Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is a process through which students develop knowledge, skills, and values from direct experiences. It refers to a broad spectrum of educational experiences, such as academic courses, service learning, undergraduate research, and internship opportunities, etc.

We all know that we learn best by doing. However, experiential learning is not just learning by doing! The learner needs to reflect on what we are doing intentionally. Through hands-on experience, students learn by designing and constructing real solutions to tackle an authentic problem in real-life contexts. Students will be exposed to settings where they need to draw upon previous learning from various courses and programs and then transfer and apply the theoretical knowledge and skills to solve the ill-defined complex problems. Through critical reflection, experiential learning encourages students to take ownership of their learning process.

Critical reflection also provides students with the opportunity to examine and question their beliefs, knowledge, and values. It involves observation, asking questions, and putting facts, ideas, and experiences together to derive new meaning. Learning is now a more personalized, flexible, and meaningful experience for students. By engaging students in the subject at a deeper level, experiential learning courses ultimately help them to develop the essential skills, such as critical thinking, active learning, creativity and innovation, and complex problem solving, that are required in the unpredictable future.

Many designs of experiential learning courses incorporate projects that students may work on by themselves or in groups. Effective experiential learning project should consist of the following elements:

  • Project outcomes are tied to curriculum and learning goal.
  • Driving questions and problems lead students to the central concepts or principles of the topic or subject areas.
  • Learner’s investigations and research involve inquiry and knowledge building.
  • Learners are responsible for designing and managing much of their learning.
  • The project is based on authentic, real-world problems and questions that students care about.

At HKUST, courses considered “experiential’ must contains the following components:

  1. Authentic and real-life experience for students to engage intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically;
  2. Opportunities for students to pose questions, investigate, experiment, take initiative, make decisions, and be accountable for the results;
  3. Reflective processes that lead to analysis, critical thinking and synthesis;
  4. A well-designed learning experience that allows students to learn from natural consequences, mistakes and successes.

During the learning processes, the learner must:

  • be actively involved in the experience;
  • be able to critically reflect on the experience;
  • use analytical skills to conceptualize the experience; and
  • use decision making and problem-solving skills to apply the new ideas gained from the experience.

To learn more: