Experiential Education can be viewed as ongoing or frequent opportunities for students to apply learning to desirable, relevant goals with expectation of achievable challenge throughout the course and/or in a culminating performance task. (based on Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2008). Put understanding first. Educational Leadership, 65(8), 36-41.)
Often referred to as active learning or student-centered learning, Experiential Education as a pedagogy of engagement may include community-based learning and participatory research, service-learning for civic engagement, technology-assisted learning, outdoor education, field experiences, internships, study abroad, and other engaging strategies that decentralize the instructor in the learning process and harness student strengths in cognition, affect and intuition through multiple sensory modalities for learning, such as:
*making, designing, creating, annotating, doodling, role-playing, using case studies, dramatic reading, scripting, debating, video simulation, creating avatars, musical accompaniment, singing, rhythm, classroom and out-of-classroom activities requiring getting up and moving around, employing apps and social media, using humor, narrating, lyricizing, gaming, imagining, contemplating, call and response, repeating aloud, imitating, using gustatory, olfactory, tactile, visual stimulation, experimenting, collaborating, competing, field work, interning, excursions, inviting guest speakers, virtual conferencing, improvising, constructing prototypes, modeling*
In this type of constructivist pedagogy, the instructor’s role is to: a) identify instructional goals and learning outcomes; b) link goals to students’ prior knowledge; c) set up optimal conditions for students to engage in experiences that help to attain those outcomes; d) facilitate student reflection upon the experiences in order to articulate what they learned. In theory, Experiential Learning is situative, contextual–drawing from Dewey, Kolb, Friere, Vygotsky, Lave, Wenger and others who view learning as social, contextualized, occurring through participation in community or through the affordances of one’s environment.
Experiential Learning allows the learner to engage in cognitive transfer more readily as new information gained through this type of pedagogy is more accessible in working memory. Experiential Education is quality teaching for student learning for all learners. As the preferred pedagogy of the Guttman model, it supports and intentionalizes differentiated instruction for students of varied abilities, varied pre-college preparation, and varied proficiency in English language usage. Experiential Learning can also be career-predictive for learners and, in some forms, increases the likelihood of future employment opportunities and active citizenship roles.
In terms of Guttman’s New York City-centric curriculum and institutional Civic Engagement Learning Outcome, Experiential Education includes teaching for civic learning, engagement and social responsibility. The experiential educator uses a variety of student-centered instructional approaches to promote this learning. Faculty who design experiences to draw students into “the commons” and help them to situate themselves there as learners and citizens employ specific evidence-based experiential practices to this end, as use of these practices has demonstrated the power to foster civic engagement.
Lavita McMath Turner, Assistant Dean for Equity, Inclusion and Experiential Learning