Foundational Research Summaries of the RISE Project

The current phase of RISE Project on 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive education began in 2017 with funding from an SSHRC Insight Grant. Current work is funded by the Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth.

The RISE Project: Findings and Outcomes

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The current phase of RISE Project on 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive education began in 2017 with funding from an SSHRC Insight Grant. Current work is funded by the Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth. 

Our work encompassed five stages of research, which included:

  • Environmental scan of Canadian Faculties of Education
  • Survey of faculty working in Faculties of Education in Canada
  • Literature reviews on 2SLGBTQ+-inclusive practices in teacher education and in K–12 education
  • A 2-day Summit on 2SLGBTQ+ expansive teacher education (May 30 & 31, 2019 at Musqueam Cultural Centre, Vancouver, BC), in which key researchers, academics, policy makers, and knowledge holders were to review the state of 2SLGBTQ+ education in Canada and discuss key topics and goals in promoting 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive teacher education and curriculum
  • Development of 2SLGBTQ+ curricular frameworks and content modules for teacher education programs

(Note: The following summaries are based on research summaries developed by members of the research team during the course of the research. Each summary includes a note indicating the roles of the research team for each part of the research.)

Short survey of administrators and faculty working in Faculties of Education

Catherine Taylor wrote the research summary based on the findings of the short survey. The short survey was developed by the research team and Project Coordinator Chris Campbell programmed it online and conducted recruitment.

In Fall 2018, we distributed a short survey to Deans and known specialists at all Canadian Universities with Faculties of Education regarding 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion. The short survey included three open-ended questions: (1) We asked if there were undergraduate or graduate courses in their faculty which were mainly or substantively focused on the topic of 2SLGBTQ+-inclusive education. (2) We asked how 2SLGBTQ+-inclusive education was addressed through other means in respondents’ faculties of education (e.g., PD workshops, active recruitment of 2SLGBTQ+ staff or students, presence of Gay–Straight Alliance/Gender and Sexuality Alliance clubs [GSAs]). (3) We asked about whether respondents knew of any faculty members who were involved in 2SLGBTQ+-inclusive teacher education either as an instructor or researcher, and invited them to either share the survey with this individual or forward our invitation to them or to their networks.

In total, we received 81 responses to the short survey representing 44 universities (36 English-language ones and 8 French-language ones) and 5 responses from religious or faith-based institutions. The survey was not intended to be representative or exhaustive, and our findings were more qualitative in nature describing specific circumstances and trends in various faculties.

In general, there were very few 2SLGBTQ+-specific courses offered at the undergraduate or graduate level, and all were elective. Several faculties reported that 2SLGBTQ+ courses were no longer offered, either because of the departure of a specialist faculty member, low enrolment in the course, or because a course was discontinued in program redesign. Several respondents identified courses where 2SLGBTQ+ content was included within their programs and course offerings, such as courses on counselling, pre-practicum, human development and learning, physical and health education, inclusive education, social justice, equity and diversity issues, and sociology of education. Guest speakers were commonly employed to deliver 2SLGBTQ+ content and, in some faculties, 2SLGBTQ+ content was only taught or introduced by guest speakers.

In terms of non-course efforts, professional development (PD) workshops for faculty, staff, and students were identified at several institutions, most commonly for students; one university had discontinued their student workshop and integrated that content into a mandatory equity course, where they found there was less student resistance to the content. Several faculties had GSA-style clubs to support 2SLGBTQ+ students. Only one university in the sample said that they had a diversity admissions policy with a set goal for 2SLGBTQ+ student recruitment. Other faculty identified various efforts, such as research centres, options for students to identify their pronouns or preferred names, ad hoc committees focusing on 2SLGBTQ+ topics, a queering education week, social media accounts dedicated to 2SLGBTQ+ initiatives, book clubs, or entire initiatives dedicated to 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion (e.g., SOGI UBC initiative).

Environmental scan of Canadian Faculties of Education

Lisa Loutzenheiser led the environmental scan and wrote the research summary.

