Welcome to Episode 51 of the Think UDL podcast: Indigenous Ways of Teaching, Learning & Being with Libby Roderick. Libby is the Director of the Difficult Dialogues Institute as well as the Associate Director at the Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She is an author, speaker and workshop facilitator who offers participants new ways to talk, listen and teach that rely on non-Western methodologies, specifically from Native Americans in what is now Alaska. Our conversation investigates multiple ways that instructors can learn how to teach using Native practices, and the benefits that using these techniques bring to all involved. We discuss earth-based pace, observation and non-verbal learning, dance, silence and reflection, experiential learning and storytelling. We also learn what happens when we just stop talking as well. I hope that you can listen without agenda to our conversation and take some time today to suspend judgement and think about what could happen in your teaching, in your university and in our world.
If you would like to know more about the traditional inhabitants of land in North and South America, Australia, and Oceania, this Native Land map shows territories, languages and treaties.
Difficult Dialogues Institute offers programs and resources for faculty to approach difficult conversations
Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence at University of Alaska, Anchorage
Start Talking is the handbook for the Difficult Dialogues Institute
Stop Talking offers ways in which we can incorporate Native American ways of learning into our teaching practices.
We Aren’t the World article by Ethan Watters explains the WEIRD idea that much of our Western science and economic theory is based on a small subset of humans and might need some revisions.
This transcript was auto-generated and may be slightly inaccurate. A corrected transcript will be posted as soon as possible.
Lillian Nave 00:00
Welcome to think UDL, the universal design for learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian Nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 51 of the think UDL podcast, indigenous ways of teaching, learning and being with Libby Roderick Libby is the director of the difficult dialogues Institute, as well as the associate director at the Center for Advancing faculty excellence at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She is an author, speaker and workshop facilitator who offers participants new ways to talk, listen and teach that rely on non Western methodologies, specifically, from Native Americans in what is now Alaska. Our conversation investigates multiple ways that instructors can learn how to teach using native practices, and the benefits that using these techniques bring to all involved. We discuss Earth based pacing, observation and nonverbal learning, dance, silence and reflection, experiential learning and storytelling. We also learn what happens when we just stop talking. I hope that you can listen without agenda to our conversation and take some time today to suspend judgment. And think about what could happen in your teaching in your university and in our world. Thank you so much, libery Broderick for joining me today on the think UDL podcast and for spending some time with me.
Libby Roderick 02:12
Happy to be here.
Lillian Nave 02:13
Thanks for having me. I’m so glad. And I, you know one thing I’ve learned from you even before actually, I mean, I usually ask the very same first question. But before I ask that question, you taught me something years ago, about place and space. And we are actually not in the same room and we’re not in the same place. So we’re interviewing over wonderful technology. But before we got together, I wanted to make sure that I knew where I was to and the land. Where I am broadcasting or recording from, is traditionally part of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. We also are part of the Qatada. nation in this area in western North Carolina, includes the chair all the waxhaw the and the larger band Eastern Band of the Cherokee, I should say. So, and I just wanted to ask you about where you’re joining us from today.
Libby Roderick 03:15
I am joining you from the city of Anchorage, Alaska in South Central Alaska, we are on the traditional unseeded and sacred lands of the denine people. I’ve been here my whole life was born and raised here. And we as I mentioned, often have seven major indigenous nations up in this part of the world. So thanks for asking.
Lillian Nave 03:38
Absolutely. Um, I, when I went to a wonderful conference in Australia, I was introduced to that in every single part of the conference in every part. There was a land recognition. So that was a really different cultural experience for me.
Libby Roderick 03:57
Well, you know, it’s interesting, I was just thinking about this today, literally just thinking about land acknowledgments, because when we first began to move them into the culture, I remember really wondering, is this going to matter? It seems a bit like just a gesture, right? You know, you just do a land acknowledgement. I’ve seen people do them where they mean them. And I’ve seen people do them where clearly they don’t right. But it has had a pretty radical impact, this sort of symbolic almost move. I mean, it’s not symbolic, because we are in fact, recognizing where we are, who has been here for thousands of years stewarding the lands and waters, it begins to call attention to the historical and justices that we are just beginning to even think about right. And it really is it because it was doable. It seems to have caught on and it does seem to be having the effect of raising people’s consciousness and awareness in very significant way. So that’s pretty exciting.
Lillian Nave 04:52
Yeah, I’ve found it being very interesting to me as I’m doing a lot more in intercultural competency and the That awareness is your first step, understanding who you are, where you are, in how you see the world is culturally conditioned. And and that’s our first step is understanding the water we’re swimming in in our own little fishbowl. So. So anyway, okay, so you’re my first guest, I’ve asked that. That’s been a first question. So my usual first question I do want to ask you is what makes you a different kind of learner?
