Teaching Experiential Learning to Teachers

Not surprisingly, the most effective method of training instructors to use experiential learning in the classroom is experientially. Warren presents a model for teaching experiential education that is project-based and student-directed.

In Warren’s model, the experiential component of a course in experiential education theory is “the students’ active creation of the class itself. Students determine the syllabus, prioritize topic areas, regulate class members’ commitment, facilitate actual class sessions, undertake individual or group-inspired projects, and engage in ongoing evaluation” (Warren, 1995, p. 250).

In this model, the students (and future experiential educators) are given the opportunity to facilitate every aspect of the class, providing them the necessary skills to run their own experiential classrooms. The model includes:

  1. Group work, providing students with direct experience of group dynamics and the management of group work.
  2. Group, class, and/or individual projects that “support an in-depth look at a particular aspect of experiential education theory.” The class can decide whether the project will be collective or not, adding another opportunity for group decision-making.
  3. Constant reassessments as the class learn from their experience. The students rework the components of the class, refining the syllabus, and resetting the ground rules. “Collectively, [the class] determined what, specifically, being prepared for the class meant, agree they wanted to start and end class on time, and verbally announced to their peers what their level of commitment was.”
  4. Student Co-Teacher from a previous class to assist with the course. “Having participated in the struggles of self-direction firsthand in the previous year, the student co-teacher brings an invaluable voice of experience to the new group.” This student co-teacher brings perspective, credibility, and is “yet another way to redistribute power” from instructor to learner.
  5. Evaluation in this model takes three forms.
    1. Facilitation feedback where students are “critiqued on how they ran a particular class… It allows class members immediate access to ideas on how to structure future teaching attempts.”
    2. Mid-course assessment helps keep learning on track, even when a mid-semester slump or class conflicts may have brought about feelings of disengagement or lethargy. This assessment is directed by the instructor and is meant to “gauge satisfaction and frustrations with the class… Because we do the repair work at mid-semester instead of waiting until the end, students feel as if they have the power to change their immediate educational experience.”
    3. Peer evaluation in which class members reflect on the growth and learning of their peers and write constructive evaluations of their classmates (Warren, 1995, p. 256).
Extract from :
Prepared by Michelle Schwartz, Research Associate, for the Vice Provost, Academic, Ryerson University, 2012 http://www.ryerson.ca/lt 
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