- Strategic Priority
- Degree Level Expectation
- High Impact Practice
- Criteria for EL
- 12 Types of EL Activities
- Examples at Carleton
Experiential learning, high-impact practices and a greater appreciation for the value of teaching will ensure we meet the expectations of diverse and changing student populations, create positive learning and career outcomes, and respond to societal needs.
– 2020-2025 Strategic Integrated Plan
Experiential learning is a significant strategic priority at Carleton as well as Ontario-wide.
Part of Carleton’s commitment to experiential learning was the establishment of a $50,000 Carleton University Experiential Learning Fund (CUELF) to support the integration of experiential learning into academic courses/programs. Learn more
Degree Level Expectation
In April 2019, the Carleton Senate approved the following Degree Level Expectation (DLE) on EL to take effect Fall 2019:
Students will demonstrate the ability to reflect on the link between theoretical knowledge and experiential application in contexts that prepare students for the workplace and/or civil society.
The DLE on EL was intended to (1) signal Carleton’s commitment to experiential learning, and (2) to ensure that all programs include experiential learning in their learning outcomes and curriculum maps.
Expectations for each degree level are described below.
- Bachelor’s Degree
a) the ability to identify the links between experiential activity and concepts and how these may relate to individual’s interests.
b) the ability to provide a description of own performances on tasks with a focus on general strengths and weaknesses.
c) the ability to present knowledge and information in an appropriate format.
d) the ability to use knowledge, skills, theoretical concepts and methodology in new situations
- Bachelor’s Degree: Honours
a) the ability to make comparisons between experiential activity and academic concepts that indicate understanding of similarities and differences and the points of view of others.
b) the ability to articulate own strengths and weaknesses in performing tasks and to use self-awareness to address challenges in other contexts.
c) the ability to present knowledge, skills, and information in formats that illustrate the connection between content and method in a basic way.
d) the ability to use knowledge, skills, theoretical concepts and methodologies in order to explain and solve problems
- Master's degree
a) effective use of experiential learning to explain and critique concepts and theories in the area of study.
b) the ability to reflect and self-evaluate to demonstrate learning growth and development.
c) the ability to communicate knowledge, skills and information in various formats effective for a targeted audience and to make explicit connections between what is communicated (content) and methods of communications.
d) the ability to make adaptations and apply knowledge, skills, theoretical concepts and methodologies to new experiences and to solve problems.
- Doctoral degree
a) the ability to independently synthesize information, or draw conclusions by combining examples, facts, theories from multiple EL experiences.
b) the ability to self-evaluate learning progress and to identify and address concerns and challenges in diverse contexts.
c) the ability to communicate knowledge, skills and information in an integrative way that contributes to the enhancement of meaning for both academic and non-academic audiences.
d) the ability to make adaptations and apply knowledge, skills, theories and methodologies to new experiences and to solve problems with originality and novelty
High Impact Practice
Experiential learning has been identified as a high impact practice that contributes to student engagement, deepens learning, improves academic outcomes, and enhances work and life skills.
Experiential learning can be an opportunity for students to work on projects that have a real impact on the community.
Criteria for EL
In September 2017, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) issued its “Guiding Principles for Experiential Learning (EL)” indicating their commitment to “ensuring that every student has at least one EL activity by the time they graduate from a publicly funded postsecondary institution”.
The following criteria have been developed in order to identify which Carleton courses include experiential learning:
- The activity must meet the requirements of MAESD’s experiential learning checklist.
- The experiential learning activity must be significant. This means that the activity is an integral part of the course but the course may also have elements that are more traditional. A portion of the student’s assessment in the course relies on engagement in the experiential learning activity.
- The experiential learning activity is a continuing element of the course. It is not dependent on which instructor teaches the course.
- The experiential learning activity can be categorized into one of the 12 types listed below. For the purposes of reporting, only one dominant type of experiential learning may be recorded for each course.
Course activities must satisfy the above criteria in order to be recognized in the CourseLeaf Curriculum Management System as including experiential learning.
12 Types of EL Activities
Carleton has defined 12 types of experiential learning activities*. These activities can take place in the classroom, community, and/or workplace and be undertaken independently or in teams.
