Assessing the Impact of Community-Based Experiential Learning: The Case of Biology 1000 Students

Pam Kalas
University of British Columbia

Latika Raisinghani
University of British Columbia

Teaching and learning of many undergraduate science courses often remains confined within the boundaries of classrooms rendering learning of these subjects irrelevant and detached from students’ lived experiences. Community-based experiential learning (CBEL) is one way to address this issue. This paper reports the development and implementation of a CBEL activity and its impact on students’ learning of Biology in a large university within Western Canada. Data corpus for the study included written pre- and post-CBEL student reflections, which were analyzed qualitatively. The results suggest that CBEL experience significantly enhanced the quality of students’ learning across academic, civic, and personal domains. Emerged themes inform that the students considered their CBEL experience as valuable and empowering as it created opportunities for them to contribute to their own and peers’ learning, as well as to the local community’s and entire ecosystem’s ecological wellbeing. They acknowledged that the CBEL experience enhanced their academic understandings and technical skills, which they can utilize in many other contexts. Outcomes of this study will inform revisions of the Biology 1000 curriculum in new iterations of the course. The study will also interest science educators who strive to promote students’ learning in wider Canadian and other international contexts.

Copyright © 2019, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education