The Environmental Scan was intended to develop an overview of what Canadian Faculties of Education cover regarding 2SLGBTQ+ content. This preliminary mapping of Faculties of Education looked to map curriculum and faculty offerings addressing topics related to 2SLGBTQ+ people, politics, and pedagogies nationwide through a review of faculty websites; specifically, we looked at course offerings, faculty members with expertise or specialization in 2SLGBTQ+ education, specialized areas and/or programs offered, the content available on their public websites, and other academic units, workshops, or 2SLGBTQ+-specific offerings.

While we recognized that websites and publicly available content are not always up to date for a variety of reasons (e.g., courses no longer offered in the course calendar; professors retired, on sabbatical, or no longer teaching a course they developed; administrative lags in updating online content), this environmental scan offers insight into what is offered, availability and visibility of offerings, and how it is institutionally represented.

We found that 2SLGBTQ+ content was not addressed in many Faculties of Education, at least not in formal course outlines, which suggests that these types of courses are not systematically embedded in education programs. Faculties of Education with courses focusing on gender and sexual diversity were most prevalent in institutions with scholars specializing in these topics. Smaller Faculties of Education, particularly those with religious affiliations, had fewer mentions of gender and sexual diversity (sometimes across the entire institution). We also found that “inclusive education” courses do not always specifically name 2SLGBTQ+ topics and content as being included.

Prior to our development of the course modules, we again reviewed a representative sample of Faculties of Education with the specific purpose of identifying core course offerings and content areas, for which we would develop 2SLGBTQ+-expansive content. We identified one larger and one smaller institution in each province, identified core courses, and reviewed course outlines/listings from the calendar to develop a sense of what content was relevant, what core courses typically offered, and where we could usefully offer 2SLGBTQ+ content.

Literature reviews on 2SLGBTQ+-inclusive practices in teacher education and in K–12 education

The literature review on 2SLGBTQ+-inclusive practices in teacher education was conducted and the summary written by Kristopher Wells; the literature review on 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion in K–12 education was conducted and the summary written by Chris Campbell.

We conducted two extensive literature reviews on 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion in teacher education and on 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion in K–12 education to identify key themes and approaches identified in academic literature. These literature reviews were not exhaustive and focused primarily on English-language, peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters.

The thematic literature on 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion in pre-service teacher education programs found that a great deal had been published on the subject. The vast majority was theoretical, narrative, or qualitative in focus; there was little quantitative research (what did exist was survey based) that had been published. Research literature focusing on 2SLGBTQ+ topics in Canadian teacher education increased in the 1990s and predominantly focused on notions of building tolerance, acceptance, and empathy through anti-homophobia education. Research focusing on queering teacher education began to increase later and focused on interrogating, questioning, and challenging heteronormativity. Only recently, beginning in the middle of the first decade of 2000s, did publications focusing on examinations of gender normativity and trans and gender-diverse youth become more prevalent.

Lee Airton and Austen Koecher’s (2019) article “How to hit a moving target: 35 years of gender and sexual diversity in teacher education” presents an exhaustive literature review of English-language publications on 2SLGBTQ+ topics in teacher education dating back to 1982, with the majority of publications situated in a US context. Airton and Koecher provide a useful typology of the literature that identifies three major approaches to the topic: pedagogical, methodological, and theoretical approaches.

Overall, there appeared to be little consensus on what qualifies as 2SLGBTQ+-inclusive education, especially as it pertained to pre-service teacher education. Similarly, questions arose about what “successful” inclusion looked like in the context of teacher education, how it could be measured, and how to do it in religious, rural, or other contexts. In thinking through these questions, and considering what is offered by the various publications and research, it is worth noting that 2SLGBTQ+-inclusive teacher education should not be treated as a monolithic field of inquiry; rather, 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion is an ongoing project with evolving contexts that are always in progress, partial, and necessarily political in nature.

