experiential education - hiking in the mountains December 7, 2017

What Is Experiential Education?

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For many years, I have tried to explain what experiential education (EE) is to my colleagues. In the process, I often found myself bogged down in the technical jargon of my discipline (outdoor and adventure education) as well as the writings of thinkers such as John Dewey. I’m writing here to clarify my own understanding of EE and to present a simple model that can be understood regardless of academic discipline. In doing so, I am hesitant to even use the phrase EE because I believe it represents sound educational pedagogy no matter what it’s called.

From my understanding and experience, at the heart of EE are three key elements: content, experience, and reflection. Central to effective EE is establishing a clear and relevant relationship between these three elements in our teaching practice; ideally, content, experience, and reflection are seamlessly intertwined. I imagine three overlapping circles with EE in that space where they overlap.

The traditional lecture course is an example of content-focused practice. A teacher delivers the content, and it is up to students to experience or reflect on it. I think it is fair to say that the shortcomings of content-only practices are well understood and that most teachers are trying to distance themselves from relying solely on this tradition.

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October 21, 2013

Motivating Students with Teaching Techniques that Establish Relevance, Promote Autonomy

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Underachievement in college students is linked to lack of motivation (Balduf, 2009 and references therein). Two major factors that contribute to poor motivation are inability of students to see the relevance of classroom activities to their chosen careers (Glynn et al., 2009) and lack of a sense of autonomy (Reeve and Jang, 2006; Reeve, 2009).


November 9, 2012

Reap the Benefits of Experiential Learning Without Leaving the Classroom

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Experiential learning is widely recognized as a high-impact educational practice that occurs outside the classroom through experiences such as internships, study abroad, and service-learning. However, experiential learning works very well inside the classroom as well. In fact, there are a number of reasons why faculty may want to facilitate an experiential learning component in class rather than outside of class.


August 7, 2012

Making the Most of Fieldwork Learning Experiences

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Fieldwork refers to any component of the curriculum that involves leaving the classroom and learning through firsthand experience. Most instructors incorporate fieldwork to help students understand theory, develop skills, integrate knowledge, build tacit knowledge, develop meaning in places, and work with peers and instructors in alternate settings.




March 4, 2009

The ECHO Model of Experiential Learning

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As educators we hear and heed Peter McLaren’s warning, “You can’t teach people anything … You have to create a context in which they can analyze themselves and their social formations and lives.” 1 We believe the creation of this context must be our aim as educators, and this context must be balanced between theory and practice. In our pursuit to strike this balance, we believe that experiential education has the potential to assist our fellow educators in transforming their pedagogical practices to more deeply engage their students and improve learning outcomes.