By Mike Thorn, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning
Canadian post-secondary institutions are undergoing a noticeable shift toward stronger emphasis on experiential learning. Erin Kaipainen, senior specialist in experiential learning at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, believes the change has only just begun.
“In addition to being associated with student engagement, experiential learning is associated with career development,” she explains. “As a result, institutions across Canada are investing in experiential learning, particularly in Ontario where higher education has a mandate to ensure that 100 per cent of their undergraduate students have the opportunity to participate in an experiential learning activity before they graduate.”
Working under the guidance of the vice-provost (teaching and learning), staff within the Taylor Institute are developing centralized supports to expand hands-on learning opportunities for students. Immediate priorities for this team include developing common language for experiential learning activities at the University of Calgary, providing pedagogical resources and offering tools such as a campus platform for connecting students with community and opportunities. The Taylor Institute team also seeks to connect educators who are doing this work, and it has organized two lunch-and-learn events this month.
“There’s a lot of expertise here on campus,” Kaipainen says. “We wanted a way to bring together academic and non-academic staff who are interested in experiential learning to highlight exceptional practices and share tips and approaches for facilitating learning through experience.”