How do I Contribute to Student Learning?

To begin to answer this question, I first thought of what I considered to be my role as an educator and as a facilitator of student learning. To be an educator and more precisely, a compassionate, effective, and creative educator, has been a goal I have continuously prioritized as I have worked towards building my career. I believe that teaching and learning occur in all aspects of interactions we have with students and so I strive to be the best educator I can, including being the best student I can be while prioritizing learning in my own life.

I believe that by choosing a career in an environment of higher education, one inevitably chooses a responsibility to contribute to and facilitate student learning. In my role as Student Experience Coordinator: First Generation and Transition programs, I am primarily involved with two programs that directly contribute to integrated student learning at Nipissing University. The first is Gen1: First in the Family and although important and a considerable part of my contribution to the university, I would like to focus this blog post instead on the second program: the Record of Student Development (RSD).

The RSD was created out of higher institutions’ – including Nipissing University and the Student Learning and Transition Team’s – commitment to and understanding of the importance of co-curricular learning and development. It is no longer sufficient to deem learning as a process that takes place solely in the classroom but rather as a fluid process occurring at all points in a student’s time at university. This includes but is most definitely not limited to the time students spend living in residence, going to classes, playing intramural sports and becoming involved in extra-curricular activities. The RSD is mandated by Nipissing University and thus each activity eligible for RSD involvement requires learning outcomes ranging from organization and communication to ethics and inclusion. The total of 20 involvement outcomes considered and required to have a recognized RSD Transcript at the time of graduation represents a fantastic tool to showcase students’ co-curricular development in general as well as in applications to graduate programs, professional programs, and in entering the workforce.

When thinking of the role of an educator, we tend to picture student and teacher actively working together, often in a setting similar to tutoring or lecturing. In these images of what teaching and learning look like, the teacher is almost always present with the student, observing the learning taking place. In my role with the RSD, I do not often get to see the learning that students experience when participating in the program, as my role is mainly administrative through project management. Often, this makes it difficult to link my role as an educator to this project. In reflection, understanding the role of extracurricular involvement and its role in learning is important for me to remind myself of the impact it can have on students’ lives. It is central to remember that learning occurs in all aspects of a student’s experience and that creating tools and contributing to the strategic opportunities available to students is but one of the many ways we as educators can have a positive impact on student learning.

Past research findings outline that students involved in co-curricular learning through what are commonly referred to as extracurricular activities benefit student learning in many ways. Generally, students develop personal and professional skills, applicable in their lives outside of being a student in addition to their academic skills. These skills are transferable, as the ability to communicate, work within diverse groups and receive feedback for example, all represent abilities that are useful and essential not only in experiencing success at school but also at work and at home. Thus, the Record of Student Development provides students and supervisors with a platform to outline the learning that occurs through participating in these activities as well as to record and showcase the learning and development.

Even though it is difficult at times to recognize the link between these administrative functions and student learning, a helpful reminder for me personally is that it was these same co-curricular learning opportunities as a student myself that led me to choose a career in higher education. Opportunities that would not have been available to me if there had not been someone behind the program, managing the project, the administrative tasks, and the somewhat tedious functions that go along with it, while at the same time contributing to the opportunities for and facilitation of learning.