Experiential Education refers to learning activities that involve the learner in the process of active engagement with, and critical reflection about, phenomena being studied (NSEE, 1997).
"We do not learn from experience . . . we learn from reflecting on experience."
- John Dewey, American Educational Reformer and Philosopher
According to the SBU Bulletin, the University highly recommends that students fulfill
one or more of these four Pursue Deeper Understanding requirements with an approved
experiential learning activity. Students can fulfill the Stony Brook Curriculum Experiential
Learning (EXP+) learning outcomes by taking a course certified for EXP+ or through
an individualized, faculty-supervised learning activity (with corresponding enrollment
in a zero-credit 444 course in order to earn EXP+) in which the student applies knowledge
and skills acquired within the classroom in real-world settings and in which insights
and skills developed through real-world experience enhance academic success and professional
development. Successful experiential learning requires reflection, mentoring, feedback,
critical analysis, and synthesis.
Experiential learning can take many forms including the 13 categories defined by SUNY:
- Civic Engagement
- Clinical Placement
- Community Service
- Cooperative Education
- Creative Works
- Field Study
- International Travel & Study
- Research (Graduate)
- Research (Undergraduate)
The Stony Brook experiential learning requirement follows national standards for experiential
learning developed by the National Society for Experiential Education (NSEE).
1. Intention: All students and advisors must be clear why the student chose the particular experience to meet this General Education requirement. This includes a clear statement about the learning that is to take place and the knowledge that will result from it. Intention represents the purposefulness that enables experience to become knowledge and, as such, is deeper than the goals, objectives, and activities that define the experience.
2. Preparedness and Planning: Students must ensure that they enter the experience with sufficient foundation to support a successful experience. They must also focus from the earliest stages of the experience/program on the identified intentions, adhering to them as goals, objectives and activities are defined. The resulting plan should include those intentions and be referred to on a regular basis by all parties. At the same time, it should be flexible enough to allow for adaptations as the experience unfolds.
3. Authenticity: The experience must have a real world context and/or be useful and meaningful in reference to an applied setting or situation. This means that it should be designed in concert with those who will be affected by or use it, or in response to a real situation.
4 . Reflection: Reflection is the element that transforms simple experience to a learning experience. For knowledge to be discovered and internalized the learner must test assumptions and hypotheses about the outcomes of decisions and actions taken, then weigh the outcomes against past learning and future implications. This reflective process is integral to all phases of experiential learning, from identifying intention and choosing the experience, to considering preconceptions and observing how they change as the experience unfolds. Reflection is also an essential tool for adjusting the experience and measuring outcomes.
5. Orientation and Training: For the full value of the experience to be accessible to both the learner and the learning facilitator(s), and to any involved organizational partners, it is essential that they be prepared with important background information about each other and about the context and environment in which the experience will operate. Once that baseline of knowledge is addressed, ongoing structured development opportunities should also be included to expand the learner’s appreciation of the context and skill requirements of her/his work.
6 . Monitoring and Continuous Improvement: Any learning activity will be dynamic and changing, and the parties involved all bear responsibility for ensuring that the experience, as it is in process, continues to provide the richest learning possible, while affirming the learner. It is important to have a feedback loop related to learning intentions and quality objectives and that the structure of the experience be sufficiently flexible to permit change in response to what that feedback suggests. While reflection provides input for new hypotheses and knowledge based in documented experience, other strategies for observing progress against intentions and objectives should also be in place. Monitoring and continuous improvement represent the formative evaluation tools.
7. Assessment and Evaluation: Outcomes and processes should be systematically documented with regard to initial intentions and quality outcomes. Assessment is a means to develop and refine the specific learning goals and quality objectives identified during the planning stages of the experience, while evaluation provides comprehensive data about the experiential process as a whole and whether it has met the intentions that suggested it.
8. Acknowledgment: Recognition of learning and impact occur throughout the experience by way of the reflective and monitoring processes and through reporting, documentation, and sharing of accomplishments. All parties to the experience should be included in the recognition of progress and accomplishment. Culminating documentation and celebration of learning and impact help provide closure and sustainability to the experience. (See the SBU Bulletin for more details)
STEM Smart is committed to developing opportunities for meaningful learning outside the classroom setting for its students. CSTEP sponsors two internships: CentriSeed Innovation and SB Home. Many more opportunities are available for students to engage in research, internships, volunteer work, service-learning and more.