Linking University and High School Students: Exploring the Academic Value of Service Learning
While universities and colleges aim to become more inclusive and welcoming to students from a variety of backgrounds, major gaps remain in relation to particular high school students being admitted to postsecondary institutions. Located in Toronto, Canada’s most culturally diverse city, Ryerson University has a commitment to both academic and applied learning. Recently, Ryerson initiated an experiential learning program (ELP) to connect with high school from these diverse groups.
This case study will focus on one ELP, a service learning project involving university students enrolled in a fourth year Education and Politics class and a downtown Toronto Grade 12 class. This Toronto high school has consistently scored in the lower one-third in board-administered standardized tests. By bringing together these high school and university students in a variety of different activities over one semester, this case study aims to examine the types of learning that occur outside of a traditional university setting. In addition, attention will be focused on the varied approaches to learning for high school students that result from their interactions with university students, and the knowledge these university students will accumulate regarding social, economic, and systemic barriers that prevent some high school students from seeking further educational opportunities.
Service learning can offer critical and insightful considerations of equity and community engagement issues that relate to this case study. This session will also focus on the theoretical literature related to service learning to situate this particular study more specifically. By building linkages, service learning has the potential to help educators better understand and contribute to learning within communities of high school and university students.
Keywords: Service Learning, Urban Education, High School Students, University Students
Dr. Duncan MacLellan
Assistant Professor, Department of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University