Libby Roderick 05:32
Well, it actually connects directly to that question. What did surprise you? Yeah, let me first say, because this is a podcast that people can’t see me, I’m a white woman. My ancestry comes from Wales and from England. Some of it recent, and some of it not recent at all. And I was born and raised in Alaska as a white woman on indigenous lands. Right. And so my response to your question, when I first hear it is, what makes me different is that my perception of learning is completely connected to the land, and to indigenous cultures, that they have been the most formative forces in my life. And I’m not speaking of course, for any indigenous peoples nations cultures, anything remotely like that. I have worked extensively with native folks, and over my lifetime, and I speak with permission from folks to do so. So let me just get that out of the, you know, shoot, but so for me, and, and interestingly enough, as a non indigenous person, one of the things that I think is so profound about indigenous ways of teaching and learning and like I talked about a lot, you know, 10,000 years, at least, where I am a pedagogical genius, is that it really applies to everyone. Right? And, and not in a weird way, the reality is, we really are all connected to the land, right. And our peoples must have survived somewhere for thousands of years, or we wouldn’t be here. The differences are the dominant culture is crazily disconnected, crazily disconnected from that reality. And I’ve been a climate activists for my whole life, not out of some wanting to be a climate activist, I actually hate working on the issue of climate crisis, nothing is more heartbreaking. But it’s so obvious, at least where I live, that we aren’t going to make it if the earth doesn’t make it. So it’s pretty much self interest, you know, if nothing else, anyways, all the wishes to say that my learning my perspective as a learner, is rooted in the awareness of my place in the bigger relationship with life itself, right. And indigenous nations and cultures are the most connected have remained the most connected to the reality of where we fit in the world. And therefore, what does it mean? What are we learning for, right? What’s the purpose of education in the first place? Right? I can go on and on, as you can imagine,
Lillian Nave 08:12
yeah, I’ll stop. Oh, we’re gonna get there, I, we are definitely going to get there about the goals of what education is, and the difference between Western goals and orientations and the indigenous difference in how we see that goal, as well. Okay, because goals are very important in Universal Design for Learning guidelines. And we want to start with our goals, we want to know where we’re going. So I, you also make me think of how we see the world is very much connected to that culture, that place. And, you know, I started off saying that, traditionally, or in long standing much longer than Americans or Europeans had come to this slice of heaven, I like to call the western part of North Carolina, the Appalachian Mountains. There was there’s about 200 good years of settlers from Wales, from Scotland from Ireland. In fact, we’ve got a really heavy scotch Irish settlement here, and that has very much shaped to how people believe, loyalty, bonds of kinship, the way people act and see how a community should move forward. You know, that’s also shapes you know, how we see the world how we move forward in the world, how we prioritize things. And it turns out that I like my father is from Eastern Tennessee, although I didn’t know him well. He passed away when I was very young. But so my, my people had hell are are those Scots Irish people who settled in eastern Tennessee, and the Upstate of South Carolina in western North Carolina. And, and it’s strange that now I live here, even though I didn’t grow up here and I lived in New York and Massachusetts and Florida. And then as an adult came here, and seeing how that shapes, many of the things that I didn’t realize were being shaped as I was growing up, so many of those things also align with Western education. And, and have been, you know, put into the the fabric of many of the ideas of our country. But some of them also are counter to them. So I’m learning a lot as an adult about how the water we swim in the land we live on influence how we think and are. So I’m really excited about the the information that you have the the skills that you have used with your faculty, I know that you are the Associate Director of your Center for Teaching and Learning at University of Alaska at Anchorage. And it is something I’ve learned from you about how you use lots of different ways of learning and understanding that come from a non Western perspective. So my first question on this topic is, what are some various ways for teachers instructors to present information, and for people to receive information that come from indigenous ways of being and ways of knowing?
Libby Roderick 11:23
Well, um, let me just first start off with a private theory that I will share with everybody, okay. Which is pretty obvious, I think, which is that our educational systems derived from an are intended to foster our particular economic systems. Right. And so and our mindsets are formed and, and then inform our economic systems because everybody’s trying to survive, right? as a species, one of the great things about coming from an indigenous perspective is the awareness that we are animals. And we aren’t all that different, in terms of what we’re up to. So the reason I’m saying that is because traditional indigenous economies as a rule are unmediated, right, you are going on to the land to harvest the food that you need for yourself, your family, and specifically your community, you’re doing it collectively, for the collective. And, and it requires different kinds of skills, different kinds of awarenesses, different kinds of everything, right. And so that’s where a lot of these ways of teaching and learning come from, of course, because it’s a really different game, if you need to survive in the computer industry, versus if your snow machine breaks down out in the tundra in the middle of the Arctic, what you need to do to be smart and, you know, skilled, looks really different. And people who are trained in the kinds of skills that we are tending to think of with the dominant economy and the dominant educational system look really stupid, frankly, out in the Arctic in the middle of that and are because we don’t have the right skills. And vice versa. Sometimes it kind of looks that way. So the kinds of the kinds of skills and ways of demonstrating things from an indigenous standpoint are far more applied. So people are really strongly encouraged not to, for example, ask a lot of questions. But be remain quiet. Watch what other people are doing. Ask only when absolutely necessary. Because you need to emulate what you’re seeing. You need to hone your capacities for observe observation and insight, you need to hone your capacity to be a self empowered learner and funktioner. Because you may well be out there by yourself with a walrus when the ice breaks quite seriously. Right. And that sounds exotic to people who aren’t in those lands. But the truth is, we have lost our connection to how we’re getting our food. And, and so anyway. So those kinds of skills, really sort of survival skills require you to be a far more self empowered learner. So the intention is to have the learner get it themselves and start instead of consistently looking to an authority figure asking for information, just asking questions without even trying very hard yourself to figure it out yourself. And so forth. Right? So, so emulation observation, not talking very much paying attention, demonstrations, so applied learning where you actually do something and then you show that you can actually do it, right. Storytelling is hugely central to this usually possibly the most central to this. And when Alaskan Native educators and elders talk about a single thing that could shift in a western style of education, that makes a huge difference. Storytelling is central. Part of that is I’m a musician by trade before I got to the academy as a singer, songwriter, that’s how people remember things. Wait, we remember narratives, we don’t really remember data very well, let’s just say it. You know, it matters. It links we resonate with it, we can carry it forward. It’s in context, people put their stories in, you know, the place, you learn about the information that matters. You learn about your history, you learn about relationships with the other people you’re living with. And you’re working within the context of story, right? Same thing with dance, that stories are built into dance, there’s a whole lot that goes on in indigenous dance forms, that is about conveying information, whether that information is psychological and relational, whether it’s geographic, whether it’s about how you hunt, whether it’s about how you treat somebody who’s successful in the hunt or not, you know, all of that. So, so, learning from elders, and elders don’t have to be indigenous, right? Learning from older people who have a wide amount of experience and wisdom as a way of learning and a way of expressing your learning. You know, obviously, I can go on, but Well, that’s a great, that’s
Lillian Nave 16:11
a great place that we can start I’ve got a lot of questions and things that you’ve sparked in my mind about things like nonverbal learning. I know our Western tradition is heavily placing a value on verbal learning written text, understanding that text writing back about that text. So if you shift away from that, and say, Oh, that’s, that’s interesting. What about nonverbal? What about a different way? That’s not you read this 20 page article, and you write me a paragraph on it? So that’s really what we’ve done for a long, long time. Yeah. And so what about you, so it could be a dance, it could be a story, it could be a podcast to listen to, it
Libby Roderick 16:55
could be a video, it could be just talking? Yeah, I’ve had Indigenous students in my arms weeping, saying, I understand the material, I cannot write another paper. It’s not in my tradition, it’s not in my skill set, necessarily, although, we don’t want to leave people without those skills, for sure. Um, but can I not just tell what I know?
