Who Benefits Most From Experiential Learning

The first and foremost beneficiary of experiential learning is the student. Depending on the learner population, the benefits of experiential learning can increase. Learner groups that have been shown to benefit from experiential learning include:

• The mature learner who has been long removed from the traditional classroom and needs the motivation of contextual learning to get them back into the swing of academia.

• The learner who needs to personally experience the value of a subject in order to be motivated to learn.

• The learner who has trouble learning within the formal classroom, and needs an alternate learning method in order to succeed.

• Any learner who can benefit from having hands-on examples to bolster their traditional learning (Cantor, 1995, p. 80).

Research has also identified certain groups of students that have the most to gain from experiential learning. These groups include “minority students who traditionally have not participated in internships… and students aspiring to enter nontraditional professions and occupational areas” (Cantor, 1995, p. 89). This has often been the approach taken, for example, for encouraging the participation of women in STEM-related majors and careers (WISER, Case Western Reserve). Cantor stresses the importance of marketing experiential opportunities to these groups, “use newsletters, college fairs, posters, college radio stations, college newspapers, and whatever else exists to get the message out” (Cantor, 1995, p. 89).

From the point of view of the university, experiential learning can help institutions stay relevant to students by providing them with the necessary skills to transition into the workforce. Cantor also sees experiential learning as helping the university fulfill the need for “higher education to more closely interface with business to promote community economic development” (1995, p. 79). For institutions concerned with issues of inclusion, experiential learning can promote “the value of diversity… and bring together people of different social, ethnic, and economic classes,” preparing students for entry into the world at large (1995, p. 81).

Experiential learning can also be a boon to departments with few resources, and “the literature highlights the benefits of using experiential learning to embellish lean instructional and budgetary resources” or to “bolster your available resources” (Cantor, 1995, p. 84).

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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