April 5, 2023

Braiding scholarly work, reflections and stories: A Q-and-A with Aubrey Hanson

UCalgary Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching speaker shares her thoughts ahead of keynote
Aubrey Hanson on a white background with coloured hexagons
Aubrey Hanson will deliver a keynote at the 2023 Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching.

UCalgary’s fully virtual Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching will offer more than 120 conference sessions over its two days in April 2023, as well as four keynote speakers who will discuss why robots won’t inherit the Earth, ungrading and alternative assessment, a "Métissage" on digital environments and Indigenous education, and the role of equity and care in our transformation.   

Leading up to the conference, we are hearing from the keynote speakers about their presentations, their research, and their views on our collective transformation. Today, we’re hearing from Dr. Aubrey Hanson, PhD, associate professor and director of Indigenous education at the Werklund School of Education

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and your area of research.   

A: I come from a family that is of Métis ancestry and Euro-settler ancestry. I started as a high school teacher, and then came into my graduate studies in the area of curriculum and learning in education. My work kind of bridges Indigenous literary studies and Indigenous curriculum studies. I’m often talking about the importance of Indigenous literary arts and bringing non-Indigenous educators into a space of relationship with Indigenous education work. 

Q: Your keynote presentation is described as a Métissage. What is a Métissage? 

A: I think of it as a weaving. Think of three threads that you’re braiding together. In my presentation, I have three strands; one strand is stories, one strand is reflection on the past few years, and one strand is a scholarly look at collective transformation in Indigenous education.  

I feel like some of the questions I want to struggle with or wrap my mind around in this talk are too big for me to just “figure out,” so I can come at them through story, and I can come at them through reflection, and I can come at them through all three strands in a way that I just couldn’t do if I was only approaching it in only a serious scholarly way. Métissage for me is a way of bringing together these different ways of thinking. 

Q: What does collective transformation mean in the context of Indigenous education? 

A: Spoiler alert, that is what my talk is about! I think a lot of us don’t really know what Indigenous education even means. It’s kind of an umbrella term and there are many things that fit under that.  

If you think of all educators in Canada, everyone has been tasked with responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and everyone has been tasked with weaving Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing into their teaching and learning. Most people do not feel confident to do that. They feel like they are supposed to be teaching about Indigenous things, but that doesn’t feel right to them, for good reason. My talk speaks to the struggle of people wanting to build these relationships and share Indigenous knowledge, but feeling like they are not in a position to do so. 

Q: How has your new role as director of Indigenous education at the Werklund School of Education shaped your perspective? 

A: An honest answer to that is that I am used to working at an individual level or a classroom level, and now I’m learning to think on the system level, like working through strategic planning and facilitating relationships and change across and beyond our whole faculty. So it’s changed the scope of what I do, but I still think it is about relationships and building people’s capacity, and finding out what people’s strengths are and bringing that to the work. 

Q: What can people expect from your presentation?   

A: A little bit of storytelling, a little bit of my personal reflections, and a few key pieces that will be useful for folks who are thinking about Indigenous education or wondering how to take their work deeper into that space. I hope to provide a couple of laughs and a couple feel-good moments. 

Q: Anything else you’d like to add? 

A: I know everyone always says this, but I really mean it, it is such an honour to be invited and I’m really grateful to the conference committee for thinking of me and for making space for the kind of reflective work that I do. 

The University of Calgary Postsecondary Conference on Learning and Teaching runs from April 26 to 28, 2023 in a fully virtual format. Register for the conference