Lillian Nave 17:20
Right. And I’ve talked to a lot of faculty that will use an unpaper, right, so you can do anything that explains your understanding of this, just don’t write a paper, maybe it’s a diorama, maybe it’s a song, a poem, a quatrain of some sort. There’s so many different ways. And I have often placed this like small spotlight and said, We value only this thing. And for a long time, I thought, what are we doing in higher education, but training people to be in higher education, like you graduate, so then you could research and do the same thing over again. But that’s not why people are in higher education, not everybody wants to be a professor. In fact, a huge majority of people do not want to stay in academia forever, they want to, you know, use this as a jumping off point for the rest of their very productive lives of what they would you know, care to do and what’s good for them and good for their community. And we, I think, sometimes have this myopic view of only this should be valued or only this is the way to do it. So that’s why I find so fascinating that there are ways we can learn from non Western ways of thinking ways of being that challenge, that value that we place. And we place on that. One of the things you also mentioned was the pace of things. Yeah. And that Earth based pace that is guiding a lot of indigenous ways of thinking. And when I was reading that, in preparation for this interview, I thought, I always listen to podcasts are things at double speed, or one and a half speed. And I thought I should tell my listeners, you should listen to this episode, regular speed. You know, let’s see if we can actually slow down and experience something differently. And I’m slowing my pace of speech right now, in thinking about how I often want to rush through I’m very time based and deadline based. And then I’m just kind of questioning some of the value that I place on that. So you are going to add something I know.
Libby Roderick 19:40
Well, there’s so much right? Yeah,
Libby Roderick 19:43
first I want to just say I think what I thought I was gonna say earlier and forgot, which is the linkage with UDL, which is that when we talk about indigenous ways of teaching and learning, my argument has been it’s good for all of our students in the same way that UDL is doing. Not just for people who need accessibility that everybody, right this right? Yes, um, and to that the pacing, as I mentioned earlier, you know, is linked to the economy, we are moving on the pace of computers and ever pushed to move faster and faster because we can and because that’s what the labor force is being forced to do. I worked on a project many years ago to do an oral interpretation performance piece on women in Maine, in in a labor mills in the turn of the last century. And what I remember from that is that the managers of the mills would simply speed up the looms on the women. Really, yeah, they just as they could, as the technology evolved, they were able to simply take the same women the same time period, and produce five times more by speeding up the loom. So the woman had to just simply speed that
Libby Roderick 20:56
yeah, loom was going faster and faster. And we are exactly like that. Right, we are all moving faster and faster. Because while I’m on this podcast with you, we all know that we’ll get 100 emails in the time that we are, and texts and everything else, and we’ll be behind, right? We’re panicked, I feel the same, everybody feels slightly panicked all the time around time. In an indigenous context, of course, your time is tied to the seasons, it is tied to the harvest, it is tied to the light and day. I mean, here we are in Alaska, where we are losing light, by the second we’re heading into the darkest period of the year, people don’t move as fast. And, and the truth is that everything has sped up except the human capacity. So we’re not we aren’t able to adapt this quickly to the change in the speed. We don’t function that well. I’m a multitasker, he doesn’t really work. We all know, right? on so many fronts. And yet, if we were to slow this thing really down, because one of our interventions is pausing, and silence, right, and reflection. And everything shows us Western data included that students learn through the roof, when we slow it down. And all the data shows that we think we’re getting we wait 12 seconds after we ask a question. And we wait 1.2 seconds. And then we get nervous and we jump in and we after a we answer the question for them, right. But everything shows that at least for higher cognitive questions. If you can wait, at least I think it’s three seconds, I forget the quality and the quantity and the types of responses you get from your students go through the roof, as well as all the other indicators. So that’s a great point. And I will say as a person on the cutting edge of the climate crisis. I live in Alaska, we’re seeing it whatever they say twice or three times the rate that other people are. But come on, we’re all seeing it. extreme weather events are happening everywhere. Temperature is gradually going up everywhere, right? sea level rise is impacting people. It goes on right? Right, that this need to reconnect? Seriously with our bodies. This is why people are so interested in mindfulness these days, right? And that’s taken off across the world. Yes, we have to find ways to reconnect to our own bodies, to our own beings, our own feelings, to the land around us to the fact that there are birds out there and their existence and bees matters as much as ours, because if they go down, we do too. Right? You know, this whole connecting with what we call the ancestors, right? That you’re part of a longer journey here of beings that precede you and being to follow you specifically your students, among other things, your children, right? Yeah, and that right now, those beings are in peril. And we move so fast in higher ed, and we think we know what we’re doing. And we’re all part of the career mentality of, you know, I’m gonna make it and we’re all part of the AI mentality, like, I’m gonna make it, right. I’m gonna do as a student, each student answer for yourself, right, you know, now we’re most of us listening to this are pretty good at realizing that say, working together has a lot to say for itself.
