LEARNING BY DOING: BRINGING THE COMMUNITY INTO THE CLASSROOM
Saint Michael's College (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:Call it what you will; active-learning, experiential-learning, service-learning, or community-based learning – it’s a “learning by doing” philosophy. Rather than didactic learning, students are placed in situations where they actively engage in, and often times create, their own learning moments. Kolb (1984) defines Experiential-Learning (EL) as a “process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (p.38). Kolb’s (1984) four-step EL model (concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation) suggests that experience and reflection play central roles in the learning process.
EL can be linked to four positive student outcomes: academic, personal, social, and career development. Additionally, faculty, educational institutions, and communities can benefit from student-based Experiential Learning. Client projects have the potential to increase instructor’s excitement with a class, the college may benefit from developing a closer link to the community, and the community is provided with assistance with business-related issues.
The opportunity to learn outside the classroom and apply concepts learned inside the classroom to real-world business settings are very powerful learning tools. The “COPS: Consulting for Organizational Problem Solving” class was intended to provide students with an in-depth consulting experience, insights into the consulting process, and consulting as a career. The class assignments included two distinct tasks: a client-based team consulting project and interviewing a consultant. Additionally, a handful of local consultants were invited as guest speakers. These three experiences gave each student an opportunity not only to learn about consulting as a career (through the interview and guest speakers), but also gain hands-on experience.
Potential clients were identified by the professor and assigned to a team comprised of four students. Each member of the team interviewed for one of four roles on a team (i.e., team leader, conflict manager, point person, recorder/reporter). Each student consulting team was responsible for following through with the consulting process from introduction, to data and information gathering, to brainstorming and researching alternative solutions, culminating in a presentation of the final proposal to the client. After presentations to the client, each student was required to provide a reflection and evaluation paper that included, among several things, what they learned about themselves during the process.
This EL exercise applied Kolb’s four step model and the students were given the opportunity to acquire skills in proposal writing, oral presentation, and marketing of ideas. In addition, they also gained experience in leadership, handling time pressures, developing contingency plans, team work, and communicating with clients. Furthermore, in terms of explicit knowledge, they gained an understanding of how an organization handles its marketing, finance, or management issues.
References: Kolb, David A. 1984. Experiential learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.