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