Experiential Learning is a philosophy and methodology which educators utilize to engage learners purposefully in direct experience, focused reflection, and authentic assessment in order to increase knowledge, develop skills and strategies, clarify values, and apply prior learning. (Adapted from the Association of Experiential Education)
The three essential elements, defined below, are intended to ensure the results of the experience are meaningful and form the basis for future experience and learning. For experiential learning to be effective, these three elements need to be thought about and planned together so that the experience, the prompts to facilitate reflection and the means and location of assessment are aligned (Biggs, 2003).
We define direct experiences as those that are structured to actively engage students in learning by doing. The experience may, for example, involve posing questions, investigating, experimenting, solving problems and creating artifacts. The experience will be at a specified level appropriate for the student(s) ranging from those prescribed by the instructor to student determined and led activities.
A process of thinking about the experience in an effort to make sense of it, in the context of what is already known by the student and what they want to do next.
In most cases the process of thinking will be guided by the instructor through, for example, questions or facilitated discussion.
A process of assessment, including provision of feedback, in which students demonstrate the specific gains (e.g. knowledge, skills, values) anticipated from the experience. If the experience, for example, was focused on application of knowledge and skills, authentic assessment will allow students to meaningfully demonstrate that application. Authentic assessment will resemble the direct experience intended to facilitate learning in: the assessment task, the physical and social context in which it takes place, and the assessment result or form (Gulikers, Bastiaens, & Kirschner, 2004). The assessment may contribute toward the student’s grade in the course (summative) or may be done to facilitate student learning with no marks given (formative).
Specific types of experiential opportunities have been identified as priority for growth to ensure that our EL activities reflect the unique disciplinary offer of the University and align with our institutional priorities. These are:
Where students have the opportunity to conduct authentic research within a credit course.
Where the learning takes place outside of the classroom or laboratory and is an opportunity to apply and develop practical skill or conduct discipline related research.
As a method to engage students with community partners in a mutually beneficial and negotiated curricular experience.
Clinical Placement, Practicum, Internship, or Coop Opportunity:
As a structured educational strategy that provides for the integration of theory and practice.
As an inclusive category for student exchange programming or for credit instructional activity delivered in an international environment.
As part of the PCIP-funded Teaching Innovation Initiative, a new project fund is available for academic units to support student access to experiential learning opportunities. The Gwenna Moss Centre administers this Experiential Learning Fund of approximately $200,000 per year. The primary purpose of the fund is to be an enabler in supporting the creation of new experiential learning opportunities.
Academic units wishing to pursue project support and funding are to submit a proposal of 1-2 pages outlining the project idea. These proposals may be submitted to the GMCTE at any time. In the case of a complex idea or if larger funding amounts are required, a more comprehensive proposal may be requested. The Teaching Innovation Committee will judge the more detailed, comprehensive proposals, and successful proposals will receive funding to offset student costs or to pay student salaries.
The initial proposal should include:
- A brief description of the proposed activity, practice or innovation
- An explanation of the level of involvement and a primary contact person
- An estimate of the costs (both developmental and ongoing) anticipated with the project
- A summary of the expected number of students and the anticipated impact the projects will have students or their student experience
- A preliminary plan for measuring success
- Notification of other funding obtained or being sought for the project
- Sign-off by a dean or department head
Depending on the scope and funding requirements of your project, additional documentation may be required for requested amounts of more than $5000. A more comprehensive proposal can be prepared through partnership with staff from the Gwenna Moss Centre.
The comprehensive proposal should be no more than five pages long and include:
- A detailed description of the proposed activity, practice or innovation
- A set of expected learning outcomes that would result from the experiential learning activity
- An explanation of the level of faculty/staff involvement (i.e., who leads the project; who is involved etc.)
- A description of how the project will impact students and enhance their student experience
- A project timeline
- A proposed budget with details about which direct costs would be required from the Experiential Learning Fund and which costs would be contributed by the unit
- A rationale for how the experiential learning activity may be sustainable in the longer term.
- A preliminary program evaluation plan to evaluate the impact of the student learning experience
- A letter of support from the unit(s) involved
We anticipate that some projects will require minimal funding and may proceed largely on their own through consultation with a curriculum development specialist or an instructional designer.
Every proposed project that generally meets the above requirements will be supported to some extent, at a minimum through advice and consultation with GMCTE staff. Projects requiring funds to pay direct student stipends or offset direct student costs will be considered. Funding allocations from the Experiential Learning Fund to offset these types of costs incurred will be determined as follows:
- Funding allocations of up to $5000 may be authorized by the Director of the Gwenna Moss Centre, and possibly on the basis of an initial proposal alone.
- Proposals for larger funding amounts must be reviewed/approved by the Teaching Innovation Committee, chaired by the Vice-Provost of Teaching and Learning.
- Membership on this Teaching Innovation Committee is established by the VPTL.
- The teaching Innovation Committee will regularly consider project proposals and will make timely decisions.
- The Teaching Innovation Committee will determine a schedule for releasing funds to the unit, appropriate to the budget and project milestones.
