What is experiential learning?
Experiential learning is learning by doing, and then reflecting on the experience to make the future better. It’s a cycle of preflection, action, and reflection. Ohio University has defined it this way:
Experiential learning is an approach to education that emphasizes engaged student learning through direct experience and reflection to increase knowledge, develop skills, and elucidate values. Experiential learning activities are intentionally designed to develop students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes through experience related to a field. Experiential learning may occur in curricular and co-curricular settings.
Although experiences may vary, experiential learning typically involves:
Engagement. Student involvement in the activity is sustained and/or intensive. The experience requires a substantial investment of time and attention to foster deep learning.
Mentorship. Student receives regular, meaningful feedback about student work from activity director or supervisor. Feedback supports student reflection and integration of learning through the activity and goal-setting for future learning.
Challenge. Student engages in activity that pushes own boundaries beyond the familiar or explores unknown territory for the purpose of developing knowledge and skills.
Ownership: Student exercises independent judgment in defining and/or executing the activity. Student takes ownership of the process and outcomes.
Self or Social Awareness. Student reflects on the activity by articulating personal, civic/social, and/or academic learning. Student identifies and articulates knowledge, values, and attitudes developed through the activity.
Contexts for experiential learning may include (but are not limited to) internships, apprenticeships, clinical experience, fellowships, cooperatives, field work, practicums, community engagement (service-learning, community-based research, volunteering), interactive simulations, role-playing, performance, professional internship/student teaching, study abroad/cultural immersion, research (basic, applied, lab, industry, community), live case studies, job training, place-based education, and student organization leadership.