Experiential Educator Feature
What does experiential learning mean to you?
Experiential learning gives students a chance to apply the theories that they learn in their courses. It is the closest thing to a real world experience that we can provide them in an academic setting and truly prepares them for the challenges of the professional world.
Why is experiential learning a priority for you?
Students want a hands-on sense of what they are going to be doing in their career fields after graduation. Reading and listening to lectures alone can’t do that for them, and that is where experiential learning comes in.
How do your students benefit from experiential learning?
Again, it is the closest thing to the real world that we can create in an academic setting. It gets students working in teams, which is an important skill to have in any business environment. Even students who don’t enjoy the experience benefit from it, as it gives them an early sense that maybe another major would be better suited for them.
What advice do you have for faculty and institutions considering experiential learning?
It is absolutely worth the headaches involved. Years later when I speak to students I had as freshmen, it is one of the things they talk about most with respect to the course. From one educator to another, I would recommend trying something and learning from it, keep evolving and iterating until you land on a experiential learning model that works in your classroom. Good or bad, these are the experiences graduating students remember the most and find helpful in their future professional endeavors. Also, while some educators might disagree with the benefits of experiential education, I believe that students can only solve some of the problems of tomorrow by solving the problems of today. And in order to solve the problems of today, students must go into the real world and experiment through experience.
What skills do your students use when engaged in experiential learning?
Teamwork – really the whole range of interpersonal skills, visioning, planning, thinking through a process and potential pitfalls. A major part of the Food Cart project involves assuming a client-facing role and using strong negotiation skills, as students often communicate with local retailers to partner and even host their businesses within their shops.