A couple weeks ago, the new “Community-Connected Experiential Learning” policy framework was released in Draft form. This document, set to replace Cooperative Education and other Forms of Experiential Learning: Policies and Procedures for Ontario Secondary Schools, 2000. The new policy is now K-12 and includes a new framework for Experiential Learning and descriptors for a couple new, very promising, types of Experiential Learning opportunities for credits at the secondary level.
The Community-Connected Experiential Learning policy describes the role of Experiential Learning as, “the process of reflection on an experience, both during and after the experience, extracting meaning from it, and then applying what has been learned that makes the learning truly experiential for students” (pg6) with a focus on “the connection to the community that it can provide.” (pg 7). The introduction of the Experiential Learning Cycle, puts the focus on the process of Participating, Reflecting and Applying as the student takes part in on-site, blended or virtual learning at a local, national or global level. (pg 10)
The document puts a large focus on the importance of community partnerships, where the goals and benefits of the experiential learning opportunity are shared by all partners, students, teachers and community members.
The policy has strong connections to the recently released “Creating Pathways to Success: An Education and Career/Life Planning Program for Ontario Schools”(2013). The Education and Career/Life Inquiry process will be tied closely to the experiential learning opportunities. Students will be required to use the 4 question inquiry model to make decisions, set goals, develop plans, reflect on and consolidate their learning in either their “All About Me” portfolio (Grades 1 – 6) or their Individualized Pathways Plan (IPP; Gr 7 – 12).
The new K – 12 Community-Connected Experiential Learning Policy Framework differentiates the different types of Experiential Learning linked both to the curriculum and beyond. Aside from our previous forms of Experiential learning, new opportunities for secondary students to earn credits exist in a Stand Alone Cooperative Education course (up to 2 credits), where students focus in school on expectations that outline the knowledge and skills they will need to be successful in their experiential learning opportunity, followed by placement to further develop their knowledge and skills. Also introduced is the Experiential Learning Assessment and Recognition (ELAR) process that has students developing their own Experiential Learning opportunity linked to the community, proposing the learning project to the school, if accepted, co-creating the terms, conditions and learning goals for the project and then participating in the activity while completing the Participate, Apply, Reflect model. At the end of the ELAR, students would demonstrate their learning to a teacher/principal who could then grant up to 2 secondary school credits.
It’s an exciting time as this new document is being reviewed. Over the Winter 2016 term, the Ministry has asked for feedback from educators, business representatives, community organizations, non-profit agencies and post-secondary institutions to better inform and prepare the policy.
If you are interested in learning more about the new Experiential Learning document, visit http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/consultations/ for more information or to participate by giving feedback.