Scholarship on the origin of experiential learning, examples and best practices of experiential learning, and evidence of the benefits of using experiential learning to support students’ real-world problem solving skills informed the development of UA’s Learning in Action Quality Enhancement Plan.
The experiential learning best practices that support The University of Alabama’s QEP draw on multiple sources; these include David A. Kolb’s (1984) four-stage model of experiential learning, and principles recognized by both the National Society for Experiential Education and the Association for Experiential Education.
Though there is no universally accepted definition of experiential learning, scholars have proposed a variety of definitions with several common elements. Wurdinger (2005) states, “Experiential learning is a reactive process in which learning occurs by reflecting on previous experiences” (p. 8). Clements (1995) defines it as “immersing students in an activity (ideally, closely related to course material) and then asking for their reflection on the experience” (p. 116). Stevens and Richards (1992) describe it as a process wherein students are engaged in an experience with real consequences, rather than learning about others’ experiences, and they reflect on their experiences to develop “new skills, new attitudes, and new theories or ways of thinking” (p. 2).
The Association for Experiential Education acknowledges the complexity and connecting points within experience-based approaches to education by defining experiential education as:
“challenge and experience, followed by reflection, leading to learning and growth” (www.aee.org/what-is-ee).
Clements, A. D. (1995). Experiential-learning activities in undergraduate developmental psychology. Teaching of Psychology, 22, 115-118.
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
National Society for Experiential Education. (2013). Eight principles of good practice for all experiential learning activities. Retrieved from http://www.nsee.org/8-principles
Roberts, J.W. (2015). Experiential education in the college context: What it is, how it works, and why it matters. New York: Routledge.
Stevens, P. W., & Richards, A. (1992). Changing schools through experiential education. ERIC Digest, ED 345929. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.
Wurdinger, S. D. (2005). Using experiential learning in the classroom: Practical ideas for all educators. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow.