This summer when a group of University of Calgary students head to the U.K. for a group study trip, there won’t be a plan. Well, at least there won’t be a single plan. Rather, every student on the trip will board the plane with their own agenda and their own learning itinerary.
“It’s called inquiry-based learning,” explains Beth Archer-Kuhn, PhD, the Faculty of Social Work professor leading the tour. “It’s a process in which students create their own topic of inquiry to pursue in an area of particular interest. We provide the framework and unique opportunities within the trip, but basically it’s research that the student owns from start to finish.”
Course introduces students to how 'real' research is done
Inquiry-based learning, of course, reflects the research process, and this trip, a collaboration between Social Work, the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, and International Student Services, is about student engagement with learning as much as it is about the subject matter students will pursue.
“Absolutely,” says Archer-Kuhn, “what this trip will really do is to provide participants a unique opportunity to integrate real-life challenges within a global context, which is a vital component for strengthening students' learning and it’s really the way deep learning in a particular area that the student is most interested in occurs.”
Chance to see where our social welfare system originated
The trip provides students with rich opportunities to identify the historic connections between welfare systems in Canada and the U.K. Those linkages occur for participants as they reflect on the information they gather from diverse sources including research literature, other researchers, service users, and providers, which Archer-Kuhn says is a very exciting element of the trip. Students see how research influences the practice of social work and, just as importantly, how the day-to-day practice of social work influences research.
“We’re providing students with the opportunity to see for themselves where social work has advanced — or not — beyond our Canadian practices with hands-on learning opportunities. For example, participants will spend a half day at Toynbee Hall in London discussing the origins of the settlement houses in London. They’ll learn about a model of partnering with people from all social classes, develop awareness of the everyday life of those experiencing poverty, the advancement of political systems, knowledge, and the expansion of advocacy skills.”
The students will also be exposed to additional models of practice including some with a greater emphasis on service-user participation, reflexive practice, and what trans-generational trauma looks like from a community perspective. The trip begins April 29, and provides students with a number of hands-on learning opportunities in Glasgow, Stirling, Edinburgh, Leeds, London and Belfast.
Interested students can find out more at a series of information sessions in Calgary and Edmonton.