Dover Bay SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

I. General Information

School Name: Dover Bay

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members: Tanya Lebans
Shannon Loughlin
Melissa Brown
Andrea Berkey
Patti Mountain
Allison McLeod

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Other: Implementing English First People 10

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation)

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? How is the design of our English First Peoples 10 course fostering the curiosity that builds students’ desire to learn more about Indigenous cultural perspectives and experience of identity in Canada, as well as inspire them to extend their Indigenous studies in English and other departments?

How can we build their understanding that this knowledge is vital to their future as citizens and employees?

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: We were at the beginning of teaching all of our Grade 10 students English First People 10. This was a mandated course for the students based on the need for them to get their four units of First People Studies for graduation.

We wanted to understand how students were seeing this course – one they did not select – so we could move forward on this Truth and Reconciliation-inspired journey in a good way.

Since our focus was on hearing students’ voices as we started this journey, the four key questions did not logically fit with our inquiry. The First Peoples Principles of Learning does factor in as EFP10 in both an Indigenous content course, but also one where our pedagogical practice needs to shift to honour the Principles of Learning.

Focus: Besides understanding what inspired engagement and learning for students from a specifically English curriculum point of view, we also wanted to situate our work in the district and school’s Truth and Reconciliation goal.

Thu’it tunu sqwals tu Snaw’naw’as ‘i’ Dover Bay Secondary School ewthw:
(True to the words of the Snaw’naw’as and Dover Bay School)

Dover Bay Secondary School will become a leader in honouring the truth of Canada’s past and present while actively creating opportunities for real and meaningful reconciliation.

Building relationships between students, educators, families and the Snaw’naw’as traditional territory.

Foster greater awareness and appreciation of Coast Salish, First Nations, Métis and Inuit art, stories, spirituality, traditions and connection to the land.

Inviting elders, knowledge keepers, and Indigenous voices into our learning spaces to enrich our hearts and minds.

Including the use of traditional Hul’qumi’num language through active lessons with students and educators.

This is Dover Bay’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation.

Hunch: We suspected that students were interested in Indigenous learning from different content perspectives. We also believe that students will need more Indigenous learning than what our four units can provide. We hoped to see them inspired to expand their studies beyond four mandated units, seeing that as a positive direction for their high school and post-secondary studies. In short, we wanted to build curiosity so true reconciliation occurred, so students select more than four units of study because that fits with the direction of our nation, and they select it regardless of requirements.

Our survey was designed to both find out how students felt about the course, about their interest in other Indigenous-content courses and their acknowledgement that these deeper Indigenous understandings were key to their long-term success in a Canada that has embraced Truth and Reconciliation. In other words, some of the questions were assessments for learning.

New Professional Learning: We engaged in collaborative meetings as colleagues to discuss what was working in the classroom, to share resources and attend meetings organized by our district administration. These started in May of 2022 and continued through the 2022/23 school year. We also arranged to meet with other teachers teaching EFP 10 and 12. This was a teacher-directed sharing that occurred at our union’s District Pro-D Day. Our team also attended the NOIIE conference in the spring.

Finally the 2022-23 school year was one of reading many new texts. All of us found resources, explored resources our librarian found and ones shared by colleagues at other schools. The pile of Indigenous content on our desks was significant and we feel affected our ability to deliver the course in a more authentic way. Some students also noticed our books of choice.

We also worked together to design the questionnaire in the fall of 2022. It is included here:

Taking Action: The survey was completed by our Semester One students in January 2023 and our Semester Two students in June 2023. All Grade 10 EFP 10 students had an opportunity to input. Given the district’s plans to expand the course requirement to EFP 12, we also included Grade 11 students currently enrolled in EFP 12 and Contemporary Indigenous Studies 12.

We met as a team twice to gather and discuss the information.

Checking: The students feedback indicates they see EFP 10 as an English course, something that was important to the team and also honours the rigour in the EFP10 curriculum. They saw it as a course that while focused on Indigenous content exposed them to different types of genres and skills. Besides broadening their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, many students felt they gained a deeper appreciation of First People, their cultural expression and world perspective. In both semesters, 43% of students who responded said they would be interested in taking a second course in First People studies. The top six course categories named were Outdoor Education, Art, Socials, English, Languages and Woodworking.

At the same time, 36% of the students in the first semester and 46% of the students in the second semester said they would not take another First People Studies course. The main reason was the sense that the themes in the course were repetitive, that they had studied the impacts of Residential Schools, the Sixties Scoop and the Indian Act since Grade Five. Some felt there were other groups within Canadian society that also deserved their focus. Others felt they really wanted to take a “regular” English course.

This view of the redundant nature of the course was also hinted at through the students’ responses to assignments. A number of students could, for example, name a stereotype seen in the texts they engaged with but they were not able to connect that to the lived experience of students who are othered in the school. Some went as far as saying these acts of discrimination were experiences of the past.

Reflections/Advice: The desire to choose a “regular” English course reinforces the value of choice in the BC curriculum and the need to make First People studies a shared responsibility in high schools. It also reinforces the need, as part of our Truth and Reconciliation as a staff, to ensure we are extending the boundaries of what we include as Indigenous resources, sharing our choices and ensuring students truly aren’t seeing the same texts in multiple classes. Anything less would suggest there are only a few to use, and a few themes to cover.

Besides finding ways to ensure we are offering students unique experiences in our course, we learned that we need to make sure the Truth and Reconciliation goals of the nation, the provincial goals, the district goals and the school goals need to be part of our framework. While we start there, we are thinking of reinforcing this topic, highlighting the National initiatives and, through documents like UNDRIP, the international focus. We believe reinforcing this exciting and necessary change in our identity as a nation will help students better see the importance of this course.

We also found some topics that we once had in our Grade 10 English course that we need to find ways to reinforce in EFP10. The students’ connection to social media and its influence can be adapted. We hope to both highlight the opportunity for Indigenous creators to share diverse messages, with a social justice focus, at the same time as we discuss the downsides of social media, its ability to suck away people’s focus and thus their potential success and the spreading of stereotyping and racism. The need to retain and increase Indigenous cultural experiences is shown as a key opportunity for engagement. The students’ interest in culture and storytelling also shone a light on bringing forward traditional stories in their various forms. We see traditional storytelling and interactions with Elders and knowledge-keepers as key because the students did not internalize the respect of culture and perspective learning as deeply as we would like.

We also asked students what they hoped to continue learning in their future. The question was not bound by their time in our school, but rather focused on those topics they are still curious about at this time. The students’ list offers something for teachers of all disciplines and could inspire unique lessons in our building. (See the list below)

In conclusion, we plan to present our learning to our staff in September. We hope this will help the school launch its commitment to Truth and Reconciliation in the 2023/24 school year in a good way. We believe the data can inspire our colleagues to share in lifting up Indigenous learning in their subject areas. Hopefully this will further enhance the students’ curiosity. We also hope it helps students see how Indigenous learning is not isolated to the diverse texts they explore in English.

Here are the Indigenous studies topics our students are still curious about. The order is based on mentions across the survey’s:
Culture and Society – pre and post colonization
Technology/Computer Sci/ Marketing
Creative Output
Traditional Environmental Practices/connection to land
Reparations/Law changes
History/Missing History
Truth & Reconciliation
Food Culture
International Indigenous content
Political Structures