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A few years ago I was teaching an instructional communication course as I had many time before, when I took away an extroidinary lesson from a First Nations student, Charlene Leon.

Throughout the course each student practiced creating and delivering lesson plans based on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning domains (1956). The lessons had to concentrate on just one of the learning domains at a time (cognitive, psychomotor, affective). While this is really a false set-up for how we learn, it forced the students to go beyond the default “cognitive” domain lessons that are too often the norm in a university classroom.

Charlene, one of the students in the class was from the Cree Nation and we had the bounty of learning about drumming (psychomotor), smudge ceremony (affective) and in her final (cognitive) lesson, the medicine wheel. As this student started her last lesson she asked us to think back to when I had been explaining Bloom’s taxonomy at the beginning of the term. As we named off each of the domains, she matched them to the medicine wheel: mental (cognitive); emotional (affective); and physical (psychomotor).

As you probably know, the medicine wheel has four equal sectors and it was obvious that there was a domain missing from the structure that we had been working with: spiritual. Although I knew about both Bloom and the Medicine Wheel, I had never made this connection and I wanted to answer two questions: What implications does the spiritual quadrant of the medicine wheel have in indigenizing post-secondary education? What learning objectives/outcomes have been defined by others as part of a spiritual domain?

In order to start to answer these questions the first part of this research looked at what has already been written about post-secondary indigenization, classroom and assessment practices that supported aboriginal students, spiritual needs of faculty and students, and incorporating a spiritual domain into lesson design and teaching practices.

Based on this literature, the next phase of the research was designed to try to answer four research questions: RQ1: In what ways do instructors already incorporate spiritual learning objectives into their practice? RQ2: What classroom practices do post-secondary students express as having supported their spirit? RQ3: What classroom practices do post-secondary students express as having suppressed their spirit? RQ4: How can post-secondary instructors put use of the medicine wheel to practice across curriculum/disciplines?


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