The thematic literature review focusing on research on 2SLGBTQ+-inclusive education in K–12 school systems focused on literature from the broader field of K–12 educational research on 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion, specifically where that research made recommendations for pre-service teacher education. This literature review was not intended to be comprehensive or exhaustive, but rather intended to identify publications with a range of theoretical, methodological, and demographically-focused approaches. Research included publications on student experiences, programmatic and curricular approaches, policy interventions, professional development and educator/staff training, conceptual and theoretical applications, and para-teacher roles focusing on 2SLGBTQ+ interventions (such as social workers or school counsellors might enact).

  • Much of this literature referenced preservice teacher education as a critical intervention point. For instance, teacher education has the potential to address a lack of knowledge or awareness among educators about the impacts of homo/bi/transphobia and bullying/harassment; research often relied on this implicit argument linking teacher education or professional development training with safer schools, wherein exposure to adequate training on 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion would lead to less negative attitudes and more supportive teachers and, as a result, safer schools for 2SLGBTQ+ students.
  • Recommendations based on K–12 research on 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion often paired preservice teacher education with in-service professional development recommendations and were generally broad in nature, calling for professional development training on how to support 2SLGBTQ+ youth or about harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
  • Other common topics that emerged from the research literature included the importance of supportive educators and school staff, GSAs, 2SLGBTQ+-inclusive curricula, and anti-homo/bi/transphobia policies (often in the form of anti-harassment policies).
  • Less frequent themes emerging in the recommendations highlighted the importance of concerted focus on more marginalized or multiply marginalized 2SLGBTQ+ people. For instance, it is important to include specific focus on bisexuality and gender identity/expression, particularly as they are often neglected or overlooked in 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion efforts. Recommendations also called for a recognition of the importance of intersectionality in the 2SLGBTQ+ community, particularly in recognizing that multiply marginalized 2SLGBTQ+ people will have unique experiences of discrimination, oppression, and resiliency; for instance, racialized people and BIPOC, people with disabilities, and people from different socioeconomic statuses or classes can have profoundly different experiences of being 2SLGBTQ+, and effective interventions need to pay attention to intersectionality.
  • Several articles pointed out that 2SLGBTQ+ interventions are reliant on mutually reinforcing efforts; for instance, 2SLGBTQ+-specific policy provides institutional assurance that 2SLGBTQ+ interventions are appropriate and expected, which can provide educators with the confidence to implement 2SLGBTQ+ curriculum, provide a rationale for holding workshops and PD/education on 2SLGBTQ+ topics, and encourage GSAs and school-wide participation in 2SLGBTQ+ events/activities.

The research literature frequently highlighted how 2SLGBTQ+ content was not systematically included in preservice teacher education and this notable absence/silence results in 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion being left to the discretion of the educator/instructor. As a result, lack of pre-service education on these topics creates very real and significant barriers to 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion, particularly when 2SLGBTQ+ topics are not encouraged through school system efforts.

Summit on 2SLGBTQ+expansive teacher education (May 30 & 31, 2019 at Musqueam Cultural Centre, Vancouver, BC)

The analysis of the Summit transcripts was conducted by Lee Iskander and Lucy Fowler, with supervisory input from Lisa Loutzenheiser; the summary was written by Lee Iskander and Lucy Fowler.

The RISE Summit on 2SLGBTQ+-inclusive Teacher Education was held in Vancouver, BC in May 2019 at the Musqueam Cultural Centre. The purpose of the Summit was to hold an in-person gathering of teacher education experts in the field of 2SLGBTQ+-expansive teacher education to dialogue on key questions we had identified in the research. Delegates were identified through earlier research and in consultation among the research team, and invitations were extended in the winter of 201819. In total, the RISE Project was able to fund 21 delegates to attend the Summit, along with four members of the research team—Dr. Lisa Loutzenheiser, Dr. Kristopher Wells, Dr. Alex Wilson, and Chris Campbell. 

