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Beyond Coursework and Practicum

November 29, 2013 — 

Phil Cook, Undergraduate Research Award Recipient, and Dr. Michelle Honeyford Find Ways to Offer Effective Service Learning Opportunities

There are a lot of great things happening in the Education Building and
I think it’s important that we put ourselves out there when opportunities arise.
– Phil Cook, B.A. ‘08, Bachelor of Education, Senior Years

Putting “passions into practice” can bridge the gap between academia and reality when preparing teacher candidates to become teachers – at least this is what the literature points to. Literature on service learning in teacher education programs that teacher candidate, Phil Cook and teacher educator, Dr. Michelle Honeyford pored over during summer 2013; a collaboration that was made possible by the new University of Manitoba Undergraduate Research Award (URA).

In 2014, seven URAs will be available to Bachelor of Education students. The awards help to fund the research and your time. It’s a great opportunity to get paid to learn more about the field of education and to discover what it’s like to do educational research.

Phil first applied for the URA following a transformative first year, first term experience in Honeyford’s Teaching English Language Arts in the Senior Years. During the course, Phil and a handful of other students participated in an “alternative pedagogy project” at the Peaceful Village where they volunteered in an adult literacy program.

For Phil, the Peaceful Village experience and Honeyford’s ongoing research projects in the area of Participatory Learning & Teacher Education in Afterschool Spaces, helped him to identify her as a researcher he would like to work with. In addition, he wanted to help her build on a pilot study she had conducted on CanU in 2013. CanU is an after-school program, which serves disadvantaged youth in Winnipeg at the University of Manitoba and provides university students with service learning opportunities.

The URA requires its applicants to approach faculty members, acquire their support, and complete an application for submission. Having “crossed his t’s”, Phil received the award and began working with Honeyford. Together they identified, read, and analyzed 57 studies that met the criteria for a systematic and comprehensive literature review of service learning in teacher education.

Honeyford explains, “What we found was that there is a wide range of service learning in teacher education programs today. We organized these programs and practices into three models, which we then analyzed in terms of their benefits, challenges, and design.” These findings led to a new chapter in CanU, called CanU Academy.

CanU Academy goes beyond the classroom and practicum context for students. It allows pre-service teachers to: take ownership of their experience; take risks and put theory into practice; engage in critical reflection; and offer opportunities for teacher candidates to come together with their peers and regularly share their successes, challenges and experiences, and provide support for one another. Through their study, they discovered that providing this level of creative freedom and collaboration was necessary for creating an effective service-learning program. CanU Academy will be offered in January 2014 and will be organized and implemented entirely by B.Ed. students.

Since completing their research together, Phil Cook has entered into his final year in the Faculty of Education, where he continues to participate in service learning projects and share the knowledge he gained over the summer. He has made multiple presentations to his peers in the Faculty, and more recently, to the broader University of Manitoba community through the Undergraduate Student Research Poster Competition. At the University level he received first place in the Creative Works category and saw genuine interest in his and Honeyford’s research.

For Honeyford, working with Phil over the summer was a highly rewarding professional experience. She explains, “The 16 weeks of the Summer Undergraduate Research Award offered a rare luxury in a program organized around 9-week courses and 6-week practicum blocks: the affordance of time. Each week, we spent a considerable amount of time engaged in dialogue about the research, the methods of doing research, and the implications of our study. But our conversations and collaborative research also opened a space for genuine inquiry, for asking critical questions related to teaching, the future of education, and to look for examples of the kinds of transformative experiences we hope CanU becomes for all who participate this year. In reciprocal ways, we pushed each other’s thinking, and I think we are both changed as a result.”

Applications for the 2014 URA are available online.
For more information visit

Phil Cook received first place in the Creative Works category in the Undergraduate Student Research Poster Competition for this poster.

Phil Cook received first place in the Creative Works category in the Undergraduate Student Research Poster Competition for this poster.

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