Our approach to learning helps students to better define their personal and professional goals while gaining effective skills in areas such as communications and group work. Student feedback in a recent semester’s course evaluations describe the program as “life-changing”, “a unique opportunity” and their “best educational experience ever.”
The Semester in Dialogue emphasizes three major educational approaches: dialogue-based communication, experiential education and community engagement.
1. Dialogue-based communication
Dialogue involves deep listening and learning to discover meaning among diverse participants. Dialogue differs from the adversarial, position-based debates that typically characterize discussion about complex issues. Dialogue-based processes aim to build deep relationships through free expression of views and respectful exploration of differences. In as university setting, this means that students are better able to communicate outside their own academic disciplines because they are conscious and respectful of the different reference points that come within a field of study.
2. Experiential education
Experiential education emphasizes learning through doing. Students apply skills in the real world, reflect on the results and use this learning to provide context for normally abstract theories. Students frequently submit written commentary for newspapers, magazines and blogs, go on field trips to varied locations such as urban farms and healthcare providers, and bridge course concepts with their personal lives through written reflections.
3. Community engagement.
According to the SFU vision, community engagement includes developing partnerships to “enhance the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of communities” through “respectful and mutually beneficial community relationships.” The Semester in Dialogue engages the community in a variety of ways, including partnering with community organizations on projects, convening community dialogue-archives to address pressing issues and hosting community thought leaders in the classroom.