How flexible are worldview boundaries between academic science and Indigenous community science? An instructional approach to worldview congruency for STEM learning.

Dr. Shandin Pete
Wednesday, April 21, 2021 · 1:00 pm

The benefits of diversity in scientific thought has been thoroughly reviewed. Notable is the concept that an Indigenous communities’ approach to knowledge production have the potential to advance and support novel and innovative science understandings. Furthering the diversity of thought in the process of science knowledge production requires advanced study of the research traditions that are recognized as distinctly from an Indigenous community perspective and worldview. One challenge is locating where Indigenous and Western science worldview boundaries overlap and, subsequently experience an “edge effect”; edge effect referring to the intersection of two habitats resulting in an increase in overall biodiversity. Delineating where the “edge effect” occurs requires an understanding of the philosophical commitments of both science systems, such as the different conceptions of meaning and purpose (ontology), sources and nature (epistemology) and the value of knowledge (axiology). Advancing the understanding toward the degree of blending and synthesis of the foundational philosophical commitments of these science knowledge systems will elucidate the inner workings of their respective worldview and paradigmatic frameworks; a direction many researchers have encouraged.

These philosophical commitments are operationalized in learning environments and pedagogical approaches in academic institutions of higher education that serve a diverse student population, including Indigenous students. As such, it is recognized that there is a need to understand the inherent border crossings between students' worldview and the subculture of science through the development of curriculum and instruction that transcends these borders. How difficult this border crossing will be for students and academic institutions depends on a number of factors including: the distance between the faculty’s culture, the student’s culture and the cultural border for Western Science, and the “cultural flexibility” of each. To facilitate border transcendence, leaders in the field of multicultural education have advocated for culturally responsive and congruent teaching that encourage student learning by building on the experiences, knowledge, and skills they bring to academic institutions. Culturally congruent instruction has been explored to assess its appropriateness for specific disciplines (like science) through the merging of “discipline specific” and “diversity oriented” pedagogies, where students and faculty can work toward reconciling their worldviews and behaviors with Western Science to allow both to meet on middle ground where an “edge effect” may be characteristic.

This presentation will focus on the questions: How much do we know about Indigenous community science worldviews? Can STEM faculty and their institutions facilitate border crossings for themselves and their students through culturally congruent instructional approaches?