What is Experiential Learning?
At Trent University, Experiential Learning (EL) is a part of both the curricular and co-curricular life of the institution, and has been for many years. Students, community organizations, staff, and faculty work and grow together through these deep teaching and learning opportunities.
Experiential Learning is an intentionally collaborative approach to teaching that benefits not only the student but also the community in which the learning takes place, as we engage with the most pressing and important challenges of modern life. As we learn together through action and reflection—indeed, as we challenge the way we think through these processes—we develop, transform, and change.
Many students choose a variety of experiential learning activities throughout their time at Trent as both undergraduate and graduate students. Faculty members have rich, deep, and varied research programs throughout the greater Peterborough region and beyond, and teach EL courses engaging dozens of community partners. Community organizations, including businesses, not-for-profits, government, and more, are involved from beginning to end. Staff at the University and in the community provide vital administrative and academic support, and help to assess and evaluate EL programing from beginning to end.
Trent University’s goal is to ensure that all graduating students have at least one meaningful, purposeful, and recorded experiential learning experience that will contribute to their success as they enter the workforce.
With all experiences, you will gain knowledge and develop valuable skills. Some experiences may focus more on personal development such as leadership.
"On-the-job" experiences offer you the chance to further your insight into a career field without involving a major commitment. You will be able to ask a lot of questions about the job and you will see the different aspects of the work involved on a first-hand basis.
As you engage in the following opportunities, you will be able to expand your network of professional and personal contacts. Some of these contacts who get to know you and your work, could also be approached to be a reference.
Experiential Opportunities (for credit)
Experiential education at Trent is broadly defined as any active learning that enriches one's academic experience.
Active learning involves direct experience with focused reflection, followed by the emergence of new insights or learning.
One key element of active learning is being able to understand the skills and knowledge gained and then being able to transfer this learning to other situations or settings
Experiential Learning can...
- help you to earn academic credit
- have a positive effect on your academic and personal development
- strengthen the development of important life skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, self confidence and leadership abilities
- create an opportunity to confirm your choice of major
- expand your network of both business and personal contacts
- help you to gain professional work experience prior to graduation, thereby enhancing your marketability
Types of Experiential Education
|Community Service Learning||Engage in meaningful community service with classroom instruction and critical reflection to enrich the learning experience and strengthen communities. In practice, students work in partnership with a community-based organization to apply their disciplinary knowledge to address identified community needs or global issues.|
|Applied Research||Develop and complete a major research paper or thesis project through discovery, synthesis, and/or application of information to address a problem or question (e.g. community-based research, thesis).|
|Professional Practicum||Supervised, professional experience to provide students with the opportunity to practice and integrate knowledge and skills. Required for professional programs, certification, licensing or registration (i.e. social work, nursing, education).|
|Internships||Students gain a program-related experience in a professional work environment for at least one semester full time. Supervised, discipline-specific work experience completed for academic credit and can be paid or unpaid.|
|Field Placement||Provides students with a part-time/short term experience that is for academic credit, is generally unpaid and less than 10 hours/week in a setting relevant to their subject of study.|
|Co-operative Education (co-op alternating and co-op internship models)||Co-op alternating consists of alternating academic terms and paid work terms. Co-op internship consists of several co-op work terms back-to-back. In both models, work terms provide experience in a workplace setting related to the student's field of study. This experience is not for academic credit, is full time and is paid.|
|In Class EL||
Case Studies: Provides an opportunity for students to apply their learning to real-life scenarios by working through complex, ambiguous real-world problems, encouraging the learner to work out their own approach to defining, analyzing and addressing the challenge, rather than analyzing it from a distance
Labs: Observe, test and apply course concepts in a controlled setting specialized for small group learning (typically affiliated with specific technology and/or facilities). A lab is a distinct course component, separate from a lecture, seminar or workshop.
Simulated Workplace Projects: Engage in a simulated workplace project or experience completed as a required component of a course or program of study.
|Workplace Project||Engage with an organization, business, or industry to identify issues or opportunities and develop solutions or strategies to industry problems (e.g. consulting projects).|
|Job Shadowing||Engage in a short-term workplace exposure/observation completed as a required component of a course or program.|
|Events||Develop, deliver or attend an internal or external event to network with community partners or relevant stakeholders and present and gather feedback on projects and ideas as a required component of a course.|
|Field Experiences||Explore academic content in a purposeful way outside the classroom through field trips and/or field work (in Canada or abroad).|
|Publication or Conference Presentation||Develop and present an original work at a conference or exhibition, or submit an original work for publication as part of the component of the course. In-person or electronic delivery at the conference is acceptable (e.g. peer-reviewed conferences, professional conferences).|
|Creative, Performance or Exhibit||Develop artistic, physical, technical, management or production skills through intensive embodied and/or practice-based experiences. This may include rehearsals, performances, large ensembles, solo recitals and other forms of music performance for academic credit.|
|Study Abroad Program||Studying abroad allows students to look beyond their own borders and gain a wider perspective of global issues and concerns. First-hand experience in another country increases knowledge of foreign cultures and the international community, enhancing understanding of global issues. Studying abroad also adds a new perspective to academics. It allows students to expand upon their skills within a different cultural environment. Students gain the opportunity to expand their language skills, as well as the opportunity to become involved in community development. Visit the Trent Study Abroad Program website|
|Traditional Knowledge Experience||Active engagement with Indigenous Elders and Traditional Knowledge Holders in land-based or classroom environments.|
Experiential opportunities (not for credit)
Summer Jobs / Part-time Jobs
Part-time and summer jobs should serve to do more than fund your schooling. In looking for part-time / summer employment, consider using it as another opportunity to explore career options.