Lillian Nave 24:32
Right? Yeah, that’s a good thing.
Libby Roderick 24:34
Yeah. And when you mentioned accessibility, right, you know, one of the things about indigenous nations, in my experience, is when you realize you’re in the same boat with everybody else. And you really do if you’re a village on the western edge of Alaska on the coast, you’ve been there 10,000 years and if people don’t find the food together, they don’t find the food. Mm hmm. That you look out for each other right, that the elders who are cannot go hunting someone brings them The first fish, right? It’s built into the culture that the people with disabilities are part of that crowd, they are just as necessary and essential as everybody else, that the orphans are taken in by someone that the widows who have no hunters in their, you know, family at that moment are looked after by someone, and everyone brings their gifts and they’re different, which is, I think the whole point, in some ways behind UDL, and behind the entire work on equity.
Lillian Nave 25:27
Yes, it is values variability,
Libby Roderick 25:29
everybody, right, and they may not have the capacity to, I don’t know, see, but they have the capacity way built over here, that’s gonna knock you out of the ballpark, in a different arena. And so I think the goal of UDL the goal of education, the goal of being a human in some ways, and right now, the goal of, frankly, of survival is to harvest the genius that everybody’s got from any direction we can to reconnect and write the ship, because we have gone wildly out of right relationship. and higher ed has been a big part of getting us there. As well as maybe helping us out. Yeah,
Lillian Nave 26:09
yeah, you Wow, you bring in a quite a few points there, Libby. And I appreciate how you have woven together so much that’s so important. In universal design for learning as far as valuing the student, the whole student, is absolutely imperative and, and looking at the the problems are in the system, not in the person. Right, we we bring the whole person as a learner, the whole learner, is a human being and all of their jagad learning profile, they’re their differences are what brings value to the group. And we need to have more more variety in order to survive if everybody is excellent at, let’s say, hunting seals, but nobody can catch a fish. We’ve got a problem, right? Yeah, for most of the most of the time. So bringing in all of those differences, and valuing those differences, is really how UDL speaks to me a lot and what I hope to bring out in the podcast and talking to others. And that’s why I was really excited about talking to you of in ways that we haven’t really brought in to higher ed, the indigenous ways of knowing and I love the the book that you put together several years ago stop talking. It’s we’ll have a link to it in our resources, was really a great way to have me stop and think about what are the things that I value? And what are the things I’m bringing into my teaching practice, in art, some of those things, privileging students and discouraging others from learning. So what is it that I can do that that helps. And you also brought up storytelling, which is something I find, I think you’re right is the easiest way, probably that’s the first way if somebody wants to bring in a different different way of teaching into their practice, storytelling is probably the the low hanging fruit The easiest way to do it. But that ignites that effective part of our brains, right. And it really pushes us to remember things, we see value in why we should remember when we hear a story. And it really does ignite, part of our learning that just the cognitive side doesn’t get, you know, you can get data doesn’t really like light people’s fires as much as a story, you know, a real understanding.
Libby Roderick 29:02
Yeah, there again, so much here. Right. So the book that precedes the book you referenced is called start talking.
Libby Roderick 29:10
A handbook for engaging difficult dialogues in higher education. So I’m the director of this project. And we have multiple tracks and the one we’re talking about here, stop talking track is one thread and start talking. One is another of the threads. And why am I saying that? I’m saying that because I spend a lot of my time working with people, mostly, I’d say in the US these days about what do we do about the polarization that we’re experiencing with our students with our world with our nation, right, crazy levels of polarization, caused by a lot of different forces, certainly the impact of the way social media algorithms work, and certainly the result of disinformation coming at us and certainly the result of divisive rhetoric at the top and so forth and so on. But there’s, you know, this very dangerous state in the us right now of threatening Ma cracy, where we are getting so far apart that people don’t even know how to have their students speak to each other in their classrooms. And the reason I bring this up in this context is that one of the only things that is demonstrated to assist with the development of empathy and the rebuilding of relationships amongst people, is storytelling. And by which I mean that people don’t get their minds changed by data. Turns out too bad. But there it is, yeah. They don’t get their minds changed by a lot of things. But one of the things that does really make a difference in terms of softening people’s positions, if not actually allowing them to shift is hearing stories from real people about why things matter to them, why things hurt them, you know, why they are taking the positions they are I’m, I’m working right now with the physicians and the contact tracers in my state, with helping them work with people who refuse to wear masks, obviously, the data is showing one thing that this information is showing something else. And people are, you know, taking these stances and the steps I’m taking them through involve in part, connecting through story, right. So there’s lots of reasons for storytelling. And like I mentioned earlier, indigenous educators do say if you want to do one thing, easily, and the most important thing it would be to use storytelling more prolifically in your teaching environments. And I’ll give you one example. We have a wonderful public health faculty member named Corey Whitmore here who came and worked with us on the stop talking work, which I do with my own online colleague hilarion mercola. Fusion. And she then took her public health policy course, and completely transformed it so that the students did sort of the Oh, what do we call it, we all know what its flipped classroom thing where they did a lot of the reading and so forth outside of the class. And when they came to the class, it was people from the community telling stories about how a particular policy was developed, evolved, implemented, how it worked, assessed, revised, and so forth. The students loved it, she has a line as long out the doors you can find it people who want to come tell their stories from the community. Right? Yeah, um, so that’s, it’s a pretty simple transformation that was radical for everyone.
