CityStudio Vancouver: Researching Interdisciplinary Learning Outcomes

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Janet Moore, Faculty of Environment

Project team: Mark Roseland, Faculty of Environment, Jason Penner, research assistant for data-gathering portion of project, and Shelby Tay, videographer

Timeframe: January to August 2012

Funding: $9,848

Description: CityStudio is a new inter-institutional project with seven partners: SFU, UBC, Emily Carr University, Vancouver Community College, BCIT, Langara College, and the City of Vancouver. CityStudio aims to create disciplinary and interdisciplinary courses that connect student learning and the implementation of Vancouver’s Greenest City goals. It uses a studio-based learning model in which students, in groups, learn to create demonstration projects in collaboration with the city and community members.

This Larger Teaching and Learning Development Grant will be used to assess whether the learning outcomes that we have created for SFU’s first Semester in the City course are aligned with what students actually learn as the course unfolds. As SFU moves towards creating learning outcomes for all of its courses, this research will contribute to the knowledge of how learning outcomes can be assessed for experiential, interdisciplinary courses focused on collaboration.

The grant will assist the project by creating an action research team that will analyze students' bi-weekly reflections as well as the video reflections that they will contribute to the course. These exercises are built into assignments in the course and will aid instructors with formative evaluation and feedback throughout. The course has 20 students who attend five days a week for 12 weeks, and there is a clear need to document the learning throughout the course. The research team will host weekly meetings (involving the research team, students, and the RA) to evaluate learning outcomes and track new outcomes that may not have been part of the course outline. The final products of the grant will be an eight-to-ten-minute video and a paper on learning outcomes for interdisciplinary, community-based programs similar to Semester in the City, Semester in Dialogue, and other innovative programs at SFU and beyond.

Questions addressed:

  • What are the key learning outcomes in an interdisciplinary studio course (SFU’s Semester in the City) connected to real-world projects?
  • What unintended outcomes are shaping student learning in relation to three key concepts of product, process, and person (taken from Studio Teaching and Learning Project – Australia)?
  • How can the insights, observations, and analysis of this semester inform teaching practice at SFU and beyond?

Knowledge sharing: A clear outcome of this project will be an eight-to-ten-minute video that helps faculty implement Studio learning within their own programs and in other municipalities. We plan to present the results of this grant at the annual SFU Symposium on Teaching and Learning. There are many opportunities to share the video online, including on the CityStudio website, at events in the City of Vancouver, and within the Faculty of Environment during teaching and learning events. We are requesting a small amount of funding for faculty and graduate-student travel to a relevant conference.

Keywords: community engagement, project-based learning, experiential learning, client-focus, community problems, interdisciplinary, student reflections