January 28, 2011
By Kris Foster
Whether through internships, fieldwork, international study, community-based learning or undergraduate research, experiential learning is central to the U of S plan to enhance the student experience.
That was the message delivered in late January at an event designed to showcase the ways experiential learning has been integrated into the university’s curriculum. The Experiential Learning and Innovation Fair was hosted by Angela Ward, acting vice-provost teaching and learning, and Baljit Singh, special advisor to the provost on experiential learning.
“We wanted this event to bring together faculty, staff and students and answer the question ‘what is experiential learning’ and highlight some examples of experiential learning on campus,” said Ward. “It was an opportunity for those involved with experiential learning to connect with one another, share ideas and discover a small sample of what’s going on in other parts of campus.”
The fair, which consisted of nine presentations and a discussion period, drew a lot of interest. “We are considering holding a similar event next fall to allow for more participation,” said Ward. “We had a lot of response and weren’t able to accommodate all those interested in presenting about their programs. There is a lot going on at the U of S in this area.”
Singh is also pleased with the progress experiential learning has made at the U of S. “The university’s integrated plan has put emphasis on experiential learning as a major theme in our teaching and learning programs,” he explained. “Having an experience and reflecting on it offers more benefit to students than simply hearing about an experience. It is crucial to engaging students in research, community-based learning and learning in other countries around the world.”
While Singh sees the current state of experiential learning at the U of S as a strong foundation, he hopes to see more departments across campus working experiential learning into their courses.
“It needs to become further integrated at undergraduate and graduate levels and connected across multiple disciplines. Integrated experiential learning could be a key innovation in academic programs to set the U of S apart from other Canadian universities.”