Lillian Nave 32:14
You know, you taught me something to with the start talking, and then stop talking. You had us in when I did a workshop with you several years ago. They the importance of listening, and and what is your goal for listening? Are you listening? So you can come back and say something? Because you so you’re listening to defend? Are you listening to explain, or you listening to understand, there’s a big difference. And one of the things that you taught me about that I’ve used in my class with the difficult dialogues, is stopping whatever you were doing, and then giving two minutes for people in pairs, I think it was pairs or three, yeah, pairs partners, to to listen to each other. So can you tell me more about why that’s important. I’ve seen it work in my class, when we had some tense times on our campus. But you were, you’re the one that taught it to me. What can you tell me more about it? Wow. Again,
Libby Roderick 33:21
this is like such an enormous topic, right? But listening, possibly, is the biggest missing skill in the human race, I would say, right? If you’re interested in everything, from international peace, to racial equity, to indigenous ways of teaching and learning to actual learning to developing the capacity to profoundly listen for real, without agenda, like is what you’re describing, which is a central indigenous skill. You know, talking circles, we use them all the time. But just humility. I mean, like, when we when we talked about the title of the second book, stop talking, it means many things. One is literally stop talking. Yeah, you know, and let’s try something else. Right, other than verbal running on as we have been trained to do. One is, stop talking and listen, is dead, right? And when you look at all the work we’re doing right now around equity, and and the heartache of hundreds of years of people not being listened to. Yeah. One of the most profound things we can do humility is at the core of indigenous values as well, right? It’s not the thing that first comes to mind about Western culture.
Lillian Nave 34:38
Just saying, no, that’s not
Libby Roderick 34:39
the first thing that comes to mind about people who look like me, just saying, I’m right, and so forth. And so if we can learn and this is what the mindfulness people are trying to also move forward into the culture. Listening is transformative on every front that I’ve ever seen. And when when Teach the listening partners that you’re mentioning, which is literally training your students or your colleagues or your family members or whoever you can get your hands on yourself Most importantly, to take turns. uninterrupted terms, just letting someone else have their space, to think out loud, to cry if that’s what they need to do in response to whatever’s going on, right? To take their time to organize what they want to say before they’re forced to say it in a large group, when culturally or personally they’re not comfortable with that are not encouraged to do that. Like I mentioned, many Indigenous students come from backgrounds where you’re actively discouraged from speaking unless you need to. Right. It’s the opposite of us in the dominant culture. You’re not rewarded for being talky, and you know, people are like, we don’t need the noise. We’re we’re tuning in visually, we’re tuning in on an intuition level, we’re tuning in to the sounds around us, we are tracking everything that’s going on, the words are getting in the way of the experience. So you’re actually muddying the waters, could you please stop talking? Right? It allows for other things to happen in terms of reconnecting or connecting or tuning in or really see what’s going on. So the skill of teaching our students in this case, how to drop out of that need to defend themselves, it’s not an argument. It’s not a chance to show how much you know, you don’t get rewarded for being the fastest quickest talker with the best information. We’re actually trying to hear each other. And when I teach the difficult dialogues, workshops, you know, there’s two, two practices, I tell people, if I give you nothing else, and you take this away and you use it, it will be transformative. One of them is the listening partners, you can use it in so many ways you can use it for icebreakers, right, you can use it to help the students prepare themselves to engage in a larger discussion. You can help them process emotions, when we’re engaged in a difficult dialogue. You can model the fact that everybody’s voice matters equally to everybody else’s voice. Right, you can do all kinds of things with it. And one of the things I teach in those difficult dialogues workshops is if you’re the one facilitating a charge dialogue, you can put them into listening partners after you’ve taught it to them, and then figure out what the heck you need to do, because you don’t know what to do next. You know, you buy yourself some time. That’s super important if you facilitate difficult titles. I mean, I could go on forever about listening because we don’t do it. We don’t listen to you walk outside, we don’t listen for the birds, we don’t listen for what else is going on in the world, right?
