Experiential Learning

The Value of Experiential Learning in College

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Updated Sept. 13, 2018

Steven Mintz, executive director of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning and professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, describes experiential education as a type of learning that “is largely an ‘add-on’” in higher education. “These real world, hands-on experiences can give students insight into the world of work and future careers, help them develop job-related skills, and contribute to the welfare of their community,” he said.*

While many universities and colleges continue to incorporate the idea of experiential teaching and learning into the curriculum, at Hodges University, our professors believe experiential learning is a key component to student success. Below are just a few examples of how Hodges University incorporates experiential learning into the student experience.

Clinical Mental Health Counseling
In April 2016, students in the clinical mental health counseling (CMHC) program in the Nichols School of Professional Studies participated in a service learning activity with the local Early Childhood Center. Led by Dr. Amber Pope, previous CMHC program chair, students provided stress management workshops for parents.

Each workshop ran for 90 minutes and students set up four workstations, each with a different activity such as guided meditation and gratitude journals. CMHC student Yindra Parker shared her experience, saying, “We presented our PowerPoint and set up a table for various activities, which included different stress management techniques to help calm the parent and child, as well as serve as a soother.”

Parker, who works at the McGregor Clinic as a medical case manager, often works with individuals who need assistance with scheduling medical appointments, housing and Medicaid. Passionate about working in clinical mental health among the Latino community, she admits, “My goal, every single day, is to make sure the people I come in contact with leave my office smiling and with a sense of hope.”

For students who enter into the clinical mental health counseling program at Hodges, Dr. Mary Nuosce, dean of the Nichols School of Professional Studies, emphasizes the importance of experiential teaching and learning, explaining, “while traditional instruction is used, role-playing is an essential technique used in classroom instruction,” she said.

“Our goal is to teach experientially and stretch the comfort zones of our students,” said Pope. “This is a type of opportunity where students can use what they have learned in class and put it into action within the community. It’s a reminder of why they chose this field and that they are doing something impactful.”

Fisher School of Technology Society
In April and May 2016, students in Hodges University’s Fisher School of Technology (FSOT) Society participated in a monthly classroom adoption program for mentoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Professor Tracey Lanham, program chair for the computer information technology programs at Hodges, established a partnership with Treeline Elementary School in Fort Myers, Florida, to allow FSOT student volunteers to teach fourth-grade children about programming with the Scratch curriculum and Sphero robotics curriculum.

“Currently, Treeline Elementary School does not have any technology curriculum for students in grades K-4. Students are assigned laptops in the fifth grade, but they use the technology to teach the students their standard core curriculum, not about technology specifically, said Lanham. “It is our objective to engage these students in technology-focused learning so that they are open to learning more about technology as they progress into higher grade levels.”

Lanham and FSOT volunteers Amanda Lanham, Rene Gupta and Kasidit Tipayaosoth visited with an estimated 40 fourth graders. With two students to each computer, Lanham spoke to students about computer science and coding. “Amanda, Renu and Kasidit were actively moving around the classroom answering questions and assisting the students with the activities they were completing on the code.org Hour of Code website,” she explained.

“It was such a great experience,” said Gupta. “These young children are so tech savvy; they already have so much knowledge; however, for me, it is reassuring to know that today’s generation will be much more advanced than I was at their age.”

As the children continued to work on how the code pieces worked together to create various actions, FSOT volunteers served to encourage, guide and praise the children’s efforts. The activity provided volunteers with an opportunity to create a fun and exciting environment for the children while sharing their knowledge and experience.

“This volunteer effort allowed me to transfer my knowledge to others and show them how technology is a part of life and how important it is to understand, in detail, how things work. It is important for these students to understand the full value of a specific device,” Gupta added.

Physical Therapist Assistant
During the fall semester, Hodges students in the School of Health Sciences who are enrolled in the physical therapist assistant (PTA) program will participate in the Southwest Florida Free Pain Clinic, which is a ministry of Christian Medical Ministries (CMM). For four consecutive weeks, Dr. Cynthia Vaccarino, PTA program chair, will bring four students to the clinic to work with underprivileged individuals who cannot afford to pay for insurance. The clinic provides free medical care for those experiencing acute and chronic pain.

While PTA students experience a “hands-on” learning atmosphere on campus, Vaccarino suggests that this type of experiential learning provides, “an eye-opening experience for our students. To be able to send our students out into the community to view and feel abnormal movement – that is the type of experience and instruction that cannot be found in the classroom.”

Started by Alan Gruning, medical director, founder and chairman of the Board of Directors for CMM, student volunteers are able to provide posture education, pain relief modalities and general wellness to patients in the clinic.

“The PTA program at Hodges is great because it is essentially a one-year program, whereas other schools in the area are two-year programs. At Hodges, we have three full-time faculty members and our process is very selective. Also, in the past three years, we have had 100 percent employment placement and an 89.9 percent passing rate,” said Vaccarino.

For individuals who are interested in participating in the many opportunities Hodges University has to offer, contact our admissions office and speak with one of our admissions coordinators at (800) 466-8017 or (800) 466-8019. You may also visit www.hodges.edu.

*Mintz, Steven. “Designing Next-Generation Universities.” April 19, 2016. https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/higher-ed-beta/designing-next-generation-universities