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High Impact Practices Spotlight Series: Common Intellectual Experiences

By Tiffany MacLennan, Maple League Research Fellow and Strategist and Tanisha Campbell, Maple League Student Fellow, Knowledge Mobilization & Community Engagement

In today’s High Impact Practice Spotlight Series[1], we look at common intellectual experiences. Common intellectual experiences are an extension of a “core curriculum” where, traditionally, they move through a group of courses as a cohort. While core curriculums exist in almost all Maple League schools, core courses with required participation in activities such as community/service learning, group projects and, develops a learning community for all students are essential in making this educational activity high-impact. In this spotlight, we see examples of how music programs embed common intellectual experiences from day one, how development studies students learn and grow together, and how opportunities like “alternative spring break” benefit business students.

Dr. Linda Pearse – Mount Allison University

Creating a community of learning brings learners of all ages together in ways that connect an emphasis on innovation and collaboration with stretching the walls of the classroom. My role as Artistic Director of the Sackville Festival of Early Music allows me to turn live musical events into opportunities for multi-generational learning and co-curricular activity. Faculty across campus link curricular content with the activities of the music festival (e.g., a religious studies course was linked with a concert on sacred songs given by New York Polyphony – 2016). In my own Baroque Performance Practice class, visiting artists joined the class to engage in a wide-ranging conversation on music that we had been studying. The students attended the concert as part of the course and reflected critically on the ways in which the artists engaged with performance practice in their live offering.

Learning also extends beyond into the broader community. Student interns prepare educational materials that high school teachers implement in their classrooms prior to outreach performances. In 2020, we created 8 free-of-charge asynchronous modules for high schools in the Maritimes in collaboration with Quèbec ensemble l’Harmonie de Saisons. In non-pandemic times, visiting ensembles perform outreach concerts for area schools and the local nursing home. Bringing the learning full circle, students work with visiting musicians in master classes, and participate in interdisciplinary panels that bring artists, community, students and faculty together.

Dr. Jonathan Landgon – St. Francis Xavier University

The Development Studies Program at St. Francis Xavier University uses an innovative scaffolded approach to layer service learning and experiential learning over the course of a student’s degree. Individual courses at 1st, 2ndand 3rd year contain a variety of direct service learning opportunities, as well as project based service and experiential learning possibilities, and our 4thyear is framed by an 2 to 3 month internship with a change making group or organization whose learnings are unpacked in a seminar course that follows the internship. While each of these experiences is individually relevant and impactful, it is their intentional scaffolding that allows the learning from each to build on that which was learned before. In this sense, DEVS@X provides students the opportunity to graduate with 4 years of layered experiential learning and community engagement, both in Canada and elsewhere in the world, under their belt.

Prof. Mark Adam – Acadia University

Many traditional courses in the School of Music are historically rooted in many troubling traditions and we are beginning to address the deep inequity in representation and voices that exist in our discipline. In my own approach to assessing how I need to change I have started with the question “who is not in my music spaces?”. My entry point, as it were, to who I am not connecting with. My students are always being asked to find the questions, not the answers to the work they do and to lean into the uncomfortable spaces because it is in those spaces they will find the next level of themselves as engaged, reflective musicians and people.

Our new fourth year course, Musicians in Contemporary Communities directly addresses “ways of knowing”. How we as musicians must completely reassess how we enter communities and determine what “is”. To be positive facilitators of culture and art we examine new ways of observing musics and people in communities so we may create safe spaces for discovery and expression for all in the communities we live in.

Charlene Marion – Bishop’s University

I am a facilitator of student experiences at Bishop’s and have enjoyed seeing our students reap the benefits of high impact educational practices. They have worked on applied research projects with real organizations and have participated in Alternative Spring Break, whereby they work with a community organization to solve a current challenge. Our students have also visited companies to learn about their best practices and learn from business professionals. As such, our students are developing specific industry knowledge, while building their general competencies in teamwork, communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and global fluency. Finally, over 3-4 years, all business students complete 42 credits of common core classes to ensure a strong understanding of business fundamentals and common learning experiences for which the rest of their degree is built on.

[1] The HIP Visibility Project is a part of a larger HIP project conducted by Research Fellow and Strategist Tiffany MacLennan. The goal of the HIP project is to make HIPs more accessible for both faculty and students. For more information about the HIP project or if you would like to participate, please contact Tiffany at

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