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Learning doesn't take a holiday at U of T Scarborough

Summer break usually means packing away the books until September. Not at University of Toronto Scarborough, where an award-winning program uses the summer months to help students effectively transition to university studies.

The Summer Learning Institutes (SLI) are a response to a concern that many high school students weren’t adequately prepared for university. Originally started as a pilot project with 123 students three years ago, the Summer Learning Institutes have grown to more than 400 students who participate in programs that cover core university activities and courses: research, writing, presenting, English language development, math and science.

“The Summer Learning Institutes are a great way for students to jump into university academic life and have a soft landing. Our learning specialists have worked hard and collected input from previous Institute participants to make the programs meaningful, exciting and relevant to laying a solid foundation for academic work,” explains Professor Clare Hasenkampf, Interim Director of Teaching and Learning Services at U of T Scarborough.

Last year, the SLIs were awarded a $50,000 grant from the University’s Student Experience Fund to expand the program to provide more students with a head start in their studies. A Summer Learning Institute for science is being piloted this year. U of T Scarborough is the only U of T campus that provides such a comprehensive range of preparatory courses.

“When I came to U of T Scarborough, I could not speak and write well in English so I enrolled in the English Language Development SLI. I learned so many useful things—critical thinking, academic vocabulary, reading academic texts, oral presentation, and writing university assignments. Everything was done in a fun away. I enjoyed learning, got a good foundation and became confident,” says Ying Huang, a third-year Management student who receives good grades in her courses.

The programs promote self-directed learning and teach critical thinking skills, understanding of academic integrity and standards, and time management. Students get hands-on experience working on university assignments. Their work is marked and feedback provided.

Sarah King, Coordinator of the Writing Centre, an English Lecturer and an SLI instructor has seen how much participants benefit from the experience. “Students ‘taste’ university in the company of an expert guide. They learn background information, ask questions and analyze the experience. Doing this seriously enables them to understand and appreciate the whole experience much better, and to get a lot more out of it. It’s no surprise that many of the students who take the SLIs go on to leadership positions in student government, clubs and organizations.”

Last year, the Research, Writing and Presenting Summer Learning Institute won an innovation award from the Canadian Association of College and University Librarians (CACUL).

“The Summer Learning Institutes demonstrate U of T Scarborough’s commitment to students. We focus on helping incoming students develop the skills they need to achieve their academic goals,” added Prof. Hasenkampf. Besides getting a head start on university life, students develop confidence and make friends before classes start in September.

© University of Toronto Scarborough