Surrey CityLab: Using Academic-Community Partnerships to Advance Experiential Learning

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Paola Ardiles, Faculty of Health Sciences

Project team: Henrietta Ezegbe, Research

Timeframe: January 2019 to July 2019

Funding: $6000

Courses addressed:

  • HSCI 449 – Community and Health Services
  • HSC 495 – Applied Health Science Project (part of Health Change Lab in Surrey campus)

Description: The Surrey CityLab is a new academic-community partnership between the City of Surrey, Simon Fraser University (SFU) and Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU). The lab is experimental, systems-oriented and aimed at supporting the public policies and strategic goals of the municipality laid out in its Sustainability Charter.

Surrey CityLab engages faculty and city staff to co-create learning experiences for students enabling them to help address pressing public policy issues in the city of Surrey that impacts community health, and is designed to commence with a three-year pilot period. During the pilot period, the partners will work with KPU and SFU faculty who develop curriculum to engage their students with municipal issues and challenges.

The courses are offered in existing spaces on both campus’, with opportunities to host classes in city spaces such as City Hall and the City Centre Library in order to actively engage with partners.

This study is designed to explore:

  1. How student experiential learning is impacted through civic engagement in Surrey, and
  2. The enablers and barriers to get SFU faculty engaged in this initiative.

Questions addressed:

  • What are the reasons students took courses and have their expectations been fulfilled?
  • To what extent and in what ways did students have a substantive opportunity to work and network with the City of Surrey and its community partners?
  • To what extent and in what ways did students have a substantive opportunity to get involved in approaches that offer solutions to real community issues?
  • To what extent and in what ways did students become more civic minded?
  • To what extent and in what ways did students build relationships with other students and community partners?
  • To what extent and in what ways have students begun to incorporate community- and settings-based approaches to health promotion?
  • What are the incentives and barriers for faculty to participate in the Surrey CityLab program?

Knowledge sharing: A clear outcome of this project will be a written report that highlights the perception of both students and faculty towards the Surrey CityLab. Being a three-year pilot project in its very first year, this report will help the three partners – City of Surrey, KPU and SFU to stream line the project further to match student’s learning needs, as well as the needs of instructors to ensure that this project succeeds the pilot phase, and its sustainability beyond.

Project findings will be shared to local colleagues through a presentation at the annual SFU Symposium on Teaching and Learning (or similar type of event), and by submitting findings for publishing on the SFU blog and across SFU social media platforms. Findings will also be presented at social innovation events in the City of Surrey, and during social innovation and community partnership teaching and learning events at SFU.

This project encourages experiential learning; a method of learning that replaces chalk-and-talk pedagogy of the past with inquiry, problem-based and project-based learning, and exposes students to high-level research while teaching them to be engaged citizens.

The researchers hope that this project will inspire more experiential learning courses in SFU Surrey, to work in partnership with the municipality and its partners. Beyond SFU, findings of this project will be presented at relevant conferences, and the final report published in a peer-reviewed journal, as well as in the City of Surrey website.

Ardiles, P., & Ezegbe, H. (2019, April). Surrey City Lab: Where healthy campus meets healthy city. Presentation at the 23rd World Conference on Health Promotion, Rotorua, New Zealand.

Ardiles, P., & Ezegbe, H. (2019, May). Surrey CityLab: Using academic-community partnerships to advance experiential learning. Presentation at the 17th Symposium on Teaching and Learning, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC.