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Experiential Learning Guidebook

Finding Partners

Possible contacts for community projects

Both faculty members and community partners often assume that the partner should come from an obviously aligned organization (i.e. addictions organization with Psychology faculty). However, oftentimes, the most useful collaborations can come from unexpected partnering.

Possible partnership ideas:

  • Community groups (non-profit organizations, advocacy groups, foundations, coalitions, faith-based organizations)
  • Municipal offices (Surrey, Langley, Richmond, Vancouver, Cloverdale, New Westminster, Delta)
  • School districts and teachers (each municipality has its own school district)
  • Municipal libraries (each municipality has its own head librarian)
  • Health authorities, Hospitals, Community health organizations
  • Co-operatives (i.e. VanCity), Credit Unions, Financial institutions)
  • Businesses and entrepreneurs
  • Chamber of Commerce (each municipality has its own Chamber)
  • First Nations communities, business arm of reserve communities, First Nations Health Authority
  • Personal contacts (i.e. serving on board, personal interest, go-between’s)
  • Research studies (partners listed in current studies)
  • Student Networks (find student interests and seek out alignment)
  • Existing projects that other faculty members are leading or contact
  • Partnerships with other universities, grants, research projects

Community Partners


Planning should occur before the start of the term, to ensure enough time for scheduling, signing of forms and other items that occur at the start of the term.

  Jun Jul Sep Oct Nov Dec
Fall Consider Requirements & Course Presentation Find Partners Introductions & Project Work Agreements Maintain Relationships & Observe Learning Cycle Evaluations & Wrap-up Thank-you's & Follow-up with Partners
  Nov Jan Feb Mar Apr

Find Partners

Consider Requirements & Course Presentation

Introductions & Project Work Agreements Maintain Relationships & Observe Learning Cycle Evaluations & Wrap-up Thank-you's & Follow-up with Partners
  Mar Apr May Jun Jul

Find Partners

Consider Requirements & Course Presentation

Introductions & Project Work Agreements Maintain Relationships & Observe Learning Cycle Evaluations & Wrap-up Thank-you's & Follow-up with Partners

Questions to ask Community Partner

  • Do they have possible projects that align with your term and course?
  • Is it best to follow up by email, phone call, or in-person?
  • How many students would be suitable to complete the project?
  • What is the timeline? Does it fit with the term dates?
  • Do they want the student(s) to work on-site?
  • Who would their main contact be and when would they like to first meet?
  • Do they have any forms they would like the student to sign? Do they need a Criminal Record Check?
  • How would they like to confirm the project duties with you? Email or Affiliation Agreement?

Variables to Consider

Is this paid work? Consider a Co-operative Education project.

Is this non-credit work? Consider Extracurricular and Co-Curricular projects.

Does the student find a placement? Consider if they have the training to represent KPU professionally. What is the outward-facing relationship? Are community partners over-contacted? Could you use previous organizations and contact them yourself? For any help with this, contact

Is this a Practicum? Typically, more hours, course designation, and involves an evaluation component by an external partner.

Is this a Field School? Typically, more hours and condensed, intensive engagement.

Is this a fieldtrip? Sign KPU fieldtrip form and consider travel and safety.

Will this be between 8-40 hours of student engagement work? Service learning generally involves about 8-40 hours of out-of-the-classroom activity, creates a new item for students to put on a resume, initiates a sense of broader accountability, and offers networking and/or unique reflection. See sections on course outlines, and assignment weighting, below.

Does the student need a Criminal Record Check (i.e. working with children)? Start Criminal Record Check process early. A Criminal Record Check is required of all volunteers who work with children and vulnerable populations. More information about the process is included here.

Does the project require Research Ethics Board course-based approval? If you are conducting minimal risk research, then you should apply for a course-based application through the Research Ethics Board at KPU. See below for details.

Are there forms to sign? Does the organization have forms for the student to sign (e.g. Child Protection Policy, Confidentiality Agreement, etc.)? Do along with KPU Project Work Agreement

Have you prepared a KPU Project Work Agreement for the student to sign? See KPU Project Work Agreement

Is the student at risk at all? Due care and judgement should be used to assure students are not placed in situations that might be risky or dangerous.

  • Consider a pre-course student questionnaire to ensure that students do not have personal issues that might be exacerbated by off-campus engagements.
  • Have the student sign a Project Work Agreement.
  • Be flexible about removing students from projects that become difficult by respectfully processing a Discontinuation Form with your partner.
  • Aim to have back-up projects for students who might need to switch projects mid-term.

Will you set up an Affiliation Agreement or have email exchange to outline partner terms or project scope? See Affiliation Agreement

Will the student work on-site? Check student availability, access to car, distance travelled

Do you want to take some photographs to chronicle the experiences? Photo Waiver

Does the project involve students in fundraising? Include statement on fundraising projects in your course syllabus: Service-learning classes that will be participating in fundraising should follow the rules established for student organizations. Fundraising by student organizations is allowed at KPU, in accordance with University policies and processes, local, and provincial laws, and the Student Code of Conduct. Fundraising may not include solicitation of advertisements from commercial vendors or other non-student groups without written approval of the university.

