Convergence of Indigenous Science and Western Science Impacts Overall Students’ Interest in STEM and Minority Students' Identity as a Scientist

By Sarah Omar Alkholy, Fidji Gendron, Betty McKenna, Tanya Dahms and Maria Pontes Ferreira.

Published by Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal

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Within the context of North American Indigenous culture, certain Elders are respected gatekeepers to Indigenous science, also known as traditional knowledge. Yet, while North American born minorities such as Black Americans, Amerindians, and Latin Americans may hail from cultures with a similar appreciation of their own Indigenous science Elders, these minority groups are especially underrepresented in Western science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)—both in academia and in the workforce. North American underrepresented minorities experience high attrition rates in academia generally, and in STEM specifically. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission makes a call to action to Indigenize education to benefit all students. Herein lies an opportunity to investigate the impact of Indigenization of a Western science biochemistry course to assess the impact upon university students, both minority (non-White) and non-minority (White) in Anglophone North America (Canada and USA). The aim of the study is to investigate the impact of an Indigenized Western science online course upon student interest in STEM, student perception of the relevance of Elder co-instructors, and student identity as a scientist. A pedagogical quasi-experiment was conducted at North American tribal colleges and mainstream research-intensive universities, regarding an online science course taught either with or without Elder co-educators alongside PhD STEM-trained instructors. Student perceptions of the value of Elder co-educators did not differ across groups and remained unchanged after course delivery. Findings also show that after taking the course co-taught by Indigenous science Elder co-educators, students have significantly greater interest in STEM than those students not exposed to Elders’ teachings. Non-White students reported significantly less self-identification as a scientist than did White students at pre-course, but reported similar identity as a scientist to White students post-course. We attribute these findings to the impact of culturally competent course content to minority students especially. This work establishes the relevance of using online technology to Indigenize a Western science course taught internationally, and suggests the need for more investigative work toward the convergence of Indigenous science and Western science in academia.

Keywords: Indigenous Science, Science Education, STEM, Online Pedagogy, Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal, Volume 10, Issue 1, March 2017, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.127MB).

Dr. Sarah Omar Alkholy

PhD student, Department of Nutrition & Food Science, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Dr. Fidji Gendron

Associate Professor, Department of Science, The First Nations University of Canada, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Betty McKenna

Elder in Residence, First Nations University of Canada, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Dr. Tanya Dahms

Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Dr. Maria Pontes Ferreira

Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition & Food Science, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA