Creating an Anti-Oppressive Classroom: Dr. Reeves’ Approach to Supporting Students

Posted on Thursday, April 6th, 2023

A headshot of Allison Reeves, a light-skinned woman with shoulder length brown hair and wearing a white crew-neck sweater, smiling at the camera. A great instructor can have a powerful impact on their students, teaching valuable lessons that last a lifetime. Dr. Allison Reeves, Assistant Professor in Psychology at the University of Guelph-Humber, is a phenomenal instructor whose students have benefited from her commitment to anti-oppressive practices and bringing the rich experiential knowledge of her students into the classroom.  

For her innovative pedagogy, commitment and mentorship with undergraduate students, and work as the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Knowledge Sharing Group, Reeves has been awarded the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences Teaching and Learning Excellence Award for Early Career Faculty for the 2021-22 academic year.  

Reeves' teaching is centred around a strong commitment to integrating an anti-oppressive and anti-racist lens. “Given my clinical and research work in the area of Indigenous healing and cultural resurgence, I have always been interested in weaving Indigenous epistemologies into best practice teaching approaches for adult learners,” said Reeves. “This involves learning in context, by example, and through experience, utilizing an equity lens. In this pedagogical paradigm, fostering trust relationships with students is essential in order to connect as a class who, together, will journey together through this type of developmental learning experience.” 

Reeves’ approach has clearly had a profound impact on her students. Students writing in support of this award remarked on Reeves’ commitment to supporting them outside of the classroom and her advocacy for anti-racism, such as hiring six BIPOC research assistants to conduct a study understanding racialized students’ sense of belonging in the Psychology department. In the classroom, students spoke of her engaging methods of teaching, appreciating her well-organized and clear lectures that integrated inclusion and equity into every aspect of the course and created a secure classroom environment in which students could speak their thoughts and opinions openly. 

“If I had not met Dr. Reeves, my personal, professional, and academic career trajectory would be completely different,” said Stephanie Day, a student of Indigenous ancestry. “Dr. Reeves’ commitment to Indigenous health research and allyship is inspiring... She mentors students to become good people, as opposed to just good scholars.” 

Reeves has also positively impacted the Guelph-Humber Psychology Department, helping to incorporate more diverse ways of knowing into the curriculum and finding ways to bolster mentorship for racialized minority students. 

“Since joining our Psychology Department in January 2020, Allison hit the ground running, bringing an innovative and enthusiastic approach to teaching and research,” said Dr. Adam Sandford, Interim Program Head of Psychology for the University of Guelph-Humber. “Overall, Allison’s innovative pedagogy combined with the important personal relationships she develops with students has helped to make a meaningful shift in the way Guelph-Humber students engage with their study of psychology." 

One lasting impact Reeves has made on the Psychology Department comes from the development of the curriculum for the brand new PSYC*1020 Indigenous Mental Health course, now a required course for all first year Guelph-Humber Psychology students. The course includes a focus on colonial history and resultant health outcomes for Indigenous Peoples, as well as a larger focus on cognitive imperialism within psychology and possibilities for integrating Indigenous epistemologies such as Two Eyed Seeing. Taking this course in first year prepares Guelph-Humber Psychology students to apply a critical anti-oppressive lens to the rest of their degree. 

Truly, Reeves is an instructor worthy of recognition, who brings anti-oppression practices into every aspect of her teaching and research and contributes to the wider University of Guelph mission to work towards decolonization and advance equity, diversity, and inclusion.  

Learn more about Reeves’ work and research

Know an instructor or teaching assistant who deserves to be recognized for their outstanding contribution to teaching and learning? Nominate them for a Teaching and Learning Excellence Award!

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