Experiential Learning: What is it? Why is it Relevant?

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Employers expect many skills from employees that align directly with experiential learning outcomes.

Companies around the world seek graduates who not only have technical knowledge, but also the ability to apply that knowledge in diverse and dynamic environments. Experiential learning opportunities are an effective way to give students the leadership and team skills they need to successfully operate across borders and cultures, and provide host organizations with valuable insights to grow or improve performance.

GBSN hosted a Cross-Border Coffee Break on Experiential Learning What is it? Why is it Relevant? on Friday, February 23, 2018. Participants learned about what experiential learning is and what makes it valuable for institutions, students and companies. 

The virtual conversation, led by Kerry Laufer, Director of OnSite Global Consulting at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, served as a beginning to the conversation for the upcoming GBSN Learning by Doing: The Power of Experiential Learning in Management Education summit to be held March 15-16 in Lima, Peru.

For a top tier U.S. business school, experiential learning is no longer a distinguishing feature.  A portfolio of global, experiential offerings to choose from in the curriculum is a standard incoming students look for. Kerry Laufer explains how the Tuck School of Business approaches experiential learning. 

“When I talk to colleagues who are in the earlier stages of developing experiential  learning, I encourage them to have a definition and a model for experiential learning, one that  fits your context and resonates with the people charged with designing and implementing experiential learning. It gives you a common language for talking about experiential learning internally, and offers some direction.  Direction around what is/what isn’t experiential learning.”

DARTMOUTH OPTED FOR A BROAD DEFINITION: Experiential education is a philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to:

  • Increase knowledge
  • Develop skills
  • Clarify values
  • Develop people’s capacity to contribute to their communities

Association for Experiential Education 

“Here at Dartmouth, our university wide experiential learning initiative points us to this definition, largely because it is broad, and because it encompasses the range of activities, methodologies, etc. that are possible.  It silences the debate over what’s in or what’s out. “

Experiential learning at the Tuck School of Business takes many shapes and forms. It encompasses a wide range of activities, including but not limited to:

  • Consulting projects
  • Entrepreneurial activities
  • Global immersion experiences
  • Internships
  • Opportunities to serve on boards
  • Student-run businesses & investment funds
  • Research & independent studies
  • Simulations and role plays in core and elective courses

In Tuck’s model, experiential learning can be academic, co-curricular, or a hybrid. To be considered experiential learning, they would need to include the following components:

  • Students intentionally engage intellectually, creatively, emotionally, or physically in a direct experience
  • Students have the opportunity to take initiative, make decisions, problem solve, and be accountable for the results
  • Students conceptualize and critically reflect on the experience

In project-based courses, students apply classroom learning and prior learning/experience to solve a real-world business challenge for a corporate, non-profit or government partner. Benefits of partnering with companies on projects can be powerful. The GBSN Learning by Doing summit will provide concrete examples. The experiential learning project deep dive session will give a firsthand look at a project the Tuck School of Business did last summer with the Ministry of Education in Peru. The session will feature ministry colleagues involved in the project,  Tuck School representatives and a student perspective. 

The powerpoint presentation provides two examples of previous client-based projects that Tuck students participated in. Download the powerpoint to learn more.

Nicole Zefran is the Communications Officer at the Global Business School Network.

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