Centering the Indigenous in Science Education
Stephany Johnson

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Oregon

Primary Discipline

The focus of my dissertation is to explore the limitations and possibilities of decolonizing science education in the academy. I have conducted interviews with 8 students in an Environmental Sciences degree program that is piloting a program to teach in both the Western way and in Indigenous ways with Indigenous instructors. I have also interviewed the instructors, both the Indigenous instructors as well as the non-Indigenous. I have observed classes and field work with these students and instructors, and am working to analyze the observations, as well as the student's and instructor's responses and reactions to the classes and interactions. In my analysis I will focus on how the participants define Indigenous science, the Indigenous methodologies used to teach science, and the tensions around non-Indigenous instructors teaching Indigenous students science. Through listening to these students, and analyzing what they, their instructors, and their elders have to say, I hope to inform educational policy and practice in the arenas of science and math education for Indigenous students. Perhaps we can begin to acknowledge and honor the knowledge and wisdom these students and communities bring to science education. In doing so, we must also acknowledge and address the inequality that is rampant in our current system of education. Changes in educational policy and practice that center Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing can and will have a positive impact on the educational experience, classrooms, and schools of Indigenous students, and potentially for all students.
About Stephany Johnson
Stephany RunningHawk Johnson is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Critical and SocioCultural Studies at the University of Oregon. She is a descendant of the Oglala Lakota nation; her grandfather was enrolled at the Pine Ridge Reservation. Stephany earned a B.S. in Natural Resources from Oregon State University in 2003. She went on to an MEd from the University of Oregon in 2008 as part of the Sapsik'?a?รก program, and subsequently taught secondary math and science from 2008-2013, greatly enjoying her time as a classroom teacher while recognizing many of the issues her students experienced. Stephany went on to become a Professional Advisor for Earth and Environmental Sciences students at OSU from 2013-2016, seeing her students experience many of the same barriers and struggles as her secondary students had. Consequently, her research interests revolve around Indigenous students going to university and majoring in science fields, how the philosophy behind the way science is taught creates access or barriers for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and Indigenous feminisms.? Stephany hopes to explore ways to decolonize the academy in order to create better learning experiences in science courses for Indigenous students, widen opportunities for self-determination among tribal communities, as well as to broaden the diversity of scientists in the workforce.

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