Learn from experience

University celebrates experiential learning program

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

The University of Winnipeg (U of W) celebrates its experiential learning program with an event on Friday, Feb. 17.

Daniel Leonard is a coordinator for the Experiential Learning Network (ELN), a collection of professors working from a teaching theory that encourages learning and sharing through experiences instead of a traditional lecture. He says the program is based on the idea that students can bring a lot to the teaching process.

“Students are bringing something into the classroom … If you’re lecturing, it’s this sort of one-way engagement. There are times when lecturing is good, but you’re missing out on a whole range of learning experiences,” Leonard says. 

“Personally, I think you can learn just as much from a single mother working at Safeway down the street as you can from a professor. You just learn something different.”

Experiential learning courses are funded by an experiential learning grant through the U of W, which was first issued in 2013. Since then, there have been four rounds of funding, ranging from $15,000 to $30,000. This year, $30,000 total was allowed to be claimed for projects ranging from building a ceremonial drum ($700) to learning from Indigenous residents of Shoal Lake 40.

Jobb Arnold is an assistant professor in conflict resolution studies. He helped organize a land-based learning course where the students had a chance to visit Shoal Lake 40. He says the course opened the students up to new ideas.

“It was a different experience for everyone … People come from different backgrounds, so they come with different perceptions,” Arnold says. “I think people were very open to hearing other people’s perspectives and sharing … Students get a sense of ownership about it. In some ways, they get what they put in.”

According to a report released in 2015, there were 21 applications for the experiential learning grant fund. Twelve of those applications were funded, and many courses received less money than they asked for. According to Leonard, more and more professors are becoming interested in organizing an experiential learning course.

Leonard says that if students want a hands-on learning experience, there are a variety of ways to make that happen.

“Students can apply and access funding for experiential learning. We have had students apply and receive funding,” Leonard says. “Make it known in your departments if you’re interested in this. If you’re looking for some volunteer opportunities, (students) can get in contact with me, and we can find something for them.”

To learn how to apply for the experiential learning grant, email Daniel Leonard at [email protected].

Published in Volume 71, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 16, 2017)

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