What is Experiential Learning
Experiential learning, at its most basic, is the process of learning through direct experience.
Through experiential learning, students develop knowledge, skills and values from direct experiences outside a traditional classroom setting. Experiential learning encompasses a variety of activities that include co-ops/internships, service learning, undergraduate research, study abroad, field experience, student teaching and other opportunities.
Well-planned, supervised and assessed experiential learning programs can build upon a student’s college experience by promoting interdisciplinary learning, civic engagement, career development, cultural awareness, leadership and other professional and intellectual skills.
According to David A. Kolb, an American educational theorist, knowledge is continuously gained through both personal and environmental experiences. In order to gain genuine knowledge from an experience, Kolb says, particular abilities are required:
- The learner must be willing to be actively involved in the experience;
- The learner must be able to reflect on the experience;
- The learner must possess and use analytical skills to conceptualize the experience; and
- The learner must possess decision-making and problem-solving skills in order to use the new ideas gained from the experience.
Here are some examples of experiential learning offered at The University of Toledo:
An internship is meant to be an exposure to a new career field where you will learn new skills. Features include:
Part-time or full-time
Paid or non-paid
Part-time in Fall or Spring/Full-time or part-time in Summer
May be for academic credit
Internships are usually limited to one area of responsibility (marketing, human resources, IT, etc.)
Gives a student an inside look into a company
Undergraduate students (rising juniors/seniors) are internship-eligible in most cases. As interns, students may work as part of a team, providing value to the overall organization as they’re included in the creative process. Some interns may even be mentored by executives and have the opportunity to present to a group oftheir peers or senior-level individuals on the outcomes of their special projects. Today’s employers are savvy about seeking job applicants with prior internship experience.
- Always full-time
- Always a paid experience
- Full-time position in Fall, Spring and/or Summer (may occur on an extended or alternating basis)
- Not for academic credit
- Co-ops are a joint venture between the University, a selected employer and the UT student
- Traditionally, co-ops result in a 5-year degree program. Although this may extend the time necessary to graduate, students will have gained valuable experience.
- Some co-ops are rotational, offering opportunities across functions
- Graduate students are eligible in most cases for co-ops
- Students frequently start at higher salaries and higher levels of responsibility than do interns
A field experience is a project-based experience where students apply what they have already learned to a specific project.
NOTE: Not all employers define these terms separately. Some may see an internship, co-op or field experience as interchangeable.
Research is the pursuit of new knowledge, or creative activity in an academic discipline with the goal of advancing that area’s boundaries. An integral component of all disciplines, research includes peer review and dissemination of the knowledge gained.
Research brings to life what is in the textbooks, allowing students to take on projects that can place them at the center of new discoveries. Student-researcherswork closely with professionals, usually from their chosen career fields.
Research encourages follow-through, and sharpens the deductive reasoning and communication (written and/or verbal) skills so many employers want. (Plus, research is fun!)
Education Abroad provides information, resources and guidance to students planning to study abroad. Activities range from short-term summer or faculty-led study programs to semester- or year-long (exchange) programs in a host of countries. UT is a key-member institution of the University Studies Abroad Consortium, allowing UT to place students in more than twenty study abroad programs around the world.
Service Learning projects/programs often bring together students, faculty and other campus partners to work in the community in a mutually rewarding partnership. Service learning is composed of three critical components: information, meaningful service and reflection. Service learning enriches the educational experience of students and promotes responsive citizenship; it cultivates and facilitates avenues for engaged faculty scholarship through specially-designed courses and community-based research; and it promotes a culture of civic engagement that improves the human condition and quality of life in the community.
Clinical rotations are an essential part of medical education, a period in which a medical student in the clinical part of his/her education passes through various “working” services in blocks of one to four months.
The Legal Clinic is a one semester, 4-credit-hour course in which student interns provide direct legal representation, under the supervision of clinical faculty, to clients within the community who cannot afford to hire private legal counsel. The Legal Clinic combines a structured classroom curriculum with individualized instruction and collaborative learning opportunities to prepare interns to competently represent their clients, grapple with complex ethical issues, critically examine the law and the legal profession, and advance the social justice mission of the UT College of Law.
Student teaching is a college-supervised instructional experience. It’s usually the culminating course in a college undergraduate education or graduate school program, leading to teacher education and certification.