Delegates were provided with a package that included a list of delegates, an agenda for the two-day Summit, an overview of the previous stages of research, and guiding questions for the Summit. Day one of the Summit welcomed participants and provided a series of presentations summarizing the preliminary findings of the RISE research to date and providing some thematic starting points to foreground Summit themes and provoke thinking among delegates. Elder Larry Grant from Musqueam First Nation provided a welcome and we received a tour of Musqueam in the afternoon. The day began with Alex Wilson’s presentation on Cree cosmology and education, followed by two presentations on the SOGI UBC and SOGI 123 initiatives, and included a presentation introducing delegates to the RISE Summit and preliminary findings to date. Day two opened with a panel on Two-Spirit and Indigenous education, moderated by Alex Wilson, followed by a series of break-out groups for conversation taking up the themes and topics that had been introduced by the preceding presentations and conversations and prompted by the guiding questions we had prepared for the Summit. The Summit concluded with a plenary conversation involving all delegates to share learning, identify key themes and ideas from the conversation, and conclude the Summit. 

The Summit presentations and conversations were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed following the Summit (Lee Iskander and Lucy Fowler collaboratively analyzed the transcripts and developed a thematic summary of prominent themes). While the initial intention of the Summit was to identify specific course content and activities, conversations at the Summit assumed a broader, more theoretical tone in grappling with what a queer, Indigenous teacher education might actually look like, why we are trying to achieve it and what it entails, and what might be possible given the confines of existing teacher education programs, politics, and structures of school systems. 

The following themes emerged from the RISE Summit:

  • Developing the personal, developing the professional: Delegates spoke frequently about the importance of personal development for teacher candidates and teacher educators. These conversations focused on efforts to transform the disposition, affect, and worldviews of teacher candidates and teacher educators to bring into their work regarding 2SLGBTQ+ people and topics. Relationship building and relationality were emphasized both in queer and Indigenous frameworks, including forging meaningful connections with students, meeting students where they are, and working to develop an ethic of humility (rather than expertise) in teacher candidates. One delegate described this work as needing to be less focused on learning about 2SLGBTQ+ people and more on developing a disposition to knowledge, an openness to learning and teaching that may challenge their sense of self.
  • Community: This theme encompassed three sub-topics: 

1) The experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ and Indigenous teacher candidates or teacher educators: Delegates pointed out the 2SLGBTQ+ teacher candidates are not centered in RISE’s questions and goals, and they asked how efforts to “scale up” or tackle 2SLGBTQ+ teacher education assume a white, cisgender, heterosexual subject. Delegates discussed the need for teacher educators to think critically about whom they have in mind as the teacher candidate they are educating and to think about how teacher educators may take up RISE’s work.

2) Valuing, citing, and being accountable to the knowledges and experiences of people who belong to 2SLGBTQ+ and Indigenous communities: These discussions focused on the need to learn from youth and Indigenous pedagogies and to have good citational practices acknowledging the source of ideas and knowledges. Delegates repeatedly emphasized the need to understand ourselves in relationship with the people on whose lands and territories we are living on and being knowledgeable of and accountable to the laws and protocols of that territory. 

3) Working with local communities and contexts: Delegates talked about the importance of bringing local community into the processes of teacher education, including explicitly being accountable to local and Indigenous communities – not only to the professional certifying body for teachers. Partnerships with local organizations are needed, as well as checking in with community to ensure the work/process is meaningful and useful to communities, including religious and faith-based communities.

