Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Monograph

Degree

Master of Arts

Program

Geography

Supervisor

Buzzelli, Michael

Abstract

Experiential Learning (EL), including a range of pedagogical approaches such as co-ops and community service learning, connect the university and its external community. Universities are considering such approaches to meet a number of needs and priorities both on and off-campus. As it unfolds rapidly at the present time, EL becomes the connection between the university and the community beyond its gates, both locally and more extensively. However, university-community or so-called town-gown (TG) connections traditionally focus on research and/or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This thesis focuses on the teaching and learning connections, especially in Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS), which face persistent questions about disciplinary relevance and graduate employability. In addition, this thesis is concerned particularly with EL connections as they occur in the university’s local or ‘host’ community. The study shows the rapid and widespread adoption of alternative EL models across universities in Ontario. However, rapid adoption comes with diverse approaches and new tensions including issues of institutional centralization versus decentralization of EL arrangements. Funding challenges and the globalized agendas of universities also impact these local connections. In today’s skill and technology-driven world of work, university-community connections should be prioritized in higher education policy.

Keywords: Experiential learning; University-community connections; Ontario; Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

Summary for Lay Audience

Experiential Learning (EL) is a form of learning where students engage in learning activities outside of the traditional classroom setting. Universities usually connect students with their local host institutions to achieve this learning objective, however, these University-community or so-called town-gown (TG) connections traditionally focus on research and/or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). This thesis focuses on the teaching and learning connections, especially in Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS), which usually face questions about relevance and graduate employability in today’s knowledge-based economy. The study findings show that universities in Ontario are adopting several EL models to meet the emergent skills gap between academia and the world of work. However, these adaptations come with challenges such as funding, decentralization, and tensions within institutions as well as among partner community organizations. Higher education should therefore prioritize university and community connections to enhance their teaching and learning missions.

Available for download on Thursday, July 01, 2021

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