Today’s students need 21st century skills and mindsets, both of which are fostered by experiential learning. At Champlain, we define experiential learning (XL) as a pedagogical approach where knowledge is produced through direct experience that is framed by ideas and followed by reflection, analysis, and synthesis.
“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”John Dewey
John Dewey, the internationally-renowned father of experiential learning, was born on land that is now Champlain College. It’s a powerful legacy that points us toward the future. Dewey defined intelligence as having three parts: converting “past experience into knowledge,” projecting knowledge in ways that anticipate future outcomes, and acting to achieve our desired ends. But how do we convert experience into knowledge?
Most XL practitioners agree that hands-on learning experiences must be designed carefully, must take into account the developmental needs of students, and must be followed by sustained reflection on what has occurred. Reflection and analysis help make meaning of experiences, and are precursors to synthesis — in which we develop further plans based on what the past has taught us.
The experiential learning practiced on Champlain’s campus is often collaborative, project-based, place-based, and/or problem-based. XL is an exciting mode of pedagogy because it immerses students in the world where ideas inform practice and vice versa. Most importantly, perhaps, students come to see themselves as active creators of knowledge.
- Champlain College: Experiential and Interdisciplinary Learning Definitions
- Project XL (Champlain class project showcase)
- Maker’s Mind: Interdisciplinarity, Epistemology, and Collaborative Pedagogy by Kristin Novotny
- Instructional Strategies: Experiential Learning (UT-Austin)
- Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle: the stages of exploring an experience
- The ECHO Model of Experiential Learning
- Hunt Heroes and Heroines Connect with Champlain College (video XL example)