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Experiential Education (EE)

The application of theory to a concrete experience, either within the classroom or within the community, which advances the learning outcomes of a course or program and requires students to reflect upon their learning.

EE projects

The Academic Innovation Fund has supported the creation, implementation and evaluation of a number of eLearning projects. Projects are showcased on the Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) website.

EE Resources

York University provides a wealth of resources to assist educators in developing and implementing EE projects. A complete list of teaching-related EE resources can be found on The Teaching Commons website. Information about the administrative logistics of EE can be found at the YU Experience Hub.

A common language for Experiential Education

Descriptive terms and a common language were developed to identify Experiential Education (EE) strategies and facilitate conversations about the range of possibilities for innovative use of EE in teaching and learning.

Experiential Education strategies


Classroom-focused

This experiential education strategy allows students to apply theory and course content to concrete experiences that encourage reflection and conceptualization. These experiences not only encourage active learning but also include structured reflection, encouraging the student to refer back to the experience in an effort to make sense of it by considering relevant course material. These concrete experiences could take place within the classroom or outside the classroom through observation, reflection and practical applications. They are combined with purposeful reflective learning exercises such that the experience is considered in relation to the concepts/theories addressed in the class.Wherever they occur, they count as classroom-focused EE because they prioritize student learning outcomes over reciprocal impact within community.


Community-focused

Community Based Learning (CBL)is a form of experiential education that is interactive with the community but takes place within the classroom. Community partners are invited into the classroom to present pre-defined problems, questions or issues to be explored and analyzed. Students are exposed to scenarios, situations, problems and issues described by the community partners, to which students apply their developing knowledge and reflect on how the actual experience informs their learning. The CBL project benefits both student learning and the community partner.

Students are given the opportunity to work on a research project that is part of a course and has been co-created and developed through the collaboration between a community partner and a researcher (e.g., course director).  Not only must the CBR activity satisfy the student learning outcomes of the course but it must also satisfy the needs of the community partner.  It is: practically relevant to the community; collaborative and action oriented[1]. The CBR project may take the form of an applied independent research study or thesis.CBR activities are normally completed within the duration of a full-year 6.0 credit course (i.e., 24 weeks), though in some cases these activities are completed in a 3.0 credit course. Community partners often participate in the assessment of the students’ work and benefit from this work which may take the form of project reports, presentations, or recommendations.[1] As indicated by the Center for Community based research (http://www.communitybasedresearch.ca)

This is a form of experiential education where "students engage in activities that address community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote intentional learning goals" (www.nsee.org). CSL takes students into the community as part of the learning experience. The real-life situation provides the concrete experience for students to apply their developing knowledge and skills and to deepen their understanding by reflecting on their learning. CSL is often used as a strategy to address not only course-based material but also to help students develop an awareness of the value of civic engagement.

Note: There are forms of Community Service Learning that are co-curricular in nature. They often include volunteering opportunities for students. In these forms, CSL is not-for-credit. For our purposes, we are addressing only academically embedded CSL.


Work-focused

In course-based placements, students have the opportunity to develop competencies and skills and augment the theories/concepts learned in their course  by getting hands-on experience within organizational environments.  The learning emphasizes career exploration and employability/professional skills development (HECQO, Practical Guide for WIL, 2016). (e.g. Communication, Disaster & Emergency Management, History, Portuguese, Public Policy & Administration, Work & Labour Studies and Urban Studies).  Students must complete this placement in order to complete/pass the course. They receive course credit but are not (generally) paid. 

In program-based placements, students are given the opportunity to develop competencies and skills in organizational work environments that augment the theories/concepts learned in academic program settings. Students apply theories and concepts from their program work in a practice-based work environment and reflect upon their actions.  Students engage in activities where they practice the discipline or program specific competencies; they receive program credit for doing so but (generally) are not paid.  Program-based placements are also known as fieldwork,  field placements or practica (e.g. Education, Nursing, Social Economy or Social Work).

Internships provide students with the opportunity to augment the theories/concepts learned throughout their degree and develop competencies and skills through hands-on work experience related to their field of study. Internships are paid, full-time, one-time, supervised work experiences in which learning is assessed via the student reflecting on their internship experience in the workplace and writing a work term report, which is then reviewed and graded by the faculty supervisor. Internships are generally associated with academic programs that include a practice, service or professionally oriented applications.

Co-op programs provide students with the opportunity to integrate their classroom learning with hands-on work experience related to their field of study in which they alternate periods of paid, full-time, supervised work experiences with their academic terms. According to the Canadian Association for Cooperative Education (CAFCE; http://www.cafce.ca/en/coop-defined), a co-op program is one which alternates periods of academic study with periods of work experience in accordance with the following criteria:

  • "Each work term is developed in partnership with the employer and approved by the co- operative education program as a suitable learning environment;
  • The student is engaged in productive work for which the student receives remuneration;
  • The co-op curriculum supports student learning goals, personal evaluation and reflection;
  • The student's performance in the workplace is supervised and evaluated by the student's employer;
  • The student's progress during their work term is monitored by the co-operative education program;
  • Both work and academic terms are full-time and follow a formalized sequence. The total amount of co-op work experience is normally at least 30% of the time spent in academic study. For programs of two years or less the total amount may be a minimum of 25%. A work term is defined as a minimum of 12 weeks and/or 420 hours full-time paid experience;
  • Co-op Programs begin and end on an academic term;
  • The student completing multiple work terms is normally exposed to the work environment during more than one season of the year."

Co-operative education programs can be either for-credit or zero-credit endeavours, and are generally noted on the transcript and degree. Co-operative student positions are most often 4 to 8 months in duration, with a commitment of 12-16 months in total over the course of the degree. Given the alternating nature of work and study terms, co-operative education programs tend, in most cases, to necessitate alignment with a trimester system.

EE at a glance

975

Students in course-based placements in 2019-2020

300+

Students participated in internships in 2019-2020

900+

Students participated in practica in 2019-2020

195+

Students in Co-op placements in 2019-2020


EE historic milestones


EE at York: Baseline Survey

A baseline survey conducted in 2011-12 provides insight into the extent to which EE strategies have been used across the continuum from course focused, community focused to work focused.


York University's EE mandate

The University’s Academic Plan (UAP) (2010-15) and the Provostial White Paper (2010) both cite the need for growth in experiential education.

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