At the nexus between theory and practice, experiential learning might seem like the newest buzzword. In fact, it’s already exercised to great success all around us, through curriculum-based learning in internships and placements, as well as by co-curriculum-based strategies such as community service learning programs.
“While university education provides the opportunity for profound learning and personal transformation, great experiential learning deepens this and enables students to clearly articulate their transformation,” says Chelsea Elliott, Manager, Experiential Learning and Partner Relations. “It empowers them to own their learning and have the skill to speak to their development when pursuing future endeavours, whether it be grad school, a job, or other opportunities.”
Through Career Services in the Division of Student Affairs, Ms. Elliott leads and manages the Experiential Learning Hub (EL Hub), a new initiative dedicated to developing learning that goes beyond the classroom. In 2015, the Provost's Advisory Committee on Teaching and Learning (PACTL) established an Experiential Learning Working Group (ELWG) to lead discussions and develop a strategy around Experiential Learning; the creation of an EL Hub is one of the recommendations to come out of their report. The EL Hub website helps faculty members design curricula in accordance with experiential learning principles and techniques, providing tools and consultation services. Further, there are resources for employers and partners to recruit Queen’s students.
The purpose of the EL hub is to facilitate and advise.
“We are available for consultation as faculty, administrators and partners look to add or grow experiential learning activities,” says Ms. Elliott. “If a faculty member or partner is interested in creating and/or expanding an experiential learning opportunity, such as a practicum or internship, then the EL Hub can connect them with experts who are already working with partners and facilitate that coordination. We want to ensure that students get the most of their experience, and that community and employer partners also receive an outstanding Queen’s experience.”
When Abbie Rolf Von Den Baumen, a chemical engineering student, was finishing her final year at Queen’s, she expressed to Ms. Elliott the great benefits gained from her experiential learning experiences in a year-long internship through the Queen’s University Internship Program (QUIP). Ms. Rolf Von Den Baumen worked at Devon Energy in Calgary as a Development Engineering Intern, discovering the wide applicability of her academic skills and grasping ways to articulate the advantages of her education to future employers.
“I didn’t fully realize all the skills I learned in class until I was out at my internship and got a chance to apply them and then reflect on them. I wowed my boss,” says Ms. Rolf Von Den Baumen. “When I came back to school, I felt even more connected to the things I learned in class. It made me want to get even more involved.”
Ms. Elliott has worked for 18 years at Queen’s and derives great personal satisfaction and professional success in linking students with employers for hands-on experience.
“One of my passions is developing teams and students, being a part of that transformative learning, and connecting them with partners,” she says. “With a project management and strategic development background, I like to find ways to make communication and process happen more efficiently and effectively, so when I heard about an opportunity to manage the development of an EL Hub in Student Affairs and work with partners, I was energized.”
She is now leading the charge to support connecting learners with direct experience and reflect on the skills gained during their experience to relate that deeper knowledge and perspective back to their classroom work. And, she’s no stranger to seeing the positive effects of experiential learning in action.
“I instruct an experiential learning course in design, analytical problem solving, team building, and professional communication in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science,” she says. “Students complete projects for industrial, community and campus partners, which provide rich learning opportunities. From shaping this course I have learned how to prepare and support students, how to work with employer partners, and how to design the course to facilitate student learning and success. I have also developed an appreciation for the complexity in administration behind the scenes. There is a rich landscape of existing knowledge at Queen’s: the EL Hub is here to connect you to that network.”
Ms. Elliott will be speaking about experiential learning and the EL Hub at the Showcase of Teaching and Learning at Queen’s on May 3, MacDonald Hall, Room 001. More information and registration details are available on the Centre for Teaching and Learning website.