By Miranda Angus, Program Coordinator, Intercultural Education
Experiential learning, in the most basic terms, means learning by doing and applying knowledge in a real-world context.
Many professional programs at Continuing Studies offer a practicum or final project option toward the end of a student’s program, producing a rewarding final experience fusing course knowledge with hands-on work. This is often the pinnacle of the educational journey. Under the direct mentorship of an experienced professional, students receive course credit and grow tangible skills in exchange for work hours at an organization related to their professional field of study.
Over the past few years, Intercultural Education [now called Intercultural Studies and Practice] practicums have been completed by students from local multicultural organizations, across Canada, and as far away as Guatemala, Kenya and Switzerland. Whether it’s developing training materials for working with immigrants and refugees who have experienced violence; developing and facilitating workshops to help newcomers to Canada to locate job search resources, identify skills, network and build an effective resume; connecting communities together by educating and campaigning on issues around migration; or mentoring and supporting youth through creating recreational, public-speaking and tutoring programs, practicum projects build upon the existing student skills, contribute to developing new ones, and help to serve the community in a tangible way.
During a practicum, students will be continuously challenged to think about placing their classroom learning in a real-world context. Sometimes assumptions are challenged, and sometimes their experiences reinforce what they have learned. Regardless, all students walk away with an enriching experience, clearer educational or vocational direction, and an expanded professional network. The knowledge and skills gained through experiential learning continues to serve students into the future as many go onto bigger projects in the community and beyond.
This article was first published in the Fall 2016 Calendar.