Creating an Experiential Course

For Faculty

The Center for Learning in Action helps faculty design and use experiential pedagogies in semester and winter study courses.  We can help faculty create new courses and redesign pre-existing ones.  We provide training,  design assistance, financial support, and logistical help, including transportation. Below are small and large-scale examples of how to use ‘learning-by-doing’ techniques within an academic course. For help applying these ideas or applying other experiential education teaching principles and cooperative learning techniques, email or call (413-597-5039) Center for Learning in Action Director Paula Consolini.

  1. Site visit and tour of Albany County Jail including Q&A with jail managers and guards used in a criminal justice course to enable students to explore political, economic, and social dynamics of jails/prisons in the American criminal justice system.
  2. Site visit to nearby Russian monastery, including Q&A with monks and attendance at a 4- hour midnight Easter service used in a Russian history course.
  3. Students in an introductory environmental studies course engage in one 4-hour session of community service work to improve understanding of and capacity to analyze the political, social, and economic dimensions of environmental issues.
  4. Students in a public policy course are assigned to teams to engage in political advocacy work (short-term, module-length project) on either side of a current local political controversy. Students analyze their experience as advocates.
  5. Students in an art history course design and teach subtopics to community groups (elderly, youth, etc.).
  6. Students in Oral History: Theory, Methods, and Practice conduct oral history interviews in nearby North Adams, Massachusetts to better understand the city’s history and prospects for the future.
  7. Students in Ways of Knowing conduct small-scale ethnographies in local organizations applying the methods they learned in class.
  8. Students in a studio art tutorial course draw on many disciplines and perspectives to create and mutually critique public art projects.
  9. Students in an organizational sociology course, working as interns in local non-profits, design a research project focused on some aspect of their host organization’s structure and/or work.
  10. Students in environmental studies, political science, economics, or statistics courses work on group consulting projects for clients in local government and area non-profits, applying their academic skills to real-world problems
  11. Students in a Practicing Feminism course intern at local community agencies, exploring the issues and problems of putting feminism into practice.
  12. Students in Clinical and Community Psychology work in local social service or mental health agencies throughout the semester, applying the academic psychology they learn to field settings.
  13. Students in Problems and Prospects of Democracy observe, analyze and engage in local democratic activity to better understand the relationship between democratic ideals and realities.
  14. Students in various courses: a) learn and help teach bike repair and related academic principles to at-risk middle school students, b) teach underserved students in NYC public and charter schools during Winter Study or c) study the history of a local or regional issue or challenge (such as immigration or economic development) and recommend and/or direct action to improve existing conditions.
  15. Students in the Seminar in Advanced Teaching and Learning work as student teachers in local elementary, middle and high schools.

If you need or have an experiential education course idea or information on an organization or program which you think would be a good organizational partner for a course involving experiential education, please email or call  (413-597-5039) Paula Consolini, Director of the Center for Learning in Action, for assistance.

For Students

Students may develop Winter Study Independent Study Courses (referred to as WSP 99s) or a fall or spring semester independent course. Students interested in incorporating an internship or fieldwork into their learning should consult the Winter Study 99 proposal guidelines for more information. Students may also develop a fall or spring semester independent study or group course involving experiential learning under the guidance of a faculty sponsor.