Experiential education enhances active learning for college students

by Baobao Song
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I will learn.
                                        — Benjamin Franklin

Baobao Song

Baobao Song

Experiential education is a major approach to create immersive experience for students and encourage active learning in higher education. According to Association for Experiential Education (AEE), experiential learning is “a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with students in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, and clarify values.” The definition has two implications for instructors:

  1. Grasp knowledge through direct experience: Use ill-defined, complex, real-world situations, problems, or actions to the extend possible.
  2. Transform knowledge through focused reflection: Offer feedback to students and encourage self-evaluation and retrospection.

In experiential education, instructor and students learn together through success, failure, risk-taking, and uncertainty; and each assumes roles different from traditional education.

In experiential education:


  • Structure learning to be less teacher-centered
  • Carefully design the experience
  • Provide resources, facilitate, and encourage


  • Take initiative
  • Engage intellectually, socially, and personal
  • Participate and self-evaluate during the learning process

Case-based, problem-based, and reality-based learning can be incorporated as experiential learning in lectures of all sizes. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that some courses intrinsically have more potential for experiential education than others do (e.g. Advertising Campaign vs. Public Relations Theories). However, there is always something the instructor can do to make the class include experiential learning.

Here are some tips:

  • Incorporate students’ prior experience into reflective class discussion.
  • Take advantage of facilities and equipment offered by the university.
  • Encourage students participate in professional organizations, such as PRSSA, AAA, etc.

Internships are another great opportunity for undergraduate students to learn from experience outside the classroom. Internship coordinators need to help students identify good internship opportunities, monitor students’ progress, and watch for potential risks associated with internships.

For information on recent debates on college internship payment issues, please refer to http://unpaidinternslawsuit.com/

Baobao Song is a doctoral student in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida and a student in Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930).




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s