A look at what an FCPE Graduate Assistantship taught one student about experiential learning.
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” — Confucius
Shortly after being accepted into the Adelphi University Educational Technology master’s degree program, I began looking for fieldwork opportunities in the Adelphi community and surrounding areas. Early in my search, I was told about the program’s graduate assistantship1 with the Faculty Center for Professional Excellence (FCPE). Once I read the description of this internship, I realized that this program was an avenue that would best support my interests in research and practice in Educational Technology. Little did I know that this opportunity would also become my most relevant encounter with experiential learning.
Many of those who have studied experiential learning may also be familiar with the following quote, often attributed to Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand” (Gentry, 1990). Confucius’ theory posits that true understanding is rooted in the ability to partake in learning construction. Experiential learning has knowledge acquisition begin internally and, as a result, produces significant and long-lasting results. This student-centered pedagogical approach puts primary focus on the interaction between prior knowledge, new knowledge acquisition and environmental support.
The 4-State Experiential Learning Model (ELM), developed by David Kolb, is a learning cycle that helps provide a visual of what occurs in experiential construction of learning (Hanley, 2008).
4-State Experiential Learning Model
A majority of my educational experiences supported didactic approaches to teaching and learning. During my studies, I was encouraged to recite information in summative assessments and successful rote learning was praised. Though many would argue that this approach can yield some beneficial results, I never favored its practice in modern day educational institutions. In this sense, Confucius was correct, and my understanding of complex pedagogical theory was fortified once I was able to experience hands-on applications of my research. As a result, being immersed in the development of educational technology and online learning pedagogy allowed me to develop my own best practices.
The graduate assistantship outlined two possible tracks for exploration: program assistantship and project assistantship. Through both avenues, Susan Lambert, Director of the FCPE, and Dr. Matthew Curinga, Assistant Professor and Director of Program in Educational Technology, helped me find a direction that aligned with my interests and prior knowledge. I had previously acquired a master’s degree in Art Education from Adelphi University in 2011 and taught for a year in the Uniondale Public School District. I had a passion for illustration, graphic design and web design, as well as pedagogy and learning theories. Fellow intern, Jarrett Carter, and I were able to pursue the topics that interested us the most. We were given the space and time to research information that was fundamental to our teaching practices, like multimedia learning theory, backwards design models and high-impact teaching strategies.
During my time as an intern, I researched Kolb’s experiential learning theory and was able to see how it fit into my learning at the Faculty Center. I learned best when I was an active participant in the construction of my own learning. Kolb’s theory puts an emphasis on “creative tension” that occurs when the ELM learning cycle gives the learner space to embrace “feeling, reflecting, thinking and acting” during the learning process (Hanley, 2008). Contrary to didactic learning techniques, experiential learning in the AU graduate assistantship allowed students to utilize their first-hand knowledge to construct new knowledge and navigate the world, rather than memorize others’ experience. I was able to bring my teaching techniques as a Uniondale teacher to workshops, presentations and course development. I could build on my previous knowledge of pedagogy and practice, and decide which techniques worked well in higher education settings.
Working alongside FCPE staff, I was able to participate in the development of the Hybrid and Online Teaching & Learning (HOT-L) faculty seminar for the 2013 winter intersession. Even after having studied online and face-to-face pedagogy for years, I learned many new things participating in a current online course, which proved to be invaluable in my development. I based my suggestions for the course on my concrete experiences with online learning and hybrid courses, which provided a great foundation for my work in the project. As a development team, we also engaged in self-reflection and thorough observation from both faculty and staff to help improve the course’s learning objects, assets, activities, assessments and goals. Unlike many internships offered at the university level, the AU Graduate assistantship found a synergy between practice and theory that improved my teaching in online, hybrid and face-to-face settings.
The FCPE graduate assistantship provided me with professional training opportunities while also allowing me the pleasure of working alongside some of Adelphi’s renowned faculty and staff. I have also had the opportunity to work on innovative instructional design initiatives, like collaborative team projects to create and implement online courses and workshop. The FCPE internship has helped me acquire invaluable skills that I will continue to use in my development in Educational Technology.
1 For more information regarding the Adelphi University Graduate Assistantship for upcoming semesters, as well as how to apply, please visit our website: https://fcpe.adelphi.edu/
Gentry, J. W. (1990). What Is Experiential Learning? Guide to Business Gaming and Experiential Learning, 9-20. Retrieved from http://www.wmich.edu/casp/servicelearning/files/What%20is%20Experiential%20Learning.pdf .
Hanley, M. (2008, January 1). Constructivism Pt.4: Experiential learning theory. Retrieved April 29, 2013, from http://elearningcurve.edublogs.org/2008/01/01/constructivism-pt4-experiential-learning-theory/
Mehra, P., & Mital, M. (2007). Integrating technology into the teaching-learning transaction: Pedagogical and technological perceptions of management faculty. (Undetermined). International Journal Of Education & Development Using Information & Communication Technology, 3(1), 105-115.
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