- Applied research project
Applied research projects, as a major course component, involve a process of substantial discovery, synthesis, and/or application of information to solving a particular problem in an original way.
- Campus entrepreneurship / incubators
Campus entrepreneurship/incubators give students the opportunity to cultivate, organize, and/or manage a business, social enterprise, or creative idea from development through implementation.
- Case studies
Case studies provide an opportunity for students to apply their learning to real-life scenarios by working through complex, ambiguous real-world problems.
Co-operative education (“Co-op”) links an academic program with paid, discipline-related work experience that directly relates their classroom learning to relevant employer needs and practices.
- Field experience
Field experiences include a range of activities that require varying levels of student interaction (e.g., field trips, fieldwork, attendance at an event).
- Interactive simulations
In interactive simulations, students engage with academic content through content-specific activities designed to simulate “real life” situations, such as simulations, demonstrations, archival or design work, and/or role-plays.
Internships refer to full- or part-time work assignments (paid or unpaid) that are part of academic programs and allow students to apply and expand their knowledge and skills in a work-related, professional environment.
Labs (scientific, technological, language, etc.) provide hands-on application of course concepts in a controlled environment, including activities such as observing, measuring, testing, and experimenting.
- Performance-based learning
Performance-based learning involves an individual or team-produced dramatic, artistic, or musical performance, exhibit or display that is prepared for an audience.
- Practica / placements
Practica and placements (including clinical placements) provide the opportunity for students to apply theories and concepts they have learned to a supervised practice-related environment and provide relevant reflections of such work.
- Service learning
Service learning integrates unpaid community service that addresses community needs into a credit-bearing course with an explicit educational framework that includes student reflection on the experience.
*These definitions have been informed by the work of colleagues at Brock University, Northern Illinois University, Ryerson University, University of Victoria and York University
Examples at Carleton
- Kenta Asakura, School of Social Work: Human Simulation
Experiential learning allows students to “learn by doing.” Experiential learning is especially suited for a social work program, in which graduates are expected to provide ethical and competent services to clients from marginalized communities.
The use of human simulation, a pedagogy that involves professional actors to come into the classroom as “clients,” began in medical and other health professional programs. Simulation is now widely used in teaching students to integrate theory and practice across social work programs, including here at Carleton.
As an instructor, I develop a detailed case study based on my own clinical practice, hire and work with actors to refine the client characters and their circumstances. In the classroom, the actor comes in as a client, and students take turns to interview the client, while other students observe the client-‐worker interaction. Each student engages the actor/client for approximately 10minutes. At that point, the actor and the counselling session are stopped. I then facilitate a class discussion to assist the students to engage in reflection. All other students are expected to provide the student worker with constructive feedback, and to discuss the linkage between theory and practice. This process is repeated throughout the class period, so that other students also have the opportunity to take the role of a worker. In the end, the client/actor offers student social workers constructive feedback and suggestions for further professional development from the perspective of a client.
- Barbara Lee, School of Social Work: A Ground-Rule Exercise
This activity is conducted at the beginning of class as a way to connect students with one another, establish classroom culture and norm, and introduce students to qualitative research methods.
Students are instructed to individually write a “ground-rule” or value on a post-it note that they would like to see practiced in the class throughout the academic term. In small groups of 2 or 3, students are to share and combine their “ground‐rules” or values into common categories. Once the small groups had some time to share and discuss, they are instructed to stick the post-it notes on the wall in front of the class and attempt to organize and cluster them into themes. Result: The first step of writing a “ground-rule” or value is “generating initial codes “in thematic analysis (Bruan & Clarke, 2006). The second step of sharing and combining their “ground-rules” or values into common categories is “searching for themes”. The third step of combining all post-‐it notes and attempting to organize and cluster them into themes is the process of “reviewing themes” and “defining and naming themes” in thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006).
The exercise actively engages students in learning the qualitative research method of thematic analysis. Students also develop some foundational “ground-rules” or values that can be drawn upon to throughout the term when working on research projects with one another.
