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Experiential Learning Promoted

by Wenona Partridge

The Second Integrated Plan identified improving the undergraduate and graduate student experience as a priority. This included an expansion of experiential learning opportunities available to students.

Baljit Singh, special advisor to the provost on experiential learning, said in a recent presentation on the topic, "While many universities in Canada have focused their energies at developing programs such as co-op learning (Waterloo), and Community Service Learning (Alberta and McMaster), we underpin our approach that every student at University of Saskatchewan will take part in experiential learning in one or the other form, and that we will explicitly integrate it across disciplines, programs and other boundaries. Therefore, we view experiential learning as an integrative learning process and term it as Integrated Experiential Learning (IEL). IEL can occur through many forms and activities such as community-service learning, community-based research, undergraduate research, study abroad, externships, internships and field courses. IEL has the potential to transform and engage the learner with the subject matter to identify, understand and solve complex problems through the application of didactic and integrated scholarship, and fosters their development as learned and thinking civic leaders."

Experiential learning opportunities on campus were the focus of three events, in January, 2011, March, 2012 and May 2012. The first, the Experiential Learning and Innovation Fair, hosted by Angela Ward, then vice-provost teaching and learning, and Singh, was tailored for instructors and focused on shared experiences around specific, ongoing initiatives that allowed students access to distinctive and innovative approaches on the discovery-learning continuum including inquiry-based, experiential, and international learning. The second event, the IDEaS of March Experiential Learning Expo, hosted by the University Learning Centre, was designed to showcase for students existing experiential learning courses and other opportunities. A third event, the Experiential Learning Conference, provided in-depth workshops for instructors and included discussions of best practices and lessons learned.

The university has curricular experiential learning opportunities available through virtually every college and school. Examples of for-credit opportunities include the “North2North” student exchange program, field experience in geology and agronomy, introducing philosophy to children in the community course, internships in political studies, English and other disciplines, and undergraduate research opportunities in many departments.  Examples of co-curricular experiential learning include Alternative Reading Week, All Nations Learning, a variety of themed Learning Communities, and the Peer-Assisted Learning Program, all offered by the University Learning Centre.