The following criteria will be taken into consideration when adjudicating applications:
- Evidence of a strong commitment shown by the department(s)/college(s) to the experiential learning initiative. Proposals may include statements of support from Deans or Department Heads.
- A clear indication of how the experiential learning component or activity aligns with the unit's overall academic program and integrated plan.
- To what extent is the experience related to identified institutional priorities (undergraduate research, community-engaged learning, Aboriginal education, internationalization, and innovative uses of learning technologies)?
- Is there a clear commitment of a lead person or team of people (whether disciplinary or interdisciplinary) to see the project through to implementation?
- How compelling is the case with regard to the expected positive impact on student learning or the student learning experience?
- How many undergraduate students are being engaged as part of the proposed experiential learning project?
Projects supported by the Experiential Learning Fund should have a direct student focus in providing opportunities for experiential learning that go beyond current programs. The purpose of the fund is to provide assistantships or stipends for students to either offset direct costs they would otherwise incur in curricular experiential learning, or to engage graduate and undergraduate students in developing curricular experiential-learning opportunities for others.
Some examples of projects that may be eligible for funding under the Experiential Learning initiative include:
- Employing a graduate student for a period of time to help a faculty member develop an experiential learning component of an undergraduate course.
- Employing a senior undergraduate student or graduate student to accompany or assist with supervision of junior students in an experiential learning setting.
- Paying or subsidizing fees (external to the U of S) associated with student experiential learning opportunities.
- Subsidizing transportation or accommodation costs for student travel to experiential learning sites.
- Providing bursaries for students who would otherwise be unable to cover costs or fees.
- Small amounts for refreshments at meetings, events or celebrations for students engaged in experiential learning projects
The fund does not support:
- Travel costs for students in study abroad or taught abroad courses are not normally supported however, for inaugural offerings of new courses, some subsidy may be possible. The fund does not pay direct salaries or stipends to students participating in practica, field schools, or internships but may help with salaries of senior students who mentor, coach or supervise those in the field locations.
- The Experiential Learning fund is not a source of permanent funding for any particular experiential learning initiative, but successful projects may re-apply to the fund in subsequent years to seek continued support. Projects are expected to develop plans for long-term sustainability. With an interest to promote and celebrate successful initiatives, we will request a brief report following the completion of the project and associated pilot activity.
- Awards from the experiential learning fund are not research grants and should not be claimed as such on faculty CVs. Faculty or graduate student research projects should not be financed with proceeds from this fund. Undergraduate research associated with a course or the students' academic programs can be supported. This fund is not intended for hiring an undergraduate summer student to assist in a research project.
- Costs associated with course or program re-design to incorporate experiential learning into courses or academic programs may be eligible for a grant with aid from the Curriculum Innovation Fund. Funding for projects that involve undergraduate research initiatives will be coordinated, where appropriate, with the Office of the Vice-President Research. Funding for projects that involve community outreach or community-engaged learning will be coordinated with the Office of Outreach and Engagement.
Experiential learning has been an important and growing aspect of programming since 2008. Experiential learning is the general term for learning that involves an experience and reflection upon that experience. This does not exclude experience that occurs within a classroom or laboratory, however, this experience often occurs outside of a lecture theatre. Experiential learning at the University of Saskatchewan always involves both elements – experience and reflection. Five specific types of experiential learning available to students at the university have been identified. These five may not be the only types of experiential learning available, however they have been found to be most prevalent.
Community engaged learning, sometimes called community service-learning, integrates service and volunteer experiences within academic courses or extra-curricular programs. With a strong emphasis on inclusive partnerships between universities and non-profit community organizations, clear objectives are set for both the student learning that occurs and the resulting benefits to the community.
Internships and cooperative programs involve partnerships with businesses and companies who accept students into an employment situation in order to give the student experience in his/her chosen field. Clinical and professional practica are a required element of a program. These experiences involve students in their chosen professional environments. Internships may or may not include an academic credit. Practica and cooperative programs normally include an academic credit.
Study and work abroad opportunities involve students either studying (one course or more) or working (especially in an area related to one’s program) in another country. This opportunity abroad may be a required element of a program of study, but typically it is an opportunity the student has taken on voluntarily. A study abroad opportunity usually carries an academic credit, whereas a work abroad opportunity may not.
‘Undergraduate research/inquiry-based learning’ means undergraduate students have opportunities to conduct original research. This could mean working with a professor on his/her research as well as an independent project. This is usually an opportunity for academic credit.
These are single courses that may be required components of a program, but are not necessarily required. Field courses often require students to work outside of a classroom and may involve some time away from the university. Field courses are always an opportunity for students to practice one or more elements of their chosen field of study and always carry an academic credit.
Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning
GMCTL can provide consultation on developing experiential learning strategies and offer assistance in proposal development.
Community Engagement and Outreach
The Engagement office administers a number of funds for faculty who wish to support outreach activities.
Undergraduate Research Initiative
The URI provides funding to support research coaches and undergraduate student assistants. They also offer consultative support.
International Student and Study Abroad Centre
ISSAC provides administrative support for study or taught abroad programs.
Student Employment and Career Centre
The SECC can assist in the development and administration of co-ops and internships.