- Kanina Holmes, School of Journalism and Communication: Stories North: Stories of Reconciliation
Stories North: Stories of Reconciliation was a fourth‐year, special topics course in journalism that was offered during the summer of 2017.
The following is a summary of experiential learning activities:
- Active lectures: As an alternative to class‐based, instructor-led lectures, students will venture out into the field, hiking, mountain biking and possibly even canoeing alongside a Yukon biologist, Indigenous youth and First Nations elders. These experiential discussions are, in part, an attempt to acknowledge the profound influence of the terrain on territorial history, culture and politics. The landscape will provide an ever-present reference point for local experts to refer to when sharing their knowledge and stories. By getting students physically out of the classroom and engaged in issues in unconventional ways, another goal of these field classes is to encourage digital detox, prying students away from their phones and laptops.
- Alternative Canada 150: During their first weekend in Whitehorse, students will disperse around the city and its Canada Day celebrations to interview and photograph residents, asking what Canada looks like to them on its sesquicentennial and what our country’s 150th “birthday” means to them as Northerners. The approach will resemble that taken by Humans of New York. The photos and stories will be presented and shared on Instagram.
Ottawa Citizen news article: Tales from the North: New Carleton course in Yukon ‘an experiment in experiential education’
- Melissa Haussman, Department of Political Science: Student Internships
I brought The Washington Center Agreement to campus with me in 2006 – I had previously been associated with it in Boston for ten years at my previous university.
The Washington Center is the world’s largest private sector provider of internship experiences, based both in DC and now in London as well. They set students up with internships in various areas of the public sector (Congress, Executive Branch, NIH, Smithsonian, Embassies); independent sector NGO’s (examples including the Human Rights campaign, NOW); media (CNN, Fox, CSPAN); and private sector (K-Street lobbying groups and law offices).
Students participate in a semester or summer long internship while registered full time for Carleton courses.
- Jeff Smith, Department of Chemistry: Labs, Real Life Projects, and Guest Speakers from industry
Lab work in which students are involved in hands on engagements.
Students complete a River Water Project, where all labs are mirrored with the analysis of water from the Rideau River to provide a real world experience with the techniques they are learning.
We bring in a guest speaker from industry and students complete two different field trips to different labs in town.
Grad Level Course:
Students complete a 2-week (condensed) intensive course where students walk through an entire analysis of a sample often from their own lab. Historically, one student actually publishes their results from this class in a peer-reviewed journal.
- Claudia Buttera, Department of Biology: Experiential Learning in Undergraduate Biology Labs
Undergraduate biology labs are by design, experiential in nature. Students are using equipment, manipulating organisms, collecting and analyzing data, most often, following a protocol outlined in a lab manual, to a predictable end or result. Labs can offer great learning experiences where students are most often, exposed to learning WHAT to do and HOW to do it, but the best of scientists are both curious and creative, driven by a much bigger question, WHY. They don’t merely follow a protocol to a predictable end –they are driven to explore areas not yet explored, are able to make new connections, forge new paths and be creative in the application of their skills, abilities and knowledge toward their own novel ideas. This is what we hope our graduates will be able to do and become.
With this in mind, labs in our 2nd year ‘Plants: Form and Function’ course are designed to not only teach and develop skills but also, to nurture curiosity and encourage creative thinking. Students learn how to prepare plant tissue sections from live material, how to stain them as well as develop microscopy skills to examine them. Students are also regularly encouraged to exercise curiosity when looking into their microscopes and really explore the material they have prepared. We also intentionally use a range of plant species that illustrate the diversity (and sometimes contradiction) in form, relative to function to encourage critical thinking. We purposely integrate time into the lab sessions -‐time that is vital to allow students to explore and be curious, ask questions and discuss, while in the moment. We also understand that plant biology may not be everyone’s first passion and even perhaps incongruous with a student’s bigger plan, so we actively seek to make connections between plants and other areas (sports, architecture, medicine, engineering, design) in conversations and discussion with students throughout the lab sessions. What we aim to do with this is metacognitive in nature –help them to identify for themselves possible transferable skills, content, ideas, that are of value to them and may fit their personal bigger plan. The lab exercises are scaffolded, such that, as much as possible, they build on one another and formative assessments, both in the form of group work as well as independent work, are injected into the term at regular intervals.
