Developing healthy habits takes more than research and critical analysis. It also requires activities and engagement outside the traditional classroom. CTLA10: Personal Health and Optimal Learning puts research into action with a combination of scholarly research and student activities at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre (TPASC).
Former UTSC Principal Bruce Kidd introduced a healthy campus initiative in 2016 following U of T’s participation in the National College Health Assessment Survey that indicated students were concerned about mental and physical health. This initiative included the creation of a course focused on student health and made use of TPASC.
Sheryl Stevenson, a Lecturer and Writing Specialist with the Centre for Teaching and Learning, worked with Cora McCloy from the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation as well as Laurie Wright, the Fitness Coordinator at TPASC, to develop CTLA10. Stevenson focuses on the academic side of the course while Wright organizes the practicals, which draw on many guest instructors. Now in its fourth term, the course has an “innovative focus on studying personal health issues through the reading of academic and scholarly articles,” Stevenson says.
Rather than a lecture-heavy course, Stevenson aims for more student interaction and discussion of the readings because the ultimate goal is “to get the students teaching each other.” It is not a prerequisite course in which students need certain knowledge to progress to the next level. “This is a class focusing on them, and I really want to see them improving their ability to think critically about the material,” Stevenson says.
Practicals take place each week at TPASC and often correspond to the readings for that week, whenever possible. The overarching goal is that students are working toward developing their health and learning plan. Stevenson believes that practicals are essential, noting the embodied learning theory, which states that people learn in a more meaningful way when they physically apply the concepts.
Mike Frogley, a former coach for Team Canada in the Paralympics, has made a significant impact on students with his practical on wheelchair basketball, where students play a game. Stevenson notes that Frogley is an inspiring and gifted speaker who speaks of changing the way people look at individuals with disabilities. “Instead of thinking about their disability, you might wonder what that person could do,” Stevenson says.
Throughout the term, there are two assignments and a final in-class essay. For one assignment, students can either write a research paper or do a group oral presentation. Students enjoy having the option, and those who selected the latter find creative ways to present their findings. For example, one group looked at research on sleep and presented in their pajamas. Student papers and presentations are then posted and available to the class via Quercus. Stevenson says that this is especially helpful when students are finalizing their thoughts for the final essay because “it makes it sort of like they’re collectively drawing together and contributing to each other’s understanding.”
Feedback has played a large role the course’s continued development. At first, students seemed to view it more as a gym class rather than an academic skills course. However, Stevenson worked to clarify its message, and subsequent feedback indicates a better understanding of the course goals. Many students have mentioned “how important it is to be able to focus on something where they’re doing that experiential learning for themselves,” which is the case through mandatory practicals.
Unlike most other courses, CTLA10 allows for direct student engagement by not only learning the material in class but also applying it at TPASC. Students can incorporate what they have learned from their readings and in lecture to their own personal fitness goals and develop healthy lifelong habits.
Find out more about the course below.
By Elizabeth Chan
Photo from https://www.infrastructureontario.ca/Pan-Am-Aquatics-Centre-Field-House-CSIO/