Lillian Nave 37:44
It’s critical. You know, when I employed those listening partners in my classroom, when I participated in an in a workshop, I found also that my cultural way of communicating By the way, what you’re saying is super countercultural to not be the fastest to talk not be the first to talk not be the Yeah, can I not be the one with all the right answers, right. But two things that I learned from doing it is one when I was the talker, I was waiting for someone to acknowledge Yes, oh, I totally believe you and add in what they had to say. And I needed that feedback. And when I didn’t get it, because we were trained, you, you just want to listen, you’re not trying to give nonverbal like you don’t scrunch up your face, you don’t, you know, do all these things that we are so trained to do it. It made me really think as I was talking like I thought I had maybe 30 seconds of stuff to say, but you get two minutes. And nobody else is allowed to talk after that 30 seconds. And then I started thinking more, and then sort of working through things in my head as I was talking. And then it sort of made sense. And I was almost having a counseling session with myself, you know about what was going on. Nobody ever gives me that, you know, chance that that just doesn’t happen usually. And then in the listening side, how hard it was for me not to encourage that other person with my nonverbal body language that I always do when I’m in a conversation because it is so culturally ingrained as a listener that I would say, Oh, yeah, and let me add my two cents, or, oh, I totally get what you’re saying here. And let me let me give you some sort of affirmation or some sort of, I don’t care. I don’t care what you’re saying. And it’s a totally different way of being and we’ll have some resources, you know, links in our resources so people can look into this, but it’s a non Western, different way of being in a classroom. I found it to be really interesting in my art history class, as well as My intercultural, you know, studies class. So it it that’s why I think it’s important for Universal Design for Learning to, to be thinking of different ways to present information and different ways also for the students to express what they know. So that action and expression part. And, you know, storytelling might be the first thing we go to, but things like, really, what’s the point of listening in? And how can we stretch our ways of listening, and what the goal is for listening and can be really valuable and also bring in different learners that may not have been included in the original, let’s say, sign up for the class or the original way that the class was designed? So I just found it so helpful. And interesting.
Libby Roderick 40:55
Well, I am. Well, you’ve been in one of the workshops, one of the things that we talk about. That’s so always so striking to me in higher ed, is we feel passionately that we cannot let a student leave without learning how to think critically, which I agree with, obviously, or how to speak reasonably articulately. in a public setting, it’s one of our commitments to students is that they not leave us without the capacity to put their voice into the public conversation because we want their power in the mix. Right? nobody teaches them how to listen. We don’t even think about it. Yeah. Right. And, and when you realize the kind of train wreck that human relationships are these days, let’s get real. Right, whether on the international level or on the domestic level, or the in your own household level, and between people who meet for holidays level, or politically right. We’re not doing well as a group in terms of our communication capacities. All right. And it may take us right. And, and maybe that’s because we returned to think and talk. But nobody’s on the other end. Right. who’s listening? Right? And it is so profoundly transformative to be with people who actually are committed to hearing what you’re trying to tell them. Right. Yeah. And you know, and anyway, I have had for I don’t know how old I am now. I feel like I’m getting older by the second right, in the last couple years, but but I’ve been doing for a really long time and listening exchange every week, with one or two people. Okay, where we set it up where, depending on the amount of time we have, we each get five minutes, or we each get half an hour. Hmm. Wow. And it ground. I mean, I do it for many, many reasons. But I couldn’t do the national and international level work that I do on things like difficult dialogues, right? Yeah, yeah. If I didn’t have anywhere to go where somebody was hearing what was happening for me, because I can tell you, it’s a run for my money. Sometimes this is hard work. And if you’re involved in equity work, or whether it’s around folks with disabilities, or it’s around racial issues around sexual violence and LGBTQ, whatever the issues are, it’s hard work, right? Yeah. And it’s got harder with COVID. And it’s gonna get harder with climate. And so I mean, as things roll, so this capacity building, where we actually develop students who go into the world, who can hold space to hear what another person is actually saying, I mean, if you are, if you’re in the equity conversations, a lot of what people are saying is, would you please listen? Yeah, really listen to what we’re saying. And believe it? Yeah, right. You know, 400 years of oppression active on many people who, we haven’t even heard them. We don’t teach the stuff for starters, and we’re finally getting around to maybe giving right information. But they also just don’t make space to receive. Yeah, so it couldn’t be a more powerful skill. And we don’t really have many mechanisms to help people develop it, and we are higher education.
Lillian Nave 44:21
Right, right. You would think we would, you would think, and I found it really, really powerful. And in learning in these different ways, was something that was novel, interesting, and also really transformative. And I come from a background where I was really enjoyed the competitive nature of higher education. And that was something that was it came easy for me. So I was interested in that and I do See a problem until later? Much later, that I’m missing a lot, I’m missing out. And there are many other ways to learn that I didn’t realize. And that happens, you know, after I was done with schooling, you know, after I finished my formal education did I realize that there are resilient people who are so different, and learn differently and act differently and live differently in this world, that I had no clue because I had been kind of schooled and trained to value certain ways of being and thinking and doing. So I have appreciated universal design for learning that has given a framework to understand and value, the variability that there is. And I think, as several of my guests have said, and what I see, in higher ed, now, we are seeing that Universal Design for Learning is at the forefront of what we need to be doing because it values that diversity, it says, We don’t need you to conform. In fact, we need to open up and include all of those voices, because those voices make us better.
