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What is Experiential Learning?

Male examining pipes

Experiential learning is a hallmark of Ryerson University’s model of education that emphasizes the relevance and integration of theory and practice.  Experiential learning can be thought of as an outcome of an intentionally designed mix of pedagogic and learning strategies embracing varied approaches, activities and environments. 

The goal of experiential learning (EL) is to provide an education that responds to the rapidly changing world and the need to advance both knowledge acquisition and critical judgement; both thinking and doing; reflection and engagement; career development and informed citizenship; growth as an individual and greater connectivity with the larger community. Ideally, experiential learning helps students achieve these balances in a way that is responsive to the characteristics and needs of their individual disciplines, fields, and professions.

What EL is Not

Merely exposing students to an experience is not experiential learning – it is the locating of the experience within an intentional learning cycle that ensures the experience leads to the achievement of learning objectives. It is important to note the distinction between active learning activities in-class such as discussions, role playing, group work, and experiential learning. While all experiential learning is active learning, not all active learning is experiential learning. Both practices enrich the student educational experience, but they are different pedagogical approaches.