Media Releases

Learning outside of the classroom on the rise

August 18, 2010

TORONTO, ON – Lec­tures, text­books and class­room learn­ing will be com­ple­ment­ed by real-world expe­ri­ence for many UofT stu­dents this fall, as the trend towards ser­vice learn­ing con­tin­ues.

Once thought to be the type of edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence offered in a com­mu­ni­ty col­lege set­ting, ser­vice learn­ing has explod­ed at UofT over the past five years. The for­mal num­ber of cours­es offer­ing stu­dents an out-of-the-class­room com­po­nent has grown by near­ly 700 per cent and near­ly 2,000 stu­dents will ben­e­fit from the enhanced edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence this year.

“Learn­ing by expe­ri­ence is becom­ing more and more an inte­gral part of the uni­ver­si­ty cul­ture,” says Lisa Cham­bers, direc­tor of UofT’s Cen­tre for Com­mu­ni­ty Part­ner­ships. “Stu­dents in a broad range of dis­ci­plines – from com­put­er sci­ence to polit­i­cal sci­ence and engi­neer­ing to lan­guage stud­ies – are sign­ing up in droves for cours­es that offer this ser­vice learn­ing com­po­nent.”

For third- and fourth-year stu­dents tak­ing Phar­ma­col­o­gy and Tox­i­col­o­gy this year, the ser­vice learn­ing ele­ment will give them a first-hand under­stand­ing of drugs which are used inap­pro­pri­ate­ly (out­side ther­a­peu­tic use). In the class­room, they’ll learn about the sci­en­tif­ic and ther­a­peu­tic aspects of a vari­ety of drugs and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal agents. But for the ser­vice learn­ing com­po­nent of their course, stu­dents will be placed on the front lines at orga­ni­za­tions such as the Toron­to Harm Reduc­tion Task Force as well as treat­ment cen­tres and shel­ters who deliv­er ser­vices using a harm reduc­tion mod­el.

“Work­ing with addic­tion treat­ment spe­cial­ists will give stu­dents a much deep­er under­stand­ing of the social, eco­nom­ic, polit­i­cal and health real­i­ties of drug mis­use,” says Pro­fes­sor Michelle Arnot. “It’s one thing for a pro­fes­sor to stand in front of a class and talk about the sta­tis­tics under­ly­ing drug mis­use; it is quite anoth­er for stu­dents to inter­act with peo­ple who use drugs and front-line harm reduc­tion work­ers who engage with these issues dai­ly.”

At New Col­lege, one of the aims of a third-year Food Secu­ri­ty course is to teach stu­dents how social jus­tice and envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty play into food issues. This year, third-year stu­dents will reflect on their class­room learn­ing con­cepts while work­ing for six weeks at a social ser­vice agency, social food enter­prise or com­mu­ni­ty food ini­tia­tive.

 “The beau­ty is that there are oppor­tu­ni­ties for expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing in every dis­ci­pline,” says Cham­bers. “From the sci­ences to the human­i­ties, ser­vice learn­ing bridges the­o­ret­i­cal and real life, help­ing to pro­duce cit­i­zens who have a well-round­ed under­stand­ing of their fields and are civi­cal­ly engaged.”


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

April Kemick
Media Rela­tions Offi­cer

Lisa Cham­bers
Direc­tor, Cen­tre for Com­mu­ni­ty Part­ner­ships

Michelle Arnot
Lec­tur­er, Depart­ment of Phar­ma­col­o­gy