AssessmentHousing & Residence Life

Your Neighbour: Assessment

This piece was co-authored by Troy Murray.

Your Neighbour was a different learning experience. We got to learn about the importance of Ryerson’s values and the fact that they’re essential in any community. It’s one thing to learn about values through theory, but going out, meeting different people and seeing the positive influence you can have on the community and what they can have on you is a great way to round off our August Training program and learn the true meaning of these values and what this means for community.
— Mohamed El Abshihy, Residence Advisor, ILLC

On August 27th, 2015, Ryerson Housing & Residence Life student leaders participated in a day-long learning experience called Your Neighbour focused on Ryerson’s values from the university’s Academic Plan.

Our primary goal for this initiative was for it to be an exchange with partnering community organizations who also embraced the same values. Our hope was that all participants—including the student leaders and partnering organizations—would understand how we are all connected through the city of Toronto and these values are a lens that we all share to support communities we work with. Our students would learn about important resources working to support the community external to Ryerson, and the organizations would learn about Ryerson students and what they represent as community members. It was a chance to finally connect the dots. In order to do this, intentional curriculum was developed through the following learning outcomes, which were also used to provide framework and assess this learning experience:

By participating in Your Neighbour, student leaders from Housing & Residence Life will be able to…

  • explore and critically examine how their intersecting identities (i.e.: student, community member of residence/Ryerson/Toronto, first-generation learner, gender/sex, etc.) are impacted by Ryerson’s values through personal and group reflection activities. (ANALYSIS*)
  • demonstrate and describe how Ryerson is building a culture of community engagement and philanthropy through group discussions with the partner organization. (COMPREHENSION*)
  • apply one value connected to the academic plan by integrating Ryerson’s definition of this value to their own experience from their off-campus visit through a culminating group presentation. (APPLICATION*)    
  • manage an on-going community resource list, by area team, that includes existing community resources on-campus (i.e.: Tri-Mentoring program and Ambassador program) and organizations off-campus (not limited to those spaces visited) to refer to students interested or in-need of support, or through a support and action plan. (SYNTHESIS*)

*NOTE: Learning Outcomes were guided by Bloom’s Taxonomy.                  

Groups were divided early in the summer, allowing participants to express their own interest in learning more about each specific value. The groups were also intentionally divided to mix leadership positions and experience to invite cross-positional learning opportunities. This was advantageous to look at from an assessment standpoint, as each student-leader’s position has a different connection to each of the values described in the academic plan; therefore, cross-positional learning opportunities allows for each person and position to provide new and different context for their own and their group’s development. This also directly connected to our first learning outcome, focused on analysis.

From the initial introduction session, groups set-off on their own and were provided:

  • A Starting Point: packages with maps, transit passess, and itenerary allowing students to take the quick route to their destination, allowing space for autonomy in this day-long experience that is largely self-directed.
  • Foundation: a booklet frameworking the learning experience on a deeper level, describing the values in the academic plan and Ryerson’s commitment to philanthropy and community engagement.
  • Tools: pre- and post- reflection activities in envelopes letting participants know when to open the envelope and discuss, such as reasoning models like “Head, Heart, & Feet” (what are you thinking, what do you know, and what will you do?) This approach invited a heuristic learning experience, allowing participants to discover and learn for themselves. This resulted in participants defining these values in their own way, before and after the visit to the organization, using their experiences to bring meaning to this definition.

After arriving back from the nearly 4 hour visit, participants had time to process and reflect on this experience as a group and individually, using the tools described above. Specific post reflection questions were developed using Bloom’s Taxonomy through framework of Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, integrating the framework of Ryerson’s definition and the personal definition of the value prior to the visit to the organization.

As students arrived back from their experience, tables were set up with art supplies and a tile with the name of the value and the organization they visited. The instructions were to, as a group, answer the following questions and express their response using the supplies provided, along with any other materials collected on that day. Whether you were drawing, painting, or pasting on the card with the assigned value, each group had to use these items to express their collective answer to the following questions:

  • What does this value mean to you, and why is it important?   
  • How does this value connect to residence, your experience, and Ryerson?

Each group presented their art piece which critically examined their overall experience of the day. It was interesting to hear more about the specific values and how this connected to them individually, as a group, and most importantly, to Ryerson and Toronto. Anecdotally, what was most interesting is that the definition for each group did not differ greatly from Ryerson’s definition of the value; however, the integration of new knowledge came from the experience at the organization. The theme was that this non-Ryerson group is working to do the same thing in a different way: build community. From what the groups described, this was the same thing the leaders from the organizations learned about our Ryerson student leaders, too.

