Experiential Learning

Experiential Learning and Teaching is a foundation of the Justice Brandeis Semester program. Experiential Learning can support faculty to achieve full integration of all 3 courses that comprise a JBS semester. It helps to connect the dots for both faculty and students.

What makes Experiential Learning at Brandeis so distinct is a focus on a reflective process. It is intentional, introspective and interpersonal. This process connects theory and practice to the students’ personal experiences.

Experiential Learning pedagogy encourages students to reflect on what they are learning to develop new knowledge, skills and values. Therefore, learners construct meaning in a way unique to themselves that can influence their lives and future decisions towards being responsible citizens.

Experiential Learning does not mean simply having experiences. Carefully organizing site visits and field assignments is only half of the equation. Fully integrating Experiential Learning, both in and out of the classroom, is pedagogically exciting and requires effort on the part of student and instructor alike.

Why use Experiential Learning Pedagogy?

  • Help students understand their motivations for engaging with the subject matter, taking the course, etc.
  • Help students immerse themselves within the subject matter and experiences both in and out of the classroom
    • Help students connect the content that they learn in your course to their own lives, making it unique to their own experiences
    • Intentionally help students gain deeper insight into their course of study, career/post- college goals and future decisions
    • Intentionally teach transferable life skills
    • Help students get to know one another on a personal level.

Intentional Experiential Learning elements that could be included in your syllabi and pedagogy:

  • Experimentation, reflection, conceptualization/analysis, synthesis, more experimentation
  • Opportunities to take initiative, make decisions, and be accountable for the results.
  • Opportunities to engage intellectually, creatively, emotionally, socially, and/or physically.
  • Creating situations for unknown outcomes and the possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes, and successes.

Classroom and Field Assignments with Reflection and Application Components

The faculty should incorporate structured assignments into their courses that include reflection and application both in the classroom and the field. Such assignments are one important variety of active learning, and therefore are pedagogically in keeping with what is known about effective Experiential Learning teaching.

Learning is Documented and Assessed

Just as with more traditional classroom learning, Experiential Learning includes vehicles for students to demonstrate what they have learned, and for the faculty to assess the quality of that learning. Vehicles for doing so can include writing assignments, oral reports, group projects, class discussion, one-on-one conversations, use of multi-media, art projects, e-portfolios, etc. Experiential Learning has rubrics for grading critical analysis and other topics to support you.

The scale of the class activities need not be the scale of the analysis. For example, each student might be asked to write an individual report on the same site visit; or a team of students might write up a group report. Similarly, the analysis of the experience may be individual (a written report), team (an oral report to the class), or by the class as a whole (group discussion, or a written report to which each student contributes one part).

Because academic credit is involved, the program and the individual classes and their assignments must be structured in a way that permits the faculty to assign grades with some degree of comfort. Also, Experiential Learning components don’t always have to be graded since Experiential Learning is a pedagogy and a way of teaching the material.

Experiential Learning and Teaching Services

  • Curriculum Development with Experiential Learning Pedagogy
  • Syllabus and course development
  • Learning assignments, projects and presentations design
  • Assessment support
  • Community building and other activities

Invite Experiential Learning staff to be a part of your course to:

  • Expose students to Experiential Learning offerings
  • Lead a one-time individualized guest workshop
  • Provide ongoing Experiential Learning involvement based on the course needs
  • Help your students create Experiential Learning presentations

Experiential Learning and Teaching Staff have a large repertoire of specific learning activities that can help faculty achieve their goals. They are available to help you develop or adapt your syllabi to meet the goals of JBS. Experiential Learning Staff can help students with choosing final project topics and the facilitation of their final presentations. They are also a great resource during the duration of the JBS semester and can help facilitate community building and other activities.

*Definition by the Experiential Learning Staff and Committee at Brandeis and adapted from the National Society for Experiential Education

Experiential Learning Questions?

For more information on experiential learning, please contact Daniel Langenthal, Director of Experiential Learning and Teaching, at 781-736-2697 or dlangent@brandeis.edu.