Volume 17, Issue 2
Editorial: Experiential Education
The notion of experiential education, or learning by doing, has a long history. Experiential education is a philosophy of education that focuses on the collaborative process between teacher and student involved in direct experience with the learning environment and content. Experiential education is structured in a way that allows the learner to explore the phenomenon under study, that is, to form a direct relationship with the subject matter, rather than merely reading about the phenomenon or encountering it indirectly. Emphasis is placed on the nature of participants’ subjective experiences. An experiential educator’s role is to organize and facilitate direct experiences of phenomenon under the assumption that this will lead to genuine, meaningful and long-lasting, learning. Experiential educators operate under the assumption that educational goals can be effectively met by allowing the character of the learner’s educational experience to influence the educational process. Knowledge becomes active, transacted within life or life-like situations. Students become knowledge creators not merely knowledge gatherers while teachers become active learners, experimenting with their students, reflecting upon learning activities, and responding to students’ reactions.
With this issue of the Academic Exchange Quarterly, different areas of experiential education are explored. We received a large number of excellent articles examining experiential education in a variety of settings and disciplines that explore how to make the experience of learning richer for both students and instructors. For example, Jones and Warrner examined how a well-planned internship enables the student to transform classroom theory into practical application in an actual work setting with a potential future employer.
Brazee analyzed student reflections and instructor observations from three action learning projects, a form of experiential education, and found a set of student learning insecurities emerged. Dr. Brazee’s paper describes these learning insecurities and offers practical solutions for helping students navigate the ambiguity of these real-world challenges.
Rohlinger and Stamm make use of the benefits of simulation gaming in order to provide students, regardless of the preferred method of learning, an opportunity to experience social movements in action.
McDonald employed hypothetical scenario enactments, including role-playing, simulations, and critical dialogue to experientially explore educational issues and challenges. They found that enactments, through mock situations that provide a sheltered learning environment, generate situated cognition for tracking tough pedagogical challenges pre-service teachers may face once in the field.
Hammond reports on an optional service-learning component of a lower-level lifespan developmental psychology course. Participating and non-participating students received the same course content and complete the same assignments. It was found, as with previous findings, that performance on these measures shows very modest positive academic effects of participation in service-learning.
Sydnor, She-Mei Sass, Adeola, and Snuggs describe a multi-disciplinary international alternative break course involving a team-teaching concept. The author’s team taught an alternative break course that incorporated service learning in which students worked with non-profit organizations in Colombia. This unique opportunity was supported by a team-teaching method where professors of three different disciplines provided guidance and structure to multi-disciplinary students.
Each one of these articles adds to the field of experiential education and I would like to commend the authors on the diversity of their subject matter.
Lawrence Preiser, Ph.D.
The City University of New York – York College
Department of Behavioral Sciences – Psychology