy is manifested across the learning ecology through protecting, hosting, venturing, and accessing. I also identify ways that cycles of acceptance and expression can be set in motion and sustained, and how youth are adapting and countering the practice of authoring identity (e.g., Cummins, 2001; Cummins & Early, 2011).

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