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Jean Kayira, PhD

Antioch University New England

I have a strong commitment to and passion for socio-ecological justice issues, community-based education, and collaborative inquiry. In engaging with these concerns, my work has focused on education as a sociocultural and critical practice, with an additional focus on epistemological and methodological issues of qualitative research. These foci draw on the practice of anti-oppressive education, social and cultural theory, postcolonial theory, and empirical research which engages directly with educators as well as students.

I have been engaged in a variety of research working with youth and teacher candidates on issues of sustainability, particularly examining Indigenous knowledge and sustainability, youth identity in relation to place and sustainability, and social and ecological justice pedagogies. For example, in my doctoral research, I have explored the possibilities of Indigenous knowledge in furthering student learning in relation to culturally appropriate environmental sustainability. I have drawn on the sub-Saharan African concept of Ubuntu/uMunthu[1] and postcolonial theory to enable a third space (Bhabha, 1994) centered on culturally appropriate Malawian ways of knowing, while at the same time, working in tandem with non-Indigenous knowledge and practice. In broad terms, this study sought to widen the space that meaningfully acknowledges both Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge and practice. The study employed aspects of participatory research (with youth) and Indigenous research methodologies.

I have also worked on a community-based action research project with youth (Aboriginal, new immigrant, and settler) to develop their digital media skills and through the process learn about their perspectives on place and the environmental sustainability issues important to them ( Additionally, I have worked on a participatory research project studying beginning teachers’ experiences of learning to teach for social and ecological justice.

Educational History

  • PhD, University of Saskatchewan
  • MA, Environmental Science and Policy, Clark University
  • BEd Science, University of Malawi Chancellor College

Teaching Statement

Guiding me in my approach to teaching and learning is the view that knowledge is socially constructed thus needs on-going cultural examination. Pedagogy that takes this into consideration, as Leitch (1996) suggests, stresses critique and invention rather than techniques of knowledge transmission and discipline!It seeks to empower students to interrogate representations of subjectivity and society (p. 139). One of the best ways for students to learn how to critically analyze issues is by interacting and doing. I do this by encouraging discussion and dialogue. I ask questions and encourage students to ask questions themselves. In the discussion of reading materials I encourage students to look beyond what is presented and explore what is silent. I am steered by Kumashiro’s (2009) point that Common sense is not what should shape educational reform or curriculum design; it is what needs to be examined and challenged (p. xxvi). Thus I encourage students to question cherished beliefs and assumptions. I do not end with just deconstructing common sense but encourage students to go farther and ask now that we know what is assumed in the common sense, what can we do?

I also encourage experiential learning. I usually engage my students in very hands-on ways often out in the community for more meaningful and engaged learning. Another important consideration in my teaching is making the classroom a place where students can feel comfortable enough to share their opinions and voice their concerns. I encourage students to come forward and talk with me if they need help understanding what we are learning in class. I encourage them to make use of office hours as well as electronic communication. I also encourage respect for other people and their views so that students feel free to contribute and not fear they will be judged for having different viewpoints. In addition, I try to relate to students by sharing my stories and experiences.

I vary my teaching strategies to carter to the different learning styles of my students. For example I have promoted both individual learning through personal reflections as well as collaborative learning through seminars to promote the development of communities of practice (Lave & Wegner, 1991) through the assignments.

I am always trying to become a more effective teacher. I do this by collecting feedback from my students regularly and adapting my teaching accordingly. I also stay current with my topic area by attending and presenting at appropriate conferences.

Exploring community views and perspectives on Elephant conservation in Kasungu National Park, Malawi (in progress)

Re-learning our Roots: Youth Participatory Research, Indigenous knowledge, and Sustainability through Agriculture (PhD research, 2010-2013, University of Saskatchewan, Canada)

A Qualitative Study Investigating Saskatchewan Organizations Working towards Violence Prevention, and/or Interventions, Regarding Youth Violence (December 2012 – May 2013)

Digital Media Project: Youth Making Place (2011-2013, University of Saskatchewan)

Participatory Action Research: Examining the Processes of Teaching and Learning for Socio-ecological Justice (2009, University of Saskatchewan)

Challenges for Sustainable Management of Solid Wastes in Lilongwe City, Malawi. A Master of Arts in Environmental Science and Policy Project (May 2004, Clark University, Worcester MA)

Kayira, J., Lobdell, S., Hertz, S., Healey, J., McHone, E. Gagnon, N., Schuttenberg, E. (Accepted). Indigenous knowledge systems: Learning journey for graduate students and instructors. Societies Special Issue on “Anti-racist Perspectives on Sustainabilities.”

Kayira. J., Datta, R. & Datta. P. (In press). Land-based environmental education as a climate change resilience: A learning experience from a cross-cultural community garden. In E. Walsh (Ed.), Equity and social justice in climate change education: Exploring social and ethical dimensions of environmental education. Routledge.

