‘When Everything Old Is New Again’: Experiential Learning in the Classroom

Reina Green, Diane Piccitto, Anna Smol


This session examined definitions of experiential learning and how the term has been recently used to focus on specific programmes and types of learning practices at the expense of other programmes, often based in the Humanities, as well as more routine pedagogical strategies. Further, the current use of the terminology creates a false and damaging dichotomy as it situates the classroom (and even the wider locale of the campus) away from the “real world” and encourages students to compartmentalize classroom learning as incidental to their lives and future careers. We encouraged participants to examine their current classroom practices to identify activities that may be considered experiential and asked them to identify obstacles they face both in their disciplines and generally that prevent them from incorporating more of these practices in their classrooms. We tried to model how small changes in teaching practices can encourage students to engage in their own learning. We contend that one does not have to reinvent the wheel—or rewrite the curriculum—to offer students experiential educational opportunities. Many of the activities instructors already use can be adapted to encourage students to participate more fully in their own learning and, with simple changes, these practices can be used in any classroom. Our hope was that participants would recognize how they might engage their students in experiential learning without leaving their classrooms.


Experiential learning; Humanities classroom; student engagement in the classroom

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“experience, n. and v.” and “experiential, adj.” In OED online. Oxford University Press, December 2018. Retrieved January 27, 2019, from www.oed.com

“Experiential Learning.” (n.d.). Mount Saint Vincent University. Retrieved January 27, 2019, from https://www.msvu.ca/en/home/experientiallearning/default.aspx

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NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers). (2018). Job Outlook 2019. Retrieved July 25, 2019, from https://www.odu.edu/content/dam/odu/offices/cmc/docs/nace/2019-nace-job-outlook-survey.pdf


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