Experiential Learning

Photography by Tom White.

Incorporating Experiential Learning into your course

Incorporating experiential learning into your course is an excellent way to create authentic and engageing learning environments for your students. Evidence-based research highlights the benefits of taking students outside the classroom. The below list of references provides inquiry-based insights on (1) why conducting field trips is benefitial; (2) how to align a field trip to your courses learning objectives; (3) and some discispline specific guidance as well.

You can review the summaries of higher education inquiry below in the areas within which you are seeking guidance. You can also email teaching@yale-nus.edu.sg if you would like a one-on-one consultation to design an impactful field trip, or enhance an existing field expereince, for your course.

Funding for field trips should be applied for through your Head of Study a semester in advance of the anticiapted outing/trip. If you are seeking a language-based field trip then you can apply through Eduardo Lage-Otero; and if you are seeking a Common Curriculum focused field trip you can apply through Director of the Common Curriculum, Terry Nardin.

The form for application is available on the Yale-NUS College Faculty Portal. The College-defined criteria to properly plan a field trip, as explained in the application form to are listed below. The respective Divisional Managers can assist with booking relevant logistical elements once a given trip is approved.

For optimum student benefit, each field trip must be well planned beforehand and thoroughly evaluated after completion.  Properly planned and executed field trips should:

  1. Supplement and enrich classroom procedures by providing learning opportunities in an external environment to create student interest and learning opportunities;
  2. Bring the resources of the community – natural, artistic, industrial, commercial, governmental into the student’s learning experience;
  3. Generate appropriate feedback from the students that is conveyed to the DoF office.

An application will need to include:

  • Aims, Objectives, and Learning Outcomes of the Field Trip
  • The rationale and relevance to the curriculum
  • Draft of the planned program
  • Anticipated Budget

Logistical Elements to Prepare in Advance

  • Transportation
  • Weather
  • Coordination with external personnel
  • Student allergies and fears; health and safety

Why do field trips? 

Dewey, John. Art as experience. New York: Berkley Pub Group, 2005 [1934]. – YNC RBR

*Foundational work. Fieldtrips have long been promoted by thinkers such as John Dewey has long as a powerful type of experiential learning that fulfils six principles (See Kolb 1984). Dewey posits that “nothing takes root in mind when there is no balance between doing and receiving. Some decisive action is needed in order to establish contact with the realities of the world and in order that impressions may be so related that their value is tested and organised” (p. 45)

Lewin, Kurt. “Field Theory and Experiment in Social Psychology: Concepts and Methods.” American Journal of Sociology 44, no. 6 (1939): 868–896.

Available online through NUS library catalogue but unable to access due to faulty DOI, but cited by Kolb for his work on field theory  – specifically learning space – that influences experiential learning.

Kolb, David D. Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development, 2nd ed. New Jersey: Pearson Education Ltd, 2015. – NUS Central Library

“Knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” (p. 41) The six principles of experiential learning are (1): that learning is a process; (2) the process will bring to light beliefs and ideas about a topic (relearning); (3) the driving forces of learning are conflict, disagreement, and differences; (4) learning is a holistic process; (5) learning results from the interaction that the person has with the environment (a synergetic transaction); (6) knowledge is created as a person learns.

Kolb, Alice, and David Kolb. “Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education.” Academy of Management Learning & Education 4, no. 2 (2005): 193–212. – JSTOR

This article summarises the literature on experiential learning theory (ELT), introduces two recent developments in ELT, and proposes suggestions for the improvement in experiential learning practices.

Scarce, Rik. “Field Trips as Short-Term Experiential Education.” Teaching Sociology 25, no. 3 (1997): 219–226.

Field trips offer the sort of enriching experiences that are central to successful educational endeavours because they are experiences, lived social events that becomes ways of knowing. Also includes the pros and cons of excursions.

How to design a field trip that speaks to your courses learning objectives? How to make the experience useful for your students? Assignments to compliment a field trip?

There are different types of field trips, and these are differentiated by length, with short term field trips (1 day) and long field trips (>1 day). The common theme running though the articles is to engage students in various ways, such as using the environment and having activities, to promote holistic learning. Students need to be engaged pre, during, and post-field trip.

Bellan, Jennifer, and Geoffery Scheurman. “Actual and Virtual Reality: Making the most of fieldtrips.” Social Education 62, no. 1 (1998): 35–40.

A short article, but one that proposes the complementary use of technology (the internet in this case) to prepare the students for the actual field trip.

DeWitt, Jennifer, and Martin Storksdieck. “A Short Review of School Field Trips: Key Findings from the Past and Implications for the Future.” Visitor Studies 11, no. 2 (2008): 181–197.

“Field trips, however, are not ideal for teaching complex concepts or even isolated facts, they are not “better classroom settings”; instead, they serve best as opportunities for exploration, discovery, first-hand and original experiences.” Field trips should provide a moderate amount of structure while still allowing for free exploration.

Tal, Tali, Nirit Lavie Alon, and Orly Morag. “Exemplary practices in field trips to natural environments.” JRST 51, no. 4 (2014): 430–461.

This article is based on research done on middle school/secondary school children, and many not be as applicable. However, it does provide broad points regarding what makes a high-quality field trip.

Behrendt, Marc, and Teresa Franklin. “A Review of Research on School Field Trips and Their Value in Education.” International Journal of Environmental & Science Education 9, (2014): 235–245.

Pre-trip site visits are important, and setting the expectations of the field trip with students is also key.

Krepel, Wayne, and Charles DuVall. Field Trips: A Guide for Planning and Conducting Educational Experiences. Washington D.C.: National Education Association, 1981.

*Foundational work

Lonergan, Noel, and Lee W. Andresen. “Field‐Based Education: Some Theoretical Considerations.” Higher Education Research and Development 7, no. 1 (1988): 63–77.

Briefings and Debriefings, assessment (assessment might need to take place in the field in order to have reasonable validity.  involve students in establishing criteria for assessment; group assessment; peer assessment; and creating work dossiers or student journals.)

Rone, Tracy. “Culture from the Outside in and the Inside out: Experiential Education and the Continuum of Theory, Practice, and Policy.” College Teaching 56, no. 4 (2008): 237–246.

Other – Virtual Reality Fieldtrips

Others – Field trips and capstones