McVittie, J., Datta, R., Kayira, J., & Anderson, V. (2019). Relationality and decolonisation in children and youth garden spaces. Australian Journal of Environmental Education. Advance online publication. doi:10.1017/aee.2019.7

Kayira, J. (2018). Exploring hybrid third spaces in the place mappings of Malawian youth. Southern African Journal of Environmental Education, 34, 30-47, DOI 10.4314/sajee.v34i1.3

Anderson, A., Datta, R., Dyck, S., Kayira, J., & McVittie, J. (2016). Meanings of culture in sustainability education research. Journal Environmental Education, 47(1), 1-18, DOI: 10.1080/00958964.2015.1056077

Anderson, A., McKenzie, M., Allen, S., Hill, T., McLean, S., Kayira, J., Knorr, M., Stone, J., Murphy, J., & Butcher, K.(2015). Participatory action research as pedagogy: Investigating social and ecological justice learning within a teacher education program. Teaching Education. 26 (2), 179-195, DOI: 10.1080/10476210.2014.996740

McKenzie, M., Butcher, K., Fruson, D., Knorr, M., Stone, J., Allan, S., Hill, T., Murphy, J., McLean, S., Anderson, V., & Kayira, J. (2013). Suited: Relational methodologies and critical eco pedagogies. In M. Brody, J. Dillon, R. B. Stevenson & A. E. J. Wals (Eds), International handbook for research on environmental education. London: Routledge.

Kayira, J. (2013). (Re)creating spaces for uMunthu: Postcolonial Theory and Environmental Education in Southern Africa. Environmental Education Research 21 (1), 106-128. DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2013.860428

Russel, J., White, P., Chung Tiam Fook, T., Kayira, J., Mueller, S., & Oakley, J. (2010). Graduate Students Lend their Voices: Reflections on the 10th Seminar in Health and Environmental Education Research. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education 15, 74-85.

Kayira, J., McCann, E., Mateos, S., Ranelli, L., & Schuttenberg, E. (2021). Equity & Inclusion Expansion. Workshop Facilitated at the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) Virtual Annual Conference, October 11.

Askew, K, Clark, C., Jones, C., Kayira, J., McCann, E., Ranelli, L., Spirit, B. (2021). What’s in a CREE Evaluation Process? Session Facilitated at the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) Virtual Annual Conference, October 15.

Kayira, J., McCann, E., Mateos, S., & Ranelli, L. (2021). Spring Workshop on Equity & Inclusion: Organization-Scale Considerations & Conversations. Workshop facilitated at the New Hampshire Environmental Educators Virtual Conference, March 1.

Askew, K., Clark, C., DeMattia, E., Kayira, J., & McCann, E. (2020). Educational Program Design and Improvement Using Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation. Workshop facilitated at the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) Virtual Annual Conference October 16.

Kayira, J., McCann, E, Ranelli, L., Parker, A., & Mateos, S. (2020). Equity & Inclusion. Workshop Facilitated at the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) Virtual Annual Conference, October 12.

Kayira, J., Currotto, B., Dahl, T., Graham, A., McCann, E. & Trapani, J. (2016). Climate Justice and Community Resilience: An Interactive Dialogue. Presentation at the Education Summit at the Local Solutions: Eastern Regional Climate Preparedness Conference, Baltimore MD, April 6.

Kayira, J. (2015). Indigenous Knowledge and Biodiversity Conservation. Training conducted at the 8th Regional Network for Conservation Educators in the Albertine Rift (RNCEAR) Annual Workshop, University of Rwanda – Huye Campus, Rwanda, June 19-20.

Dibenedetto, M., Espinosa-Marrero, C, Graham, A., Jenkins, P, Powell, S. Kayira, J., & McCann, E. (2014). Community Resilience and Food Security through Collaborative Gardening. Poster presentation at the North American Association for Environmental Education Annual Conference, Ottawa Canada, October 8-11.

Kayira, J., Gebhard, A., & Gillies, C. (2013, May). Indigenous anti racist responses to racialized violence: Community organizations and violence prevention with urban Indigenous youth. Paper presented at the Ninth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, May 15-18

Teacher Scholar Doctoral Fellowship, University of Saskatchewan, September 2012-August 2013

Graduate Student Association Fellowship, University of Saskatchewan, 2012

John Spencer Middleton & Jack Spencer Gordon Middleton Fellowship, University of Saskatchewan, 2012

Global Partners II, International Development Research Centre and University of Saskatchewan, 2010-2011

Graduate Fellowships, University of Saskatchewan, 2009-2011

Graduate Tuition, Clark University, 2002 – 2004

USAID Human Resource and Institutional Development Scholarship, University of Malawi – Chancellor College, 1989-1991


African Sun Media

Australian Journal of Environmental Education

Environmental Education Research

Environmental Education Special Interest Group, American Educational Research Association

Institute for Gender in Research and Development

South African Journal of Higher Education

Southern African Journal of Environmental Education

Sustainability Science


Daughters of Toleza Scholarship Fund, 2016 – present

Keene YMCA Social Justice Committee, 2020 – present

New Hampshire Environmental Literacy Professional Development Collaborative (NH ELPRO) August 2014-Present

American Educational Research Association (AERA), 2010 – present

North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), 2013 – present

Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication (EECOM), 2011-2013

Saskatchewan Outdoor and Environmental Education Association (SOEEA), 2011-2013

Saskatchewan Environmental Industry and Managers Association (SEIMA), 2011-2013

Delta Kappa Gamma Society International Inc. (DKG), 2012-2013

Committee on Community-based Pedagogies at the University of Saskatchewan 2013


Podcast Episodes

Jean Kayira headshot

Program Director ,

Environmental Studies, PhD Program


Courses Taught

ES 6050: Citizen Participation & Sustainable Communities

ESE 5470: Community and School-Based Food Systems

ES7760: Dissertation Seminar

ESE 5490: Environmental Education Field Techniques: Place-Based Environmental Education

ESE 5140: Program Planning & Design

ES 7280: Qualitative Research Strategies

ESE 5170: Urban Environmental Education

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