Incorporating experiential learning in a PhD program — University Affairs

A faculty member has collaborated with on-campus career services to offer an experiential learning option to doctoral students from diverse backgrounds.

By Catherine E Hundley and Stephanie Doble | November 19 2021

No common background or a common career path can be expected from students in the University of Windsor’s interdisciplinary PhD program in Discussion Studies. It draws on decades of research (which has made Windsor the center of philosophical thinking) on ​​the logic involved when people express causes, and on the “informal reasoning” movement that gave rise to a journal with that name. Search arguments in 20NS Century also emerged from communication studies and from the study of rhetoric, usually in English language departments. But in recent years, it has begun to focus on topical areas, such as medical or political argument, and has begun to engage scholars from a wider range of fields.

Building a PhD program to address this emerging complexity takes advantage of interdisciplinarity and attracts students with diverse backgrounds such as art history, psychology, journalism, business, and computer science.

Career development for PhD students

The program also aims to provide students with experience that will serve them in all different types of careers, not just academic careers. With this in mind, Catherine Hundlby, Director of Graduate Studies for Dialectical Studies, approached Career Development and Experiential Learning, Central Employment Services at the University of Windsor, about general career development strategies for people with advanced degrees. It became clear that experiential learning might be the key.

Armed with job market research and enthusiasm to help her students discover where their skills can be applied, Dr. Hundleby sat down with Stephanie Dobley, the Graduate School’s dedicated career advisor, and discussed how she can best prepare her diverse students for diverse opportunities.

Dr. Hundelby said she wants students to understand how to start the career development process, navigate the job market, find and learn about the wide range of career options available to them, and learn about their skills.

7 I suggested introducing an option into the program that would provide guidance for career development, but would also allow for creativity, flexibility, and independence. Students will have the ability to design their own projects. Through their project endeavors, they will learn and learn about skills and knowledge that will serve them in their career, such as networking, exploring their career prospects, and researching the job market. Through these discussions, the experiential learning option of the program emerged.

How does the experiential learning project work

Each January, Ms. Dobley talks with new students in the program about labor market trends and research, skills identification and networking, career path exploration and planning. It reviews how to research organizations and employers, how to reach them in a professional manner, and how to identify an employer’s needs and match skills with those needs. Students proceed to use this knowledge for their experiential learning projects.

Students have a choice of either completing a paper or participating in an experiential learning project. The latter includes students who reach out to non-profit organizations to suggest or find projects where they can volunteer to implement their highly developed skills.

Rather than being offered opportunities, students engage in research and communication skills to find organizations that can use their talents. They identify potential projects that could benefit organizations and market their skills to them. They expand their networks and maintain professional contacts with their contacts. They plan and execute these projects perfectly. This factual work becomes powerful evidence of workplace experience and skills that students can then refer to in resumes, cover letters, and interviews.

What did these projects look like?

Providing guidance and assistance, while maintaining the flexibility of the project itself, this experiential learning option allows for diverse projects tailored to students’ interests, knowledge, backgrounds, and skills.

For example, one student project analyzed evidence about the neighborhood impact of homeless shelters (a hotly debated topic locally) for the Business Improvement Association in downtown Windsor. Other logical lines developed for the Canadian Aphasia Association. These projects reflect the diverse backgrounds and aspirations of the PhD students.

Many projects do not get off the ground. But in these cases, students report on why this is happening and make use of the time they spend researching the job markets that attract them. Peers also learn, from both successful and unsuccessful attempts, and students support each other to think and think creatively about business prospects. Sharing with each other helps to start thinking early in the program about how to move forward once they have completed their Ph.D., allowing them to plan and prepare for success.

Adaptation and addition to the career development component

This part of the program continues to evolve. In the process of having students engage with experiential learning projects, it became apparent that the projects benefited from an introduction to research ethics. As a result, the chair of the Research Ethics Board is now visiting as part of the package.

The project time commitment has also been modified. Students found it so productive that it became a larger part of the course, which now includes 20 to 35 hours of work, up from the original 10 to 20 hours.

Another important change was the adaptation to the virtual environment. During the pandemic, although students were not face to face, Dr. Hundelby continued to provide this option.

In January 2021, Ms. Dobley again introduced to the class, this time, through Microsoft Teams, and spoke to the students about communication and virtual work. Dr. Hundelby created Teams to provide personalized career support to students by creating a career development channel and adding Ms. Doble. Ms. Wafa posted career development resources, and students had the opportunity to ask any questions related to the job or experiential learning.

As this innovative PhD program and experiential learning component continues to advance, Dr. Hundelby and Ms. Doble are excited to continue supporting these PhD students by adapting their valuable skills to the job market.

Latest articles

Related articles

Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here