The Service Learning and Outreach 0.5 credit course provides students with opportunities to exercise knowledge and concepts gained in the academic classroom in the more meaningful, relevant context of their communities. The “service learning” program provides experiential learning opportunities, whereby students reflect on how their academic knowledge enhances their delivery of community service and how their service experience informs their academic understanding.
By actively applying their scholastic knowledge, students' understanding and motivation increase as academic content becomes more relevant to them. Students also benefit by gaining practice in potential post-graduate/career pursuits through exposure to activities and expectations occupations of interest realistically involve, and also acquire hands-on experience that employers, graduate and professional schools value. In turn, communities, both within and external to the university, benefit from access to bright academic minds.
Service Learning and Outreach placements are offered through the course, CTLB03H3 “Introduction to Service Learning.” (see 'Teaching and Learning' section of the UTSC Calendar). The course has two components: 1) The placement component involves approximately 5-7 hrs/week of active involvement with a placement partner, and 2) the mandatory class component, where Service Learning participants are familiarized with service learning and the skills necessary to get the most out of their experience. Students are also required to carry out critical self-reflection as a means to continually monitor and assess how their service enhances their own scholarship. Evaluation is based on participation, self-reflective writing and project portfolio creation or a research paper.
There are two different types of SL placements: Community Outreach and Classroom “In-reach”:
For Classroom "In-reach" placements, students who have successfully completed a course of interest use their experience to enrich the learning of students currently taking that course. In-reach students might develop practice exercises or review modules, assist instructors with teaching tools, and so on. In-reach students gain a true and deep understanding of their discipline as they review and deconstruct course content. By engaging with course material, instructors and other students, they regain motivation and appreciation for their discipline.
For "Community Outreach" placements, students bring concepts taught in the academic classroom to discipline-related organizations within the off-campus community. These might include area schools, laboratories, NGOs and government departments. Students learn about the current needs of the communities they are serving and the approaches used to meet these needs. As such, community organizations benefit from access to bright, inquiring minds and academic role models. By employing academic knowledge in a meaningful context, students become active learners. Through practice, concepts become solidified and students develop a sense of ownership over self-generated knowledge. Students learn how to recognize issues, formulate and carry out initiatives and evaluate progress, and thus become more self-reflective learners. Communication and other skills imperative to professional practice are strengthened and students have direct experience with how scientific knowledge is generated and transferred.