UBC iSchool works through the ISP Self-Assessment Tool

The following article covers the iSchool’s process of working through the ISP Self-Assessment Tool, including the impacts it has had at the School and the lessons they have drawn from it.

What ISP Actions did your unit choose to undertake?

We are early in the process. Specifically, we are still working on the self-assessment, and have not moved into phase 2–implementation of ISP goals and actions–yet.

At this stage, iSchool faculty have met twice to work on the self-assessment tool collaboratively. We also organized a meeting for students to come together to introduce the ISP self-assessment process and get their input on possible directions for their involvement. 

What activities has your unit taken to make progress on its self-assessment to date?

We wanted to get a sense of the broader climate and history of engagement with areas of Indigenous initiatives that have taken place at the iSchool.  

In December of 2020, faculty and staff met for an introductory session to discuss, in general, what we think we are doing well and in what ways we can improve as a School.  We shared some resources in advance and used Padlet, an online notice board, to help people “pin” their ideas before and during the meeting. 

We followed this up in February 2021 with a virtual screening of “What I Learned in Class Today”, followed by a conversation facilitated by colleagues at the Centre for Teaching and Learning Indigenous Initiatives team, Bronte Burnette and Amy Perreault. During this time, we were also introduced to the ISP Self-Assessment Tool and the Office of Indigenous Strategic Initiatives.  We planned two sessions with iSchool Faculty and Staff in Spring/Summer of 2021 to work through the tool as a group.  We met with student leaders to share the self-assessment tool and seek input on how students might want to be involved and provide input. A student session was conducted. 

What did your team learn while doing this work?

During the first ISP self-assessment session with faculty and staff, we completed the first two items of the ISP tool.  At first, it did not feel like we had accomplished very much in that hour and a half session.  However, upon reflection, we covered a lot of ground and surfaced a lot of uncertainties, underlying tensions and discomfort.  We realized that people were starting the process with different levels of experience and knowledge, but that everyone had the desire to “do better” as a School.  The turnout for this discussion was strong and showed a level of commitment from all faculty and staff. We continue to be at different places as individuals in our learning journey, but I think the fact that we are coming together to work on this is a step in the right direction. Our facilitators were wonderful in reassuring us that about it is not about moving through the tool as quickly as possible, and that we need to take our time on this important work.

Another critical realization has been that we have several leaders on Indigenization within the iSchool and that our First Nations Curriculum Concentration (FNCC) is doing exemplary work to support Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.  However, we realize that these leaders and the FNCC cannot do all of the “heavy lifting” and we must each invest in learning about our colonial past and present.

As a unit, we include a land acknowledgement on our syllabi and many faculty are incorporating Indigenous perspectives and authors into their reading lists.  However, we realize there is more to be done than these actions to truly decolonize our curriculum.  There was a discussion around concrete examples on how to Indigenize specific courses, and the question arose about whether every course should be altered.  We did not resolve these questions as a unit, but several curriculum-related initiatives are underway and may help faculty members refine their existing courses.

Themes that have resurfaced in our discussions to date are the need to build relationships and take “the long term” view.  It also means that we don’t have a checklist or prescribed way in which we should proceed in this work.  This ambiguity can be challenging (i.e., where are we going?), and also runs counter to how universities and other organizations function with discrete and measurable outcomes.  It is also encouraging us to think in a more holistic way about how the School functions and how each of us contributes to the whole.  Again, this is in contrast to academic training and reward systems that value the individual outputs.

What impacts have resulted from the actions taken?

As a unit and a broader collective of colleagues and students, our engagement has really just begun. The activities we have shared and our engagement with the ISP toolkit so far has been a really good exercise in coming together to surface a collective approach to carrying and sustaining this work in a good way.  One of the great features of the toolkit is the light it sheds on work being done and gaps that need tending to. I think we are now at a place where we can start to see a pathway forward and we are building a dialogue of intentionality and commitment around that.

What next steps will your unit take to expand or continue this work?

Our next step will be to undertake the second part of the process – looking at the self-assessment tool to help us figure out which ISP goals and actions to prioritize. This Fall, we intend to organize regular sessions to help faculty and staff complete the self-assessment tool, and to hear from students. This will include a staff orientation that will provide additional information on ways that the iSchool can further support Indigenous students and the work underway in the FNCC. There will also be follow up sessions with faculty, staff and students utilizing the tools of the ISP Toolkit.

If you have any questions about the iSchool’s process or want to chat about their learnings, please feel free to reach out at ischool.info@ubc.ca.