  • Educational foundations: This theme focused on how 2SLGBTQ+ topics have been historically treated in education, the current structures of teacher education programs, and imagining how a new approach could look. This reimagining was the most prominent discussion topic within this theme as delegates grappled with queering teacher education programs. Delegates spoke about very real barriers to changing, Indigenizing, and queering teacher education in intersectional ways due to ongoing issues of colonization and an educational system dominated by whiteness. Some of these barriers included adverse reactions from parents and students, lack of institutional support for changes, and the onus being placed on 2SLGBTQ+ teachers to create and sustain change. Further, delegates questioned whether an effective overhaul of the system was even possible given that the system is designed to disenfranchise BIPOC and 2SLGBTQ+ people. Discussions strongly indicated that there must be a paradigm shift within teacher education programs to create real change. Delegates further emphasized that accommodation of 2SLGBTQ+ students implicitly conveys that 2SLGBTQ+ students are outside the norm, and educators must begin to shift toward the realization that 2SLGBTQ+ students must be welcomed—not simply accommodated—and should be expected in every classroom. 
  • Curriculum and pedagogies: Delegate discussion regarding curriculum were generally broad rather than specific. There was resistance to the idea of having pre-planned curriculum, as they are often created with certain people or groups in mind and, as such, will always exclude individuals and communities for whom the curriculum planners fail to anticipate; in other words, there is the threat that pre-planned curriculum will foreclose conversations or lead to “rote” inclusion exercises that fail to transform schools for 2SLGBTQ+ people. These concerns were held in tension with the idea of curriculum guides, which may rather frame offerings as open-ended guidelines suggesting possibilities to incorporate local knowledges, histories, and needs. Delegates also raised a concern that teaching and learning about 2SLGBTQ+ issues is a “band-aid solution” or may simply be another addition to an already full curriculum.
  • Leadership: This theme emphasized the importance of having administration buy-in at both universities and K12 schools. Delegates discussed various challenges and pressures that exist for administrators and teacher education programs, including graduation rates, the need for (perceived) neutrality, juggling different priorities from stakeholders (including political will and expectations), and balancing the budget as part of their decision-making. Lack of funding designated to further 2SLGBTQ+ initiatives, curriculum, and training was noted as a practical limitation, which, even with supportive leadership, often makes it difficult to institutionalize programs and initiatives; often the onus is placed on individuals implementing 2SLGBTQ+ strategies to apply for grants or other funding sources. Some delegates also suggested that lack of institutional support was a reflection of administrators’ priorities and that many do not necessarily see the benefit in having courses or initiatives that address 2SLGBTQ+ topics. Policies mandating the inclusion of 2SLGBTQ+ voices and content often place the responsibility on individual educators to develop and implement that content; many educators do not know how or feel comfortable teaching content that is new to them or that they do not have experience with, are resistant to teaching 2SLGBTQ+ perspectives, and/or receive little to no professional development or teacher education on the topic.
  • Indigiqueer: This them denoted conversations that specifically highlighted Indigenous knowledges and worldviews and as a way to directly link to the curriculum frameworks and content modules RISE was developing. Delegates noted the importance of centering Indigenous worldviews and Indigenous perspectives on education; the multiplicities of Indigenous perspectives on 2SLGBTQ+ issues were noted, as communities vary in their understandings and acceptance and the legacy of colonialism itself has disrupted knowledge about 2SLGBTQ+ peoples in some communities. Colonialism itself imposes an anti-2SLGBTQ+ paradigm and delegates emphasized that it is counterproductive to advance 2SLGBTQ+-expansive education without also including a focus on dismantling colonialism. Delegates also connected violence enacted on the land through resource extraction with the violence enacted on Indigenous bodies, including Two-Spirit and Indigenous queer people. Locality, local knowledge, and the importance of using Indigenous languages were emphasized as integral when discussing Indigenous perspectives.
  • Violence or push-back: Resistance encountered when undertaking the work of 2SLGBTQ+ expansive teacher education is often passive, taking the form of lack of class participation, lack of institutional commitment, and teacher candidates not undertaking this work in practicum placements (delegates noted that teacher candidates may rightly feel their position is too precarious to engage with this work in schools). Delegates also discussed how resistance was an outgrowth of the structure of teacher education, where programs are expected to cover a wide range of social issues in increasingly streamlined and condensed programs. In thinking about resistance to 2SLGBTQ+ work in schools, participants described differences between what is encouraged or permitted by school boards and communities. Several delegates spoke about white students’ resistance to intersectional 2SLGBTQ+ teaching and the consequent blowback on Indigenous instructors. Finally, delegates emphasized that it is vitally important to talk about the risk of push-back with teacher candidates in order to address their fears/apprehensions and help prepare them to potential resistance.
  • Professional development: Delegates discussed the need for ongoing professional development for educators, as the work of 2SLGBTQ+ education is evolving and developing; this is particularly relevant for educators who are going to be including intersectional, anti-colonial 2SLGBTQ+ perspectives in their classrooms. As many educators do not feel comfortable teaching content they do not understand, delegates noted that it is essential to provide training to educators who do not have the requisite knowledge. Further, while PD and training are often seen as one-off workshops or sessions, additional trainings are needed in order to provide ongoing updates and opportunities to build knowledge as discourse shifts. Delegates also discussed the tendency of teachers to become complacent in their lessons and the danger of 2SLGBTQ+ perspectives being merely additive components to existing lessons (as noted above). Delegates also noted the importance of educator advocacy on behalf of students within classrooms, in schools, and in university contexts.

