Learning experientially produces lessons of deep benefit
By THOMAS L. KEON
As we know, one of the distinguishing qualities of the Purdue education available to students on this campus is our experiential learning initiative.
The integration of traditional and applied education in various real world environments is not only important, but extremely practical in preparing our students to be successful in our fast-paced, 21st century environment.
Depth of benefit
While we have made “Learning through Engagement and Discovery” a goal of our Purdue Calumet strategic plan, have we truly considered the depth of benefit “learning through engagement and discovery” affords our students and university?
That question has resonated with me since I was interviewed recently by alumnus Steven Haas for the Calumet Perspectives television program, produced here on campus by our TV Practicum class students.
As we discussed during the interview, the benefit of applying lessons learned from textbooks and classrooms to a real world arena of opportunities and challenges is where the rubber hits the road of value-added learning and experience. But there are other important doors experiential learning opens, as well.
Learning how to learn
We frequently talk about a key value component of higher education being that of helping students learn how to learn. In response to perplexing circumstances within our uncertain, unclear world, a strong foundation of sound, proven learning practices may be all we have to drive appropriate actions and decision-making. Advancing one’s thinking is a priceless return on investment that experiential learning helps enable.
There also is the lesson of relationship-building—among students, faculty members and community partners, as our experiential learning program requires. One can read in a textbook or take notes from a professor’s lecture about benefits derived from building relationships. But the lesson becomes more discernible and value-added when a goal is achieved, a solution determined or a problem resolved through a process of engaged collaboration.
There are plenty of other lessons on which to focus, but I will close with this one: confidence building. Valuable, effective learning is proving to ourselves we can do it—whatever “it” may be. Through experiential learning, our students learn volumes about themselves. Over the years, I’ve been acquainted with many students who achieved high grades, but questioned whether they had what it took to be successful doing a job until they actually demonstrated that success to themselves in a work-related setting.
Experiential learning does more than integrate traditional and practical lessons, and it provides more than impressive bullet points for listing on a résumé. Perhaps most importantly, it leads our students down rich, enlightening paths of growth and development.
Thomas L. Keon