Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

 Experiential learning for 'growing' professional planning graduates (#108)

Claudia Baldwin 1 , Christine Slade 1 , Johanna Rosier 1
  1. University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, QLD, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

There is growing evidence that higher education graduates benefit from the incorporation of experiential learning (EL) into curricula, particularly in applied fields such as urban and regional planning, nursing, teaching, social work, and engineering. The complexity and uncertainty encountered in practice situations cannot be duplicated in a traditional classroom education. Drivers include the need to foster lifelong learning through continuing professional development and to facilitate adaptation to rapidly changing work environments.
We present outcomes of a two year multi-university project, Experiential Learning in Planning Education: Resources and Tools for Good Practice, which explores EL as a process of purposeful engagement in active and contextualised learning. We developed and tested a framework which included principles, and a continuum of learning activities scaffolded over a program to increase student preparedness through increasing external exposure to real world practice over the duration of the program.
In particular, we showcase the principles used to design and assess learning activities such as studios, field trips, role plays and work integrated learning. We also demonstrate the online toolkit which we prepared to guide planning educators in improving experiential learning. The team has presented at numerous workshops and conferences, written academic papers and met with national, state and institutional education committees. We undertook student and practitioner surveys in the changed courses and the participating educators reflected on and assessed courses in relation to the principles. Independent peer review confirmed effectiveness of our research, and Google analytics determine utility and uptake of the online toolkit guidelines. A key feature is that the framework can be applied to any discipline which seeks to embed EL in its learning objectives and processes.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

Educating graduates to be responsive and adaptable professionals

Experiential learning is ‘a purposeful process of engaged, active learning in which the student constructs knowledge, skills, or values by means of direct experiences in authentic, real world contexts’1(p.2). Our project draws from work by Kolb (1984) who stated that ‘knowledge is created through the transformation of experience’2(p.38). While experiential learning is effective in developing students’ confidence and fostering their professional practice knowledge, skills and attributes, designing, managing and assessing experiential learning activities is demanding and time consuming for educators in terms of organisation, interaction and risk management. It can also be daunting for new academics. This project outcomes provides educators with well-defined principles to guide the development and use of experiential learning tasks. Further it provides mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of practical learning across the range of experiential learning activities, thereby assisting in course revision and development, greater relevance to vocational outcomes for planning professionals and improved provision of teaching and learning. Ultimately, improving EL teaching practices benefits students in preparing them to address change and respond to new challenges with confidence

  1. Kassem, G 2007, Task Force on Experiential Learning. Report to Faculty Assembly Executive Council, Ramapo College of New Jersey.
  2. Kolb, D 1984, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs.