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‘Experiential learning speaks to both the heart and the head’

JAN. 27 + FEB. 3: Concordia's 2017 Winterfest showcases hands-on teaching opportunities — in and out of the classroom. Save the date!
January 11, 2017
By James Roach

Lecturer Eva Pomeroy: "Chances are your most powerful learning experience was the one where you were engaged and active." Lecturer Eva Pomeroy: "Chances are your most powerful learning experience was the one where you were engaged and active." | Photo by Christian Barrette (Flickr Creative Commons)

On January 27 and February 3, the Teaching and Learning Winter Festival 2017 (Winterfest) will connect Concordia faculty, staff and graduate students with experiential learning, its role in teaching practice and resources for getting started.

“Many faculty are starting to see the rich opportunities that come from using Montreal as a relevant and exciting complement to their classroom,” says Robert Cassidy, director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL).

“And we want to support them in taking the next steps toward making that a reality for their students.”

Winterfest is the latest iteration of the university’s Teaching and Learning Festival, and this year, the Office of Community Engagement is also on board.

John Bentley, program coordinator and instructional developer for CTL, says the goal of the sessions will be to explore ideas and approaches in experiential learning in alignment with Concordia’s Strategic Directions.

“A huge part of Concordia's ongoing mission involves finding ways to combine our students' educational journey with practical real-world experiences,” he explains.

“Our invited speakers will help faculty bridge that connection while building on strategic directions such as Teach for tomorrow, Get your hands dirty, Experiment boldly, and Embrace the city, embrace the world. And for those interested in going further, we have hands-on workshops by experienced faculty and professionals to help make that journey as smooth and easy as possible.”

‘A bigger picture appreciation of life-long learning’

Edward (Ted) Little, chair of the Department of Theatre, believes the challenge for educators is to move from passive to active learning by leaving the familiar space of the classroom.

“Experiential learning can contribute significantly to shifting student attitudes away from a highly competitive, means-to-an-end classroom environment, and toward a bigger picture appreciation of life-long learning,” Little says.

“When combined with self-reflection, critical thinking and more traditional approaches to knowledge acquisition, experiential learning speaks to both the heart and the head. It helps teachers and students alike situate learning within our common humanity.”

‘Coherent opportunities to synthesize knowledge’

For Catharine Marsden, associate professor with the Centre for Engineering in Society, experiential learning enables her students to discover knowledge rather than having it presented to them in the form of notes.

“It’s my experience that students who participate in an experiential project learn much more than they would in a lecture-based class,” Marsden says.

“Engineering students must be provided with coherent opportunities to synthesize knowledge in order to learn how to create the products and processes that are the basis of our quality of life.”

‘Real, meaningful and socially relevant learning’

Eva Pomeroy, lecturer in the Department of Applied Human Sciences, points out that graduating from university with more information and better skills is not enough.

“If you think about your most powerful learning experience, chances are the one that comes to mind first is the one where you were engaged and active,” she says.

“Of course, a brilliant, inspirational or provocative lecture can stimulate significant shifts in our thinking and understanding, which is a key function of higher education. But I am convinced the best way to learn is to become personally involved with the content.”

She adds that it’s through action that learning becomes real, meaningful and socially relevant.

‘Incredible pride and increased confidence’

Meral Demirbag Büyükkurt, professor in the Department of Supply Chain and Business Technology Management has been involved in experiential learning for the past 30 years.

On a weekly basis, Büyükkurt provides her students with the opportunity to work on consulting projects with real clients while applying theories they learned in class.

She sees the difference it makes in bridging the gap between theory and practice.  

In addition to applying learned concepts, her students discover how to manage their teams, their projects, their clients and their time.

“At the end of the term when they present their projects to the class, the clients and other professors, I have the privilege of witnessing how much my students have matured. They have incredible pride and increased confidence in their work,” she says.

“Experiential learning and the opportunity to see my students thrive are priceless.”

See the full schedule for Concordia’s Teaching and Learning Winter Festival 2017

Workshops are free but seats are limited, so register today. 


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