Integrated Learning: Experiential Education at the University of Toronto

Speaker and Workshop Series


The level of interest and engagement with integrated and experiential learning opportunities, construed broadly, continues to grow at the University of Toronto and within provincial, national and North American post-secondary education sectors. As a result, academic leaders, faculty members, and staff are increasingly seeking support with developing new or integrating existing pedagogical approaches to the design, implementation, and assessment of such opportunities within for-credit courses and programs.

In addition to supports for opportunities, a clear need has been identified within the University community for a framework that both unifies the range of experiences around core learning elements, while recognizing the unique elements that distinguish each approach. During the 2016-17 academic year, the University of Toronto Task Force on Experiential Learning developed a white paper that addresses the above need, positioning the range of experiential learning modalities under the umbrella framework of Integrated Learning Experiences (ILEs):

“(ILEs) all provide students with the ability to bridge theoretical and practical learning and to observe how the material they have learned in class takes shape in the world… and include(s) examples of experiential, work-integrated, and community-engaged learning that integrate disciplinary outcomes with community engagement and competency development” (p. 10).

In response to the demand for increased supports, and as a means of educating the community on the new ILE framework, a speaker and workshop series is planned for the 2017-18 academic year. The workshops will focus on different models of course- and program-based experiential learning, and serve as a platform for discussing the ILE model at the University. These full-day sessions will bring together leading faculty members from U of T and peer institutions in order to share best practices and provide direct support in the development of new course and program components or offerings

Purpose of the Series:

  • Develop a community of practice within U of T around the various models of Integrated Learning
  • Provide opportunities for instructors and program leaders to engage in an instructional design process, with support from recognized experts
  • Establish connections with and learn from leading practitioners at peer institutions

April 4th, 2018


  • Dr. Susan Nesbit, Professor of Teaching, Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Applied Science, University of British Columbia
    • Susan has lead the development of sustainability-in-engineering curriculum and taught several courses, at all levels, that introduce engineering students to sustainability engineering concepts, and she is among the first in Canada to introduce the pedagogy of service learning into engineering curricula. Her work with more than 44 different community organizations and 1000+ engineering students who have completed over 50 service learning projects in and around the Metro-Vancouver area, is highlighted as best-practice by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in their 2011 Green Guide on global citizenship. She has given invited addresses on the topic of service learning and sustainability, and was the keynote speaker at the First International Conference on Engineering Education for the 21st Century held in Castello de la Plana, Spain, 2017.

  • Ahmed Allahwala, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Department of Human Geography, & Special Advisor to the Dean on Experiential Education, University of Toronto Scarborough
    • Professor Allahwala holds the rank of Associate Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Human Geography. His area of expertise is urban governance and social policy, community development, youth engagement, and participatory action research. Since his appointment at UTSC in 2010, Professor Allahwala has been a key advocate of experiential education on our campus. In addition to serving as Co-op Supervisor in City Studies for six years, Professor Allahwala has taught a variety of community-engagement courses in partnership with organizations such as the East Scarborough Storefront, the Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough, TAIBU Community Health Centre, Malvern Family Resource Centre, and the Toronto District Catholic School Board. He has a long history of civic engagement and served on the Board of Directors of several non-profit organizations across Toronto. Based on his sustained engagement and expertise, Professor Allahwala has been invited to speak about community-engaged learning and value-based university-community partnerships locally, nationally and internationally. He is currently the co-chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Centre for Community Partnerships and a member of the Vice Provost’s Innovations in Undergraduate Education Advisory Group on Experiential Education.

  • Isabelle Kim, Director, Centre for Community Partnerships, University of Toronto
    • Isabelle leads the continued development and implementation of programs and supports designed to expand opportunities for curricular and co-curricular community-engaged learning and research, in partnership with other units at U of T. Isabelle has a strong interest in community development and higher education, evidenced by her teaching at OISE, academic research, and work history. She comes to the role with 18 years’ experience working with local and international community organizations in the health, education, and the arts. Prior to this appointment, she served in leadership capacities at Canadian international development organizations. Isabelle holds a BA in International Development Studies from UTSC, and a MA and PhD in Curriculum Studies from OISE.

  • Jennifer Esmail, Research Officer, Experiential Learning, Office of the Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science
    • Jennifer Esmail is the Research Officer, Experiential Learning in the Office of the Dean at the Faculty of Arts and Science. She has also worked as the Coordinator of Academic Initiatives at the Centre for Community Partnerships (currently on secondment) and as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her community-engaged teaching experience spans doctoral seminars that use a “service-learning” approach through to teaching an undergraduate course as part of the Walls to Bridges program, which brings together incarcerated and traditionally-enrolled students in a co-learning model. She has published a book and several articles in the fields of Disability Studies and English Literature.


9:30–  10:00am   

Introductory remarks from Vice-Provost Susan McCahan

10:00 – 10:30am

Isabelle Kim– CEL Conceptual Overview and CCP

  • This presentation will introduce one of the pedagogical approaches to experiential learning: Community Engaged Learning (CEL), also known as Community Service Learning (CSL) or Service Learning. We will explore its core principles and what distinguishes it from other forms of experiential learning, and highlight different approaches to teaching a CEL course, and ways of integrating CEL into an existing course drawing on examples from CEL courses at U of T. We will also highlight the existing resources, services, and supports provided by the Centre for Community Partnerships for both curricular and co-curricular community engaged learning and research for faculty, staff, and students.


Susan Nesbitt –  Community Engaged Learning in Engineering Education: Focus on Reflection Assignments

  • In this workshop session, you will learn about an engineering education case study of community engaged learning from the University of British Columbia where service learning has been supported since 2006. The case study will demonstrate critical aspects of CEL and you will hear about both failures and successes. With guidance, you will then focus on “critical reflection” for students, which is an important component of CEL. Before being given the opportunity to construct a reflection assignment, you will learn about why reflection is important, and different examples for reflection assignments. 

11:45 – 12:45pm


12:45 – 2:00pm

Jennifer Esmail – Community-Engaged Learning Course Development

  • In this section of the workshop, participants will identify their own objectives for a community-engaged learning course and consider how to best design their course to meet those objectives. We will also cover any pragmatic questions that emerge related to syllabus and assignment design, partnership development and administrative processes.

2:00 – 3:15pm

Ahmed Allahwala –  Community-engaged learning (CEL) and sustainable campus-community partnerships: The LIFT Experience

  • This presentation shares the story of LIFT, an innovative youth-led community group advocating to increase decision-making opportunities for youth to affect meaningful change in the Kingston-Galloway/Orton Park (KGO) neighbourhood in East Scarborough. LIFT emerged in the context of an ongoing and successful campus-community partnership between the University of Toronto Scarborough and the East Scarborough Storefront and the Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough. Over the course of three years, UTSC students worked with youth from the KGO community on a participatory action research project around youth access to social infrastructure and play opportunities in East Scarborough. In this presentation, we reflect on the success factors of community-engaged learning and the LIFT experience, including (1) the alignment of CEL goals with identified community needs; (2) the long-term sustainability of and commitment to the partnership; and (3) a value-based praxis of community-based research and neighborhood social action.


Closing activity (Susan McCahan)

Past Workshops

November 2nd, 2017


  • Norah McRae, Director, PhD, Executive Director of the Co-operative Education Program and Career Services, the Director of the Office of Community-University Engagement, adjunct faculty member, University of Victoria.
  • Ashley Stirling, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, and Director, Experiential Learning, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto
  • Tracey Bowen, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream and Internship Coordinator, Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology, University of Toronto


February 21st, 2018