Of course not everyone will be able to find work in the exact field they are interested in exploring. Nevertheless, you can still use the job as an opportunity to develop some of the key skills you are likely to need in the career of your choice. For example, if you think that one day you are likely to go into management, look for opportunities that will give you supervising, planning or organizing experience. If you know that you need to increase your confidence in working with people, take a job that will require you to interact with the public to some extent.
On-campus jobs are a great way to get experience while still leaving time for studies and extra-curricular activities. Depending on the funding for the position, there may be specific requirements for applying. The Student Jobs page gives detailed information about the eligibility requirements of on-campus jobs funded by the Trent Work Study Program and the Trent International Program.
Besides the obvious rewards of contributing your time and talents to a worthy cause, voluntarism also has many benefits for the person looking to choose a career path. The "Volunteering Works" booklet, put out by Volunteer Canada, lists the following ways that volunteering boosts your career development:
- You develop skills and knowledge that can help you get paid work.
- You gain hands-on work experience
- You discover the realities of the world of work
- You learn to market yourself, since volunteering involves an application and interview process, just like a job search
- You begin developing a network that can make the difference when you are looking for paid work
- You have the opportunity to explore career options
At this point, it is this last benefit that we are most interested in. In order to use a volunteer experience to its full advantage in finding out what's right for you:
- Select assignments that place you in the type of setting you want to learn about
- Ask for as much training as you can get
- Ask to be promoted to more challenging tasks
- Work side-by-side with professionals who can answer questions about their careers
While most volunteer opportunities are with non-profit organizations, some students have successfully negotiated with employers to serve as a volunteer with their company or business. This is similar to a co-op or placement as part of a school program. In these situations it is important to negotiate with the employer and to have clearly established guidelines. This ensures that the experience is mutually beneficial for both the company and the volunteer.
Many students are interested in volunteering abroad. Be aware that often there are fees charged by organizations that coordinate volunteer opportunities.
For more info about volunteering abroad, Trent students have free access to the MyWorldAbroad site. To access it, login to the Student Experience Portal with your Trent login. Click on the Career Resources link under the Student Job Board heading in the left navigation, and then click on MyWorldAbroad.
- Preparing yourself for future leadership roles
- Developing a positive self image and increased confidence
- Enhancing skills: communication, active listening, managing/delegating, decision-making/problem-solving
- Building success attitudes and habits
Leadership skills are often referred to as one of the 'top 10' skills employers want. As a university student, there are many opportunities for you to develop these valuable skills.
Get involved! Leadership skills can be developed both on- and off-campus. On-campus opportunities for leadership include elected positions to College Cabinets and the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA), donning, peer mentoring, student orientation, athletics and intramurals, key leadership roles in the many clubs and groups and other academic and discipline focused student organizations.
The IMPACT Leadership Program is an innovative and exciting leadership program that prepares students to assume a wide variety of leadership roles within the Trent community and beyond. Involvement beyond the classroom is a vital part of your university education, and helps to complement your academic experience. Impact is a certificate program, and an excellent addition to your resume.
Trent's Co-Curricular Record allows students to document their co-curricular involvement. Any Trent-sanctioned experiences which are co-curricular (non-academic) in nature can be included on a student’s co-curricular record. The ‘record’ can then be used as a tool to facilitate reflection on the skills that the student gained through her/his experiences. The ability to articulate skills gained is very important when applying for employment or graduate school.
A PDF file of a student’s co-curricular record can also be accessed, printed off, and added to a portfolio.
A job shadow is an arrangement made with an employer or worker to permit you to accompany them as they carry out their regular work routine. You may have an opportunity to assist in small ways, but essentially your role is to observe. This can be an excellent way of getting a feel for an occupation that you are considering, but have little or no knowledge of what is entailed in that type of work on a day-to-day basis.
Internship (not for credit)
There are a wide range of internships that student can do during the summer or after they graduate. Internships vary, each having their own requirements for eligibility. They can be paid or unpaid and generally last between three to twelve months. All internship opportunities received by Careerspace are posted on the online Job Board.
Internship Program Considerations
- When researching potential internships, consider the following:
- In order to participate, do you have to be a graduate or can you be a current student?
- What level of student are they looking for (masters degree, undergraduate degree, etc.)?
- Is the internship specific to a certain academic discipline?
- Is there a language requirement?
- What is the duration of the internship? Are there several starting dates?
- Where will you be interning? Are there choices in terms of location?
- How many internships are available?
- What is the application process? Deadline?
- Is this a paid or unpaid position? Is there a stipend given (small allowance)?
- What arrangements, if any, are made for housing?
- What do you need to know about health and medical insurance? Inoculations?
- What costs will you be responsible for?
- What would your work schedule be like? Will you have any free time?
- Do you have to be a Canadian resident or citizen to participate?
- Can you participate if you have a student visa?
- Can you contact any previous interns to ask about their experience?