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Build a Branch - Experiential Learning

By rooting education in the practice of tangible skills, students become empowered to see the relevance of their studies in the real world.

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Students often find themselves balancing the attempt to follow their dreams and the pressure to be practical. Imagine a first-year student who is passionate about sociology but isn't sure what a career will look like. She ends up settling to study computer science.

How will the development of technology be influenced if it's produced on the basis practicality rather than rooted in innovation? The social sciences provide a path to solving some of the most central challenges in our world (oppression, domination, integration, division etc.)  Higher education can take the lead on connecting a multitude of different disciplines. By providing tangible skills and job experience into the curriculum we can begin to build a more intersectional job market. Integrating these different disciplines and combining more specific training experience with a degree could help create new pathways to occupations. We can redefine what is "practical" to study by putting direct skills in with traditional education. What if we made courses more hands on with built in project based curriculum. Imagine what a class like "Non Profit 101" might look like or if having an internship each academic year was built into receiving a degree.

Bellow are a few organizations working with experience/project based learning 


Let's break down the limitations that majors can present and focus more on helping students thrive in intersections of their education. This will ultimately aid higher education in making skill-building a main focus.

Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • A group brainstorm
  • An Individual
  • A classroom or academic assignment

