The Nature of the Space: Walls to Bridges as Transformative Learning
Community-based learning initiatives have the potential to have a meaningful impact on participants. When integrated into an academic setting, such experiential learning opportunities can initiate transformative learning within students and the broader community. Through a self-reflexive approach, this essay describes one such first-hand experience from a Walls to Bridges class, offered through Wilfrid Laurier University and facilitated in a Canadian Federal Prison. The learning model utilized within this class has the capacity to deeply engage students in ways where traditional classroom methodology falls short. Institutionalized education can learn a great deal from this model, which values diversity and community building, and which centralizes voices that are often absent or marginalized in academic settings. This essay examines the nature of a Walls to Bridges class as it compares to traditional educational experiences. The essay explores current, dominant educational paradigms that are influenced by capitalistic values and can perpetuate power imbalances and systemic barriers, while also highlighting alternatives to traditional education models. Teaching methodologies, such as collaborative rather than competitive learning, circle pedagogy, the creation of a safe classroom space, power redistribution, and creative means of critical classroom discussions, are celebrated as opportunities for deep learning.
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