There is importance to know this information from each stakeholder in our Toronto community to better support and refer our populations. As you will see in the examples of the artwork below, some groups painted using colours that were the same as the walls of their organization, other groups pasted words and objects from materials belonging to the organization that were collected that day, and one group even used these visuals to create a scrapbook of the day.

Community. Access.Respect for Aboriginal Perspectives. Diversity.Inclusion. Equity.

With formal assessment distributed through a survey, we were able to capture our students’ experience connected to the Learning Outcomes. This was expressed through their:

  • understanding of the specific learning outcomes connected to Your Neighbour;
  • comprehension of the specific Ryerson value that integrates the meaning made from the university’s, organization’s, and the participant’s experience;
  • analysis of how their intersecting identities are impacted by Ryerson’s values;
  • satisfaction of the entire Your Neighbour experience—from the intentional design of curriculum, individual, group, and plenary learning experiences through reflection and active learning experiences, all the way to the food and length of the day.

Out of 62 student leader participants, 31 participated in the formal assessment that was distributed one week after Your Neighbour, allowing them to reflect on their experience and connect to their ideas. Formal assessment was conducted through a 5-point scale: very much agree, agree, neutral, disagree, very much disagree.

Through this assessment, Your Neighbour provided participants significant understanding of these values and how they are defined by Ryerson and the partnering organization the student leaders worked with:

I feel like my understanding of the specific value assigned to me is clearer as a result of Your Neighbour.
Very Much Agree: 71% | Agree: 29%

I want to have another shared experience with a community organization with first-year students I engage with in my role/position with H&RL.
Very Much Agree: 71% | Agree: 14.5% | Neutral: 14.5%

I feel like I was able to explore and critically examine how my intersecting roles as a student leader, and member of the Ryerson / Residence/ Toronto communities, are impacted by Ryerson’s values through personal and group reflection.
Very Much Agree: 85.5% | Agree: 14.5%

BEFORE Your Neighbour, I felt like Ryerson is building a culture of community engagement and philanthropy.
Agree: 64.5% | Neutral: 29% | Disagree: 6.5%

AFTER Your Neighbour, I felt like Ryerson is building a culture of community engagement and philanthropy.
Very Much Agree: 71% | Agree: 22.5% | Neutral: 6.5%

Some critical feedback of the program, gathered informally through these presentations and formally in the assessment, confirmed the day was long! Something to consider in the future is when to deliver this in our training program (i.e.: beginning vs end of training) and length of time (experience over two days vs one). Further, while we interviewed many stakeholders from almost all of the organizations, there is also value sending the formal assessment to these leaders, as well.

The image below represents Your Neighbour when all participants were asked to “use one word to describe the meaning of their experience, integrating the introduction session, time with the partnering organization, the pre- and post- reflection and the assessment presentations.” The size of the word represents how many times that specific word was used; therefore, the larger the word, the more often it was used:

Community Worlde

This experience continues to echo in our residence halls. We have referred to it beyond our training program, heard even more about it from our student leaders, and some student leaders have begun to develop their own experiences off campus to share with their communities. Our hope, and the next phase in the winter, is that Your Neighbour evolves into smaller community projects in and outside of residence that will further all of our students’ out of classroom experience and influence a culture of philanthropy with the understanding of our values—that we are members of the residence, Ryerson, and Toronto communities.

The next incarnation of Your Neighbour, however, will include all of our LLC students participating in an experience similar to the August 2015 program with the Residence Life Team, that begins their year off integrating into the new communities they are a part of in residence, at Ryerson,  and in Toronto, before all of our students move into residence August 28, 2016.

If you have any further questions about our Your Neighbour program, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Brandon Smith, Coordinator, Residence Life & Education (brandonrsmith@ryerson.ca)
Troy Murray, Sponsorship & Fundraising Officer, Student Affairs (troy.murray@ryerson.ca)

  • John Austin

    With the university’s values and academic plan priorities at the core of design, Your Neighbour is exactly the type of evolved programming we should be offering in #RyersonSA. We have imperatives for student engagement, learning, and success, and this program hits all those buckets. Plus, feedback has been strong so we know students enjoyed the day. Impact of this program will grow with its scope, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Thank you!

  • John Austin

    And responses are in – the Provost LOVES Your Neighbour!! Perfect example of how to animate the university’s academic plan (http://www.ryerson.ca/provost/planning/) in our programming. Nice job, Brandon & Troy!