Libby Roderick 46:18
Yeah. And you’ve heard me say it now too many times, probably. But I actually think those voices could save us. Yeah. You know, again, I don’t mean to be harsh about it. But our own science and indigenous elders, and our lived experience is really calling us right now that we need to do some radical rethinking of what the heck we’re doing here. If I love the western way, right, I’m also good at it, I went to Yeah, already things button. And that’s great if that’s all we were doing on the planet is that kind of thing. But we’re not. And of course, working that well for most other people. And I mean, my family went to India, when I was a child in the Peace Corps, and I got an early introduction to how most of the world is living. And that helped. But I’m specifically in terms of the indigenous work where you see the collision is between Western science. Yes, and indigenous ways of knowing. And the indigenous folks that I work with value Western science enormously, it brings extraordinary gifts to the table. And you know, I have one inupiaq colleague who always talks about Western medicine, and the extraordinary value that some aspects of Western medicine can bring to the world and have right and Western science as
Libby Roderick 47:39
challenge is that it is, the issue is not that it’s not valuable, it’s that it’s not the only way as you’re right. And that, from my standpoint, having edited a number of books, and so forth on these things, and listen very deeply to people for decades, I think that we actually need to center the indigenous ways of teaching and learning and knowing and being and thinking in because they are focused on keeping our species in right relationship with our life support systems and our fellow species. And if we don’t have that, we don’t have anything, right game over. So from my standpoint, their focal point in education, which is to maintain and develop people who are in right relationship with life, call them real human beings, right? right relationship with your community, with your past, with your future generations, with the lands, waters and creatures that you depend upon, and that are part of your, you know, life that keep life going, and so forth with your elders, with your stories, and so on, that needs to be at the center that should be leading the game, that is the guiding wisdom, knowledge, experience, pedagogy, whatever you want, for the world, in my opinion. Within that, we have fabulous gifts that have been developed by Western minds. Right, we got some going on, and I like it, and everybody likes it. So it’s really cool stuff about it. And it’s made life easier for a lot of people particularly, but we have become really addicted to comfort convenience, in my opinion, which is and profit, which is what’s really going on of course we say it right is we are locked into serving a corporate economy. And that’s what higher education is, what the block is right now with the block is for most of the West what the block is for most of the world. If you look at the critical issue that indigenous elders are calling out, as well as climate scientists who are weeping also in my presence, yeah. Right, which is the preservation for a future for life, you know, for all beings. So in that regard, my point is that the skills and gifts that you and I have perfected and been rewarded for and blah, blah, blah, blah, are awesome. I am happy that I got a Yale education and I took it where I took it and I did what I’ve done with it.
Libby Roderick 50:00
I’ve done with it is used it in devotion to subverting systems that are killing us. And killing other people. Yeah, a lot of our students, right. And so all those gifts can be put to fantastic use as long as they are used to subvert a system that is not good for living things.
Lillian Nave 50:19
Yeah. Now, you what you just brought up was one of the things we said at the very beginning, which is the goal of education. And the goal in an indigenous setting is to be a better human. That is, to to be a better part of the community to be to bring the community along as well. And the goal for or Western education. I can’t remember exactly, it’s more along the line of how can I do better for myself? or How can I gain more knowledge, more accolades? It’s more competitive, rather than congregate. And so we really have to look at what is the goal for that education and looking at the goals, what skills and knowledge do we want to attain is one of the the guidelines for Universal Design for Learning, we have to start with the goal. And so tempering that with how to be a better human, I think is an important step. And to put that into our dialogue. And you talked about that Western medicine and how we are in the Western world and Western science, how important that is, and how good it is, we’ve learned so many wonderful things, and people are alive because of it. And it’s fantastic. But one of the things that we also miss in western science is a lack of, if I can say right, maybe wholeness, there’s a connection to the land to spirit to community that is sort of unceremoniously sliced out of the Western scientific method. And a, it’s wonderful, it’s serves a great purpose. It’s just different. And one of the things I’m teaching and learning about in my intercultural competency class is that idea that you need to not use your own set of values to judge somebody else’s set of values, to suspend your judgment. And to understand that that is a way of being and it’s just a valid as valid way of being and doing and knowing, then this set of values of being and doing and knowing. And that we can learn from each other. Oh, you’re a spiritual person, that’s really wonderful. Tell me more about it. Oh, you’re not a spiritual person. That’s really wonderful. Tell me more about it. And together, that helps us to be better humans, and helps us to understand each other better. One of my favorite articles I read recently is called we aren’t the world. And it’s about the a lot of the psychological studies that have been done for the last 40 5060 years, we realize have been done on college students, in fact, mostly European and American college students. So what we thought was economic theory,
Libby Roderick 53:13
right? Oh, my goodness
Lillian Nave 53:14
is Yeah, it’s not really economic theory. It’s weird economic theory and weird stands for white, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic countries. And so what we thought was everybody’s brain works this way. is not true. Like it, we say that because 98% of the people who were given these problems or ask surveyed or anything, were of a certain, like, far in spectrum, the weirdest of the weird is this article talks about. But if you were to go into an indigenous community community in Peru, and give the same economic question, would you give him $10? Or what the equivalent is, if you get five? And the answers are wildly different? Yes, yes. Well,
Libby Roderick 53:59
no. Yeah, well, no, you’re going my where my heart goes, right, which is the whole idea? Well, I’ve had these debates with economists, I’ve been lobbying for a very long time to shift the game in terms of the kind of economic theory that is studied, because we are limiting it to a very, very, very narrow band. I think that stats these days are 11% of the world is white, and 11%. Right? Right. So 89% is doing something else, right, and maybe has a few good ideas, particularly as I mentioned, given where we are in the human journey, and the fact that we may not make it through the century. And I hate to keep hammering that home. But because people don’t like it. I don’t blame you who wants to hear it, you got kids, I don’t want to hear it either. But we also have to get kind of real because if we don’t deal with it, it’s not going to get better as it turns out. And so we are going to have to muster the stamina to kind of deal with reality on some of those fronts and you’re pointing out one The big ones and so are everybody. You know, why did what do we talk about with white supremacy? What do they mean? Well, there’s a lot of pieces that people mean by that. But part of it is exactly what we’re talking about here. Right? That there’s a very small number of people who have decided that they get to make the determination of what is true and what is not. Who is valuable and who is not. Right, who gets stuff and who doesn’t, who counts and who doesn’t, who survives COVID. And who doesn’t, who gets to teach what classes who gets to decide whether those classes are working for them or not? Right. I mean, that’s what the term white supremacy refers to. It’s not just about white stuff, it’s, you know, it doesn’t just impact white fur, I mean, people with disabilities are getting slaughtered by this stuff, too. Right? As as well as many other groups, but so that this challenge to the idea that this small group of people gets to define reality, needs to go because and for us, to me, I’m speaking as a white person, we’re not gonna make it either. If we don’t bring everybody’s genius into the mix right now, and harvest the best and learn how to work as a collective. I remember a woman coming to one of our workshops, and she was just so pithy her point when she was a K through 12. Teacher, and she just said, listening to you, I realize we almost never used the word we, in our assignments in, you know, how we evaluate our students, it’s always I, if she just shifted that mindset into, and and by we, of course, I don’t only mean, our human students, the other piece we have to get in higher ed is the rest of creation, right? We cannot just even form collective groups who then go into corporate settings and do the kind of damage that we’ve been doing for a couple hundred years or more, right? We actually have to rethink our relationship to life itself. And teach people who become aware of, of everyone, and I’m including salmon, and spruce, and eagle and the climate and the ocean, and all of that, right.