Curriculum Frameworks and Content Modules

The content modules and content for the RISE website were primarily written by Chris Campbell, Lucy Fowler, and Jane Shulman; members of the research team reviewed the modules and provided feedback at several stages of the process. Weekly meetings of the writing team with Catherine Taylor were held between winter 2020 through to August 2021, when the content was finalized and the RISE website began development with Animikii. Content was reviewed prior to launch in 2023 by Kris Wells and Chris Campbell.

The curriculum frameworks and content modules developed for the RISE Project address the key areas and themes identified in the earlier stages of research for the RISE Project. They are intended as guides to prompt thinking about ways to expand content and prompt critical reflection about gender and sexual diversity in teacher education; they offer suggested starting points, not ready-made or prescriptive curricular interventions. The content modules include course-specific content that supports various approaches and contexts as identified through the earlier stages of the research. Much of the literature and foundational research that informed the development of the curriculum modules was obtained from the literature reviews and our general approach has been informed by the themes identified in our research and from conversations during the Summit; as writing progressed, additional publications and resources were researched as needed to ensure the modules reflected the research literature and scholarship within the field. Importantly, these curriculum frameworks and content modules are not intended to be the definitive final word, nor are they exhaustive; we recognize that there will be gaps, absences, and missing information as research is continually occurring and collective knowledge is continually growing and evolving. Rather, these modules are intended as starting places to prompt thinking, provoke reflection, and identify some opportunities in core areas of teacher education for 2SLGBTQ+-expansive education. 

While our main goal is to support 2SLGBTQ+-expansive education, we recognize that not all educational contexts are the same and that doing this work effectively means that different educators will need to adopt different strategies within their schools. Some schools are working to develop curricular content for 2SLGBTQ+ education, others are working to develop and implement policy, and others are trying to make a case for why it is important to support 2SLGBTQ+ students. The modules include content that supports interventions to counter the harmful effects of homo/bi/transphobia in classrooms; enacting more inclusive practices to increase representation and visibility of 2SLGBTQ+ content in the curriculum and in schools; queering approaches that seek to challenge dominant heteronormative and cisnormative attitudes in the practices of education and identify the interrelated power structures of colonialism, racialization, gender binaries, and rigid understandings of sexuality at work in educational and social normativities; and Indigiqueering approaches that centre Indigenous ways of knowing and affirm approaches to education that affirm understandings of sexuality and gender grounded in Indigenous traditions, cultures, lands, spiritualities, and communities.

The curriculum modules have been developed specifically to address ways that 2SLGBTQ+-expansive content could be introduced in core teacher education courses—providing a rationale for why such content was needed in the course and strategies for implementing this content using a variety of approaches. These modules seek to provide material to help integrate this content or provoke thinking about ways that content could be introduced in these core areas that engages 2SLGBTQ+-expansive stances. While education systems differ across provincial and territorial borders, we set out to identify core content areas that appear throughout teacher education programs throughout the school systems of Canada. The following modules were developed based on the core content areas we identified:

Additional sections of the website expand on our understandings about and use of some key principles for queering teacher education. 

  • Guidelines for queering core teacher education courses offers an introduction to the principles enacted throughout the core teacher education courses, focusing on anti-homo/bi/transphobia interventions, 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion strategies, queering pedagogies and approaches, and Indigiqueering approaches. 
  • Queering contexts offers insights into key themes of intersectionality, resistance, and allyship—and how these may be applied in educational contexts such as urban/rural contexts, religious schools, or elementary schools or younger years education.