Do you need Research Ethics Board approval?

You may want to have your community partner submit research ethics material. Some possible language for the application is included here. KPU faculty can access these documents in an editable format on SharePoint. For external requests, please contact:

What is ‘Research’? Research is defined as an undertaking intended to extend knowledge through a disciplined inquiry or systematic investigation. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services defines research as, “a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.” (HHS (US) 46.102(d))).

Some quality assurance, quality improvement studies, or program evaluation activities do not constitute “research” and therefore do not fall within the scope of the REB (see TCPS2 Article 2.5). However, it is highly recommended that you first discuss your project with the REB Coordinator regarding any exceptions from REB Review.

How to Apply for Ethical Review

Course Syllabus

Construct your course syllabus according to University guidelines and include the service learning component. Below are possible statements and language for possible inclusion, as well as sample assignments and evaluation methods. If you have further ideas to contribute, please send to

KPU faculty can access these documents in an editable format on SharePoint. For external requests, please contact:

Things for Students to Consider

  • Ask for help when in doubt
  • Be punctual and responsible
  • Call if you anticipate lateness or absence
  • Respect the privacy of all clients
  • Show respect for the agencies for which you work
  • Be appropriate in attitude, manners, and appearance
  • Be flexible

Statement about alternative participation

Aim to have a back-up activity if projects become delayed or problematic for certain students. Consider a class-based activity, like chronicling some of the work the other students are doing, creating photo diaries of the class activities, or creating thank-you’s for community partners.

It is often a good idea to include a statement about this in the course outline:

At times, students may have difficulty with placements due to travel demands, or scheduling. Please contact the instructor for alternative projects, if this should arise.

Community Partner Description and Project Overview

It is a good idea to provide an overview of the project and organization in the course syllabus, or as an additional handout, to create a sense of excitement about the project. Consider whether you want students to have the email contact information of your community partner, or if you would like to act as a go-between.

Depending on the project, you may want to include some additional tips for students.

Sample Weighting

Each faculty member weights this differently, although this could become more routine. At times the time spent ‘in the field’ is allotted one mark, and then a deliverable, or final assignment, is given another mark. One course asks for 35 hours and weights the time commitment, with tasks, at 12%, with a final deliverable 12%. To send along any additional models, or to ask any questions, contact:

Time Commitment for work in the field

Include an estimate of the number of hours required for the project. It is a good idea to be flexible with these hours, and their completion, as the learning occurs with the reflection on the experience, rather than hours committed. Here is a sample. KPU faculty can access these documents in an editable format on SharePoint. For external requests, please contact:

A minimum of three to four (3-4) hours per week over ten weeks for a total of thirty-five (35) hours over the term. This is equivalent to one week of full-time volunteer work. This includes your meetings with the community partner. Many of you will become quite involved in the organization and may choose to work more hours, as you see fit. Aim to manage your time accordingly. And, enter your hours in an Excel form.

Signed Agreement Form

All Service Learning at KPU involves a signed agreement form. To continue your service learning engagement sign the form that your instructor provides for you, in class.

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Evaluation Methods

The following are some examples of possible evaluation methods, or assignments, to evaluate experiential learning. If you have some to add, please contact:

  • Presentation on learning
  • Self-awareness tools and exercises (e.g. questionnaires about learning patterns, rubrics to evaluate the organization’s volunteer engagement)
  • Self-evaluation of a task performed, including creation of an assessment rubric to fill out
  • An oral examination or exit interview
  • Analysis of strengths and weaknesses
  • Learning portfolio
  • Adding new skills and relationships to LinkedIn profile
  • Management of an informed discussion
  • Account of how discipline (i.e. subject) applies to the workplace
  • A report on an event in the work situation (ethical issues)
  • Reflection on critical incidents

Checking in at the Start of the Course

Consider having students complete an intake survey, to help decide which projects might be most suitable. Additionally, you can consider having them complete a private pre-service learning reflection questionnaire on Projects and Goals.

The Learning Cycle

Let number of hours be a guidepost – hours alone aren’t necessarily an indication of achievement.

Some theoretical considerations are included under Resources. However, one of the most commonly cited works includes reference to the unpredictable and, at times, disorienting nature of experiential learning. This makes it hard for both the instructor and students, and flexibility should be encouraged. Students should be have the support to feel that it’s O.K. to fail when they are trying new tasks that might be out of their comfort zone.

  • Taylor’s Learning cycle:
    • Disorientation (unfamiliar or unanticipated challenge or experience)
    • Exploration (name source of discomfort, resolve the challenge, analyze discomfort)
    • Reorientation (synthesis of information)
    • Equilibrium (reach sense of comfort with new information or experience)


Have you considered the following?

Theory of Experiential Learning

For those who are interested in some of the theory behind experiential learning, please go to the Resources page.