Lillian Nave 57:09
Yep, that variability, right, that difference is maligned, it just has not been brought in until recently, where we can understand and see that we have a lot to learn from each other in each one of these areas. And I’m so I’m so interested in in and have been well served by the indigenous ways that you’ve brought into the conversation in higher education. For the last decade or more, I mean, I’ve only known in the last decade or so of, of bringing in how important it is that we can learn from each other and learn in ways that stretch us. And what we might not realize is that those are the ways that help our students to be comfortable and to understand in in a way that might be scary, like in a world that might not be suitable, or might be scary, or might be threatening to our students. Now, we can think of ways that can bring in alternate ways of being of knowing, of doing of thinking, and not to be afraid of it, in fact, to see that there are really positive things that can be brought in, that just aren’t part and parcel of the usual system that we came up in, or that has always been, and I do you see it changing, I definitely see it changing from the people that I’m talking to, in what’s changing in higher ed. And, you know, that’s what I’m hoping to do with the podcast is hear all these voices. And maybe I need to be listening without an agenda. But listening so that others can listen, I think, is important. So well, thank you. I’ve taken up a lot of your time. I have a probably still 25 other questions, but maybe we can be listening partners some time to. Okay. But I do want to end with one final question for you, though, because we sort of covered a lot of the questions I had, we’ve just jumped around to them. But what advice do you have for instructors who want to offer their students other ways of being receiving sharing information? What’s the advice that you would give someone who says this sounds like a good idea? I’ve never done it. What would you say to them?
Libby Roderick 59:43
My first thought is join a community of people who are doing it because there are a lot of people who want to do this for all the reasons we’re exploring, right? There’s a lot of creative minds in higher ed who know that they’ve been kind of constrained in ways that don’t actually reflect their best teaching even right And so I would suggest that you join community, whether that’s online probably now, right? But there are other people who want to do it, you know? Well, anyways, there’s there, if you start looking around, you’ll find people or you can encourage them within your own faculty development centers, or ask them to do it to experiment with because there’s so many examples of people out there who are having their students again, you know, do do a dance performance, do a visual art description, do a, you know, a speech by somebody else, do an interview of an elder and transcribe it and bring it in, do a video, right? Do build something, collectively build something, do a computer model, whatever it is, it’s cool. And and your students when you let them loose, are so cool, right? They’re so creative and interesting. It makes your job much more fun. Yeah, you know, and we are constrained by a system. When I work with people, I tell the truth, which is right, when you branch out of the established channels, sometimes it’s harder, because it takes more time, at least in the beginning, right? And the system doesn’t reward us for it. We all know that. That’s why we resist stuff, right? It’s why we resist change. It’s why faculty resist even hiring people who are different than themselves. What I’ve discovered in that work, is it’s just because people don’t want more work, right? And they’re afraid that if they bring somebody different, it’s gonna take more time, right? Ah, I’ll spin out. But, but the other part of this is that it’s so much cooler, right? I mean, I don’t do anti racism, we’re completely out of altruism, your life is so much cooler, and better, and more creative and more interesting and more connected and just cooler. Right? So I would suggest that you, you know, tap the resources that are out there, join in community, so you don’t have to do any more work than you have to because people have done a lot of it. Right, you learn from their examples.
Lillian Nave 1:01:53
That’s great. I have certainly learned on Twitter on in various other kind of online communities, hearing from people across the nation who are doing this and across the world. And it has made my teaching life better. It certainly has. So Alright, so thank you so much, Libby, for taking the time to speak with me and to listen. And to share these thoughts, I will make sure that we have all of the resources that you mentioned in our conversation on our website, so people will be able to to reference it and use it. And just thank you so much for sharing your wealth of information and knowledge and indigenous ways of doing things that you have learned and sharing it with the rest of us.
Libby Roderick 1:02:42
Thank you. My pleasure. Good, good work. I appreciate what you’re doing.
Lillian Nave 1:02:45
Thank you. You can follow the Think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the thinkudl.org website. The Think UDL podcast is made possible by College Star. The STAR stands for supporting transition, access and retention in post secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aides based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the collegestar.org website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appa-lay-shun, I’ll throw an apple at-cha. The music on the podcast was performed by the Oddyssey Quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Cochez. Our sound engineer is Tanner Jones and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on the think UDL podcast.