The summative assessment in this lab course covers all the targets set for the formative assessments but students must apply their knowledge and skills to an entirely new specimen they have not seen during the term. It also includes a creativity component (for bonus marks and optional), where students are asked to apply what they have learned in the lab about plant anatomy to anything that interests them, in any way they want. A handful of students rise to the challenge and some of them have submitted great work, making very interesting and unconventional connections between plant anatomy and a broad spectrum of topics including stained glass work, the design of prosthetics, military tactics, drawing. and rock climbing.
- Dan Irving, Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies: The Human Rights and Resistance course
The Human Rights and Resistance course is organized as a critique of the Academic Industrial Complex (AIC). The objectives of this course is for students to be able to better understand the ways that university education has been devolving into a business and learning is often approached from a very rationalist and instrumentalist basis (i.e. doing what needs to be done to become employable). How can they orient themselves towards student-led advocacy and resistance?
Clearly, understanding of neoliberalism, ablism, etc., provides the analytical foundation for this critique of education; however, this course begins with a think-piece assignment (“Why are you here?”) so open space for students to understand the importance of their embodied existence within the classroom as a microcosm of society. Why are they in university? How do they think about themselves as students? What are their expectations of themselves, their peers as classmates, faculty, senior administrators? I try to foster spaces where students themselves understand that they are texts. Their thoughts, their embodied responses to the demands of education and the imbalance of education-work-social life-activism are all very important pieces to come to a deeper understanding of the systems of power framing society and the ways that such relations mediate everyday life and interactions with others.
By lectures where I raise pointed questions, think piece assignments, class discussions and group work where students spend class time establishing a campaign/intervention/action that addresses a specific issue on campus (past examples: necessity for more support for student’s mental health; the politics of space on campus; the politics of food on campus and corporate contracts (e.g. Coke); services for “international students”), students become more comfortable inserting their own embodied and experiential knowledge into analysis.
They also begin to understand the hyper-individualism of neoliberalism and the ways that resistance through building social environments and relations can be enacted within the classroom. For example, the last time I taught this course (2012) students remarked that when they come to a class, they only talk to their friends but rarely to those around them. They often feel so ashamed and stigmatized by their struggles with anxiety, depression, etc. and feel they are so alone; however, group projects where students shared their struggles and organized to find out more about counselling services and other ways of meeting their needs on campus brought them together. Others spoke of feeling better about relating to students not as competitors for the professors attention but as allies and part of a community (i.e. we were all working towards a common event -the four/fivegroup projects merge into one big event at the end of the semester - in 2012 it was called “Got Space?” and took place in the Atrium).
I have been able to witness student’s confidence grow, their abilities to trust their bodies and lived experiences as teachers and sources of knowledge that need to be valued. Yes, they are graded but regardless of the letter grade received, they often continue to foster relationships with their classmates, work on campus-based issues and feel more confident in pursuing areas of scholarship that interest them and incite a passion for learning.
- Liam O'Brien, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering: Assessing Real Life Environmental Characteristics, Designing Sustainable Neighbourhoods, and cuPortfolio
As a professor teaching for the undergraduate-level Architectural Conservation and Sustainability Engineering program, my goal is to immerse students in building design process and also to have them reflect on the effectiveness of spaces for comfort and productivity.
All of my courses involve some experiential learning, though a few examples include:
- Assessing daylight quality in spaces on campus,
- Assessing indoor environmental quality in restaurants,
- Working with major community development firms to assist in designing sustainable neighbourhoods.
For the first two, I assign groups of students to choose a space, develop a methodology to evaluate the space, and then conduct a field study. For the last topic, I work with a group of five other engineering professors to conduct an eight-month building design process with a group of about 40 engineering students.
Not only do the students perform technical design, but they also interact with real stakeholders (e.g., the developer and professional engineers), develop meeting agendas and minutes, and have a management structure.
We use cuPortfolio to have students reflect on their learning outcomes and profile their contribution to the project. Students are evaluated through a set of performance appraisals, where by three professors interview each student for 15 minutes.
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