Learning Through Experience
Sharing our successes with experiential learning at UNB

Student research project releases report on the community impact of experiential learning at UNB

Author: Lee Whelan

Posted on Jan 26, 2022

Category: Student Champions

In the summer of 2021, a team of student researchers were tasked with performing an evaluation of the community impact of experiential learning programs at UNB. The project, ExperienceNB, was first of its kind in Canada and assessed various dimensions of community engagement through faculty surveys and interviews with students and employers. In the final report, student discovered that although UNB has been successful at engaging with the community through experiential learning, the researchers were able to identify opportunities for improvement and offer recommendations.

The team of student researchers, under supervision from the director of Office of Experiential Education, Sarah King, used a self-assessment framework to survey faculty members, as well as conduct interviews with students and employers to assess the level of community engagement in UNB’s experiential learning programs and courses. Using a modified version of the Towards a European Framework for Higher Education (TEFCE) Community Engagement Toolbox, faculty members were prompted to rate their engagement in four categories:

  1. Authenticity of Engagement,
  2. Social Needs Addressed,
  3. Institutional Sustainability and
  4. Communities Engaged with.

The TEFCE framework was also adapted to structure interview questions with students and employers.

In the four dimensions that were assessed, the found that UNB has a “moderate level of community engagement.” UNB scored the highest in the Authenticity of Engagement dimension, which measures “mutual benefits for both the student and the community partner,” and the lowest in the Communities Engaged with dimension, which measures “the type of partnerships involved in programing.” The researchers offer recommendations to improve the quality of community engagement through experiential learning, including creating more long-term collaborative partnerships with community partners, encouraging innovation in program delivery, and increasing awareness of experiential learning at UNB.

ExperienceNB was completed through the summer experiential learning program Pathways to Professions (P2P) at the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training (NB-IRDT).

Since 2020, NB-IRDT has led P2P with funded by FutureNB, Planet Hatch, and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. The internship program provides valuable research and professional skills to students. In addition to participating in workshops and seminars on topics such as leadership and networking, students are grouped into teams to research important issues to New Brunswick. This is what one ExperienceNB student researcher, Kelsey Shaw, had to say about the experience:

“The most meaningful aspect of my experience was being able to utilize such an innovative framework. This type of assessment is new but it’s exciting because it has the ability to transform the way we view education and the role of post-secondary institutions in our communities.”

For more information about Pathways to Professions, visit NB-IRDT. And to learn more about the student researchers, see NB-IRDT's Student Spotlight.