Incorporating experiential learning into courses across an undergraduate curriculum: The role of a community of teaching and learning – Elizabeth Barrett, Karen Chan, Estella Ma, Puisan Wong, Edwin M.L. Yiu, Gary Harfitt
Experiential learning (EL) has played an increasingly important role in undergraduate education, with universities adopting EL initiatives. A major challenge remains: how can EL be incorporated into a course, rather than be a one-time outgoing trip that is tacked on to the curriculum. The learning opportunities and feasibility of incorporating small-scale EL visits within courses were explored in this project. The aim of this project was to provide students with the opportunity to: 1) apply theories and concepts learned in class to relevant populations and 2) collaborate with classmates and members of the local community. Some of the courses adopted EL projects that had students work with children or adults of Ethnic Minorities in HK, as well as newly arrived residents from Mainland China. The EL projects and assessments were planned to achieve course learning outcomes, programme learning outcomes, and University aims.
Five teachers developed a community of practice to plan and implement EL projects across five courses in the BSc Speech and Hearing Sciences curriculum. Through collaboration and discussion, approaches to meaningful assessment of learning mapped onto course learning outcomes were created. Assessment rubrics were developed to ensure consistent grading criteria for the EL assessments across the program. A common framework was adopted that included a field trip or observation, a community project, and a two-pronged approach to EL assessment. The assessments included: 1) a group presentation that evaluated the relationship between theory and experience (i.e. identification of how the experience fit into the larger body of knowledge and course/program learning outcomes); and 2) individual reflective journal to evaluate one’s own performance in the experience and identification of what insights were gained through the process.
All courses provided students with relevant EL visits that allowed the students to apply the theories learned in class to the HK community, as demonstrated by the quality of student’s group presentations and variety of community projects. Overall, students showed genuine interest and engagement in the observation/visit, as reported in their reflective journals. The reflective journals showed various depths of reflection; however, the majority of students were able to demonstrate deep reflection and critical review of the events and the process of learning. Students in some courses reported that the projects encouraged them to engage with people from minorities in HK. This included children who moved to HK from Mainland China or were cross-border students (i.e. living in Mainland China but attending school in Hong Kong). Students in these courses acknowledged the EL projects allowed them to work with children they would typically not interact with as a university student, but will likely serve as a clinician once they graduate. Students reported many insights gained beyond what was expected.
Teachers reported relative ease incorporating the EL projects into their course, though arranging visits was time consuming. The use of detailed marking rubrics was reported to facilitate grading. All teachers reported that they will continue to include EL in their courses, though some modification to the EL visit or mode of group presentation may be made. The way to best distribute the materials from the community project and showcase the student’s learning is being considered, with the aim to promote knowledge exchange.
Incorporating small-scale EL visits into courses across a curriculum engages students in meaningful opportunities to relate theory to practice within the local community, as well as achieve course learning outcomes. Though these small-scale EL projects were conducted locally, students in some courses were encouraged to engage with the international and culturally diverse community of HK. This suggests that leveraging the rich diversity in the local community through EL projects can contribute to internationalisation of the curriculum. More importantly, such an approach enables the development of students’ intercultural competence that will enable them to perform more effectively when working with children and parents from different backgrounds in HK’s diverse community.
This project was funded by a Teaching Development Grant.