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What is Experiential Learning?

Opportunities & Definitions

Experiential Equation

CreditCredit Non-paidNon-credit PaidPaid EvaluationEvaluation by faculty + organization

Descriptions are courtesy of the Association for Co-operative Education, BC / Yukon (ACE)

Community Service Learning

Example Definitions* Additional Definition(s)

Volunteer at We Day for ANTH 2190: NGOs in Context


Integrates voluntary, unpaid community service that addresses community needs into a credit-bearing course with an explicit educational framework that includes student reflection on the volunteer experience. Reflection enhances understanding of civic engagement and the connection between the experience and course content. Service learning is a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human & community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning & development. Jacoby, B. 2003. Building partnerships for service-learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, p. 3.

Co-op (alternating + internship models)

Example Definitions* Additional Definition(s)

Existing Business, Arts and Science offerings


Co-op alternating consists of alternating academic terms and paid work terms. Co-op internship consists of several co-op work terms back-to-back. In both models work terms provide experience in a workplace setting related to the student’s field of study. Co-operative Education at KPU works with employers to develop and create program related work experiences for students in distinct disciplines. By alternating between study and work semesters, Co-op helps students apply their skills and knowledge acquired from their on-campus courses to real life work experiences.

Practicum / Clinical Placement

Example Definitions* Additional Definition(s)

Faculty of Health uses this model commonly


Involves work experience under the supervision of an experienced registered or licensed professional in any discipline that requires practice-based work experience for professional licensure or certification. Practica are generally unpaid, and, as the work is done in a supervised setting, students do not have their own workload/caseload. For example, PSYCH 4000 Practicum: This course is designed to introduce students to the workplace, research settings and possible entry-level jobs after graduation. Students work under the supervision of both the employer/host and a Kwantlen supervisor, undertaking projects that enable them to apply the academic knowledge and skills learned in the classroom.

Action Research / Applied Research

Example Definitions* Additional Definition(s)

Writing a Child Protection Policy for a local non-profit organization


Students are engaged in research that deals with community-driven, or workplace-related issues. Includes: Consulting projects; design projects; community-based research projects. Community-based participatory research … is a collaborative approach to research that equitably involves all partners in the research process and recognizes the unique strengths that each brings. CBPR begins with a research topic of importance to the community with the aim of combining knowledge and action for social change to improve [the] community …. Community Health Scholars Program, Stories of Impact, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2001.

Community Engagement

Example Definitions* Additional Definition(s)

Responding to community needs as they arise


Collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity (Carnegie Community Engagement Classification). Done well, all of these experiential learning opportunities respond to community needs and this is an enduring trend in education - "Community engagement is one of the major innovations that has occurred in higher education over the last 20 years" (KerryAnn O’Meara, et al. 2011. Studying the professional lives and work of faculty involved in Community Engagement. Innovative Higher Education, 36, p. 83)



Example Definitions* Additional Definition(s)
Credit Required for certified trades. Assessment typically in the form of number of hours completed.  


Example Definitions* Additional Definition(s)

KPU Open House


Student volunteering that is not part of a structured para-professional program. Includes: volunteering with student groups.  


Work Study

Example Definitions* Additional Definition(s)
Paid Work opportunities with academic units with monies provided by student financial aid.  


Example Definitions* Additional Definition(s)

Leading a club


Not related to course credit but can align with course interests  

What is Experiential Learning?

Learning activities that engage the learner directly in the phenomena being studied. This learning can be in all types of work or service settings by undergraduate and graduate students of all ages …. [and] manifested in many different forms – internships, field experiences, co-op education, practica, cross-cultural, and international learning, community and public service, and other forms of carefully monitored experience-based learning.

Jane C. Kendall, John S. Dudley, Thomas C. Little, Jane S. Permaul, Sharon Rubin, "Strengthening Experiential Education Within Your Institution," NSIEE (Michigan State University, National Society for Internships and Experiential Education), 1986.

In its simplest form, experiential learning means learning from experience, or learning by doing. Experiential education first immerses learners in an experience and then encourages reflection about the experience to develop new skills, new attitudes, or new ways of thinking.

Lewis, L.H. & Williams, C.J. (1994). "Experiential Learning: Past and Present." In Jackson, L. & Caffarella, R.S. (Eds.). Experiential Learning: A New Approach (pp. 5-16). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, p. 5.

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, and develop people's capacity to contribute to their communities

"What is Experiential Education?" The Association for Experiential Education (AEE)

A polytechnic education develops, integrates, and values a full range of knowledge, and ways of knowing about a subject domain, incorporating craft, experiential, and conceptual knowledge.

Thomas Carey, INstitute for INnovation and Scholarship in Teaching and Learning' (INSTL, KPU)

Experiential Learning involves phases of knowing, experiencing, reflecting and applying.

Thomas Carey, adapted from student work on Experiential Learning at UC Davis

PDF iconFall 2015 Experiential Learning KPU_INSTL Newsletter.pdf

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