Community Impact Project: KNES 311

Student Choice in Assessment

“Anything that students in our faculty end up striving to do after undergrad connects to leadership” – Dr. Cari Din

Background

Dr. Cari Din is a dedicated and passionate instructor in the Faculty of Kinesiology. She loves using her Foundations of Leadership course (KNES 311) to help empower her students to embody leadership in their field. Her students are upper-year kinesiology students, with many coming from the Pedagogy and Coaching major.

The course does not just teach theories of high-quality leadership, it provides students an opportunity to apply them. One of the largest assessments is a Community Impact Project. It is short term, lasting about six weeks in total, and is a challenge for students. Their project is to bring the leadership theory to life.

Project

Students are put into groups of five and are tasked with positively impacting a community of their choice. At the end of the six-week project period, they have to do a presentation about their experience and how they applied the leadership theory discussed in class. The project is open-ended by nature, meaning students have a lot of choice over what they can do. Because of the time constraint, students find it easiest to choose a community that one or more of the group members is already involved in. For many groups, this is an on-campus community, while for others, it is an athletic or volunteer community. This teaches students the importance of creating and using personal relationships in leadership.

The teamwork aspect of the project is important too. Dr. Din says that leadership development is never an individual process. By being able to support and advise one another, students build and grow their skills together, and learn from the strengths of their group members. Students don’t have class time to work on the project, so as a team, they have to work on managing their time and staying on track. Dr. Din says she expects a lot from her students, because leadership is not an easy process. She wants their learning experience to be challenging, so that they can get the most out of it.

Other members of the Faculty of Kinesiology are invited to watch the student presentations at the end of the project. There is a clear rubric for how students are graded, that combines application of leadership theory, presentation skills, and peer feedback. The grades that students earn are secondary to the experiences they have over the duration of the project. They positively influence their chosen communities in ways Dr. Din could never imagine. For example, one group consisted of several varsity athletes and they chose to use their love of sports in their project. They created an outreach program where University of Calgary athletes mentor high school athletes. Its first iteration was so successful that it continues to run to this day.

Outcomes

The Community Impact Project is an authentic learning experience for students. They are not just learning about what leadership is, they are becoming community leaders. While everyone in the class has different career aspirations, from coaches to nutritionists to physical therapists, they will all need to be leaders in their own way. This is a unique experience for students, since they have so much control over their learning and their skill development. Some say this project changed their life. Dr. Din’s expectations are high for her students, but she says that with the right support, students always exceed them.

Dr. Din keeps her love of kinesiology at the heart of her teaching. Her advice for other instructors is to do the same. She tells others to remember why they are passionate about their field and what motivates them, and to share that with the students. She believes this is what makes learning meaningful for students.

If you are interested in seeing the rubrics or project description, you can contact Dr. Din here

-Ashley Weleschuk