Brock’s experiential education efforts highlighted at national conference

Brock University continues to spread the word about its growing success in bridging the gap between academic learning outcomes and transferable employment experience.

A contingent of Brock faculty and staff, who are involved in experiential learning initiatives across campus, are giving presentations to colleagues across the country at the 37th Annual Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) conference, being held in Halifax, N.S., this week.

Anna Lathrop, Vice-Provost, Teaching/Learning and Student Success, is among the Brock representatives who are giving a research presentation focused on the creation of the University’s institutional framework for curricular experiential education, as well as the implementation of programming and the tracking of student participation. Another group is leading a workshop focused on the elements involved in Brock’s co-curricular student engagement strategy.

A key institutional step at Brock, Lathrop says, was to be the first Canadian university to have its definition of Experiential Education adopted by the University Senate.

“We’ve demonstrated a resolve as an institution to ensure experiential learning is a priority,” she says. “Working from a solid strategic framework, we continue to devote resources to provide students with programming through which they can develop transferable skills alongside academic studies that positions them to move into careers. Other institutions are recognizing that a lot of good things are happening at Brock.”

With more than 18,000 students, Brock’s overall goal is to put in place programming that will allow for every student to have at least one experiential opportunity during their studies. A longer-term target is two opportunities each.  

Earlier this year, the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation and Co-op, Career and Experiential Education collaborated on an event that demonstrated why Brock is becoming more and more recognized as one of Ontario’s most successful universities in terms of enriching students’ education and career prospects through co-ops, internships and other out-of-classroom learning experiences.

The annual Spring Perspectives on Teaching and Learning showcased the array of institutional supports for experiential learning, along with 22 course-based experiential projects.

At the April event, Tom Dunk, Provost and Vice-President Academic, also emphasized Brock’s growing reputation for being on the cutting-edge of experiential education.

“We are getting calls from across the country to find out what Brock does and how Brock does it,” Dunk said to about 105 participants during the welcome session. “We are doing something of great value for students and for our community.”

Brock alumnus Tim Siemens (BA ’90), Executive Director of Tabor Manor and Pleasant Manor, also spoke at the event, providing insight into his collaboration with Recreation and Leisure Studies Professor Colleen Whyte to create a learning setting within the Niagara seniors’ residence and nursing home.

The first step of the partnership involved students visiting with residents as part of a photo narrative project. A year later, Whyte and Siemens expanded the partnership by moving the Leisure and Aging course off Brock’s campus to Tabor Manor where Whyte and her students met for weekly classes.

“I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to engage Brock in what we do,” Siemens said during his presentation at Spring Perspectives. “From our perspective, it was a value to our residents and for our staff, we get to live out community leadership.”

Mark Dickinson, a third-year student in Dramatic Arts, talked about his experience taking a service-learning course, in partnership with the Niagara Military Museum. The course brought together Brock students from a variety of disciplines to create two escape rooms as a physical adventure games attraction at the museum’s historic Niagara Falls location.

“I felt that I was using my skills in a practical way and in the most creative way possible … the experience gave me a good chance to explore what I’m capable of,” he said.

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