Experiential Education FAQs

Are you curious about experiential education at Purdue? Check out our list of FAQs below! Have a question that is not addressed below? Reach out to the Office of Experiential Education. We are here to help you! 

What is "experiential education" at Purdue?

Experiential education is a planned pedagogy centering on an authentic experience to strengthen students’ knowledge, skills, and abilities, paired with student reflection. Examples can include, but are not limited to: internships, co-ops, clinicals, student teaching, project-based learning, service-learning, and co-curricular experiences.

Why does the definition include "planned pedagogy"?

Each of us has experiences every day, and we sometimes learn from them. But not all of those experiences are experiential education; some of them are just serendipity. Experiential education should be planful and intentional. There should be, at a minimum, an informal understanding of what is likely to be learned from the experience. And in the best case, the experience will include formal learning outcomes.

What does an "authentic" experience mean?

An authentic experience is one in which students develop or apply knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) in the same ways those KSAs are used in the “real world” (that is, in careers, in communities, and so on). Assignments and assessments that exist solely to demonstrate student knowledge to the instructor are not likely to be authentic. On the other hand, when a team of students develops a public relations campaign for a community partner, that is authentic.

Why does the experience need to include reflection?

Reflection is an important component of the experiential learning cycle. Reflection allows a student to think critically about the experience and how it connects to previous experiences/learnings and future plans. When students reflect, they better understand what they have learned and that learning is more likely to last.

My class includes many hands-on activities. Is this experiential education?

It is helpful to go back to the definition of experiential education at Purdue to be sure. Is it a planned pedagogy? Is it an authentic experience? Are you asking students to reflect on their experience? If so, it is likely that your class includes experiential education.

I work with students outside the classroom through student life, career development, residence life, etc. Is my work included in the definition of experiential education at Purdue?

Yes, co-curricular activities are included in Purdue’s definition of experiential education. If the students’ experience includes all three components of the definition, then it is considered experiential education regardless of whether it involves academic credit or the formal curriculum.

Does this work include experiential education activities with graduate students?

Much of graduate education at Purdue is experiential in nature. Veterinary students treat actual animals. Audiology students treat people with hearing problems. Ph.D. students engage in the process of science and discovery. Much of the information provided by the Office of Experiential Education can be applied to graduate education. However, the office is specifically charged to focus on the experience of first-degree students (BA, BS, and PharmD). Therefore, many of our programs and resources are specific to that focus.

What are the benefits of experiential education for students?

There are many benefits of experiential education for students. Here are just a few examples: Students can gain hands-on experience in their field of study through an internship, co-op, or service-learning project. Experiential education can allow a student to deeply connect with the curriculum. Students can learn about other cultures of the world through a study abroad experience. An undergraduate research project can connect students with faculty who are conducting groundbreaking research in their fields. A co-curricular experience can provide a student with leadership skills needed in their future careers. Many experiential education opportunities help students to discern their career interests.

How does experiential education work in an online class? 

Authentic experiences are possible in a virtual or online modality. We recommend checking out these videos from Purdue faculty about experiential education in a virtual or online format. 

What are Purdue’s rules and guidelines for engaging in experiential education during the pandemic?

  • Here are the basics:
    • Consider the Protect Purdue guidelines to represent the minimum in safety procedures
    • Inform your students about all required safety procedures and about anticipated risks
    • For off-campus programs:
      • Collect COVID-19 safety plans from each off-campus site
      • When students are at a placement site, they must follow the health and safety guidelines of that site
      • Provide each student with a contact sheet specific to their placement, so that they understand who they may contact with any concerns
      • Avoid off-campus experiences that do not involve formal site partnership agreements, reviewing of site-specific COVID-19 safety plans, etc.
    • For on-campus programs:
      • Require the use of enhanced PPE as needed according to the guidelines in the standard operating procedures
      • Ensure appropriate cleaning and disinfection of on-campus spaces used for experiential programs
      • Follow Protect Purdue guidance related to campus visitors as needed
  • For all the details, refer to the COVID-19 classroom, instructional lab and experiential course standard operating procedures. Be sure to scroll down for experiential-specific guidance. If you have a special circumstance that is not addressed in these procedures, you may request an exception. See “Procedures for Exceptions” at the end of the document.

Can I meet with someone to brainstorm ideas about how I might incorporate experiential education in my work? 

Absolutely! Please reach out to the Office of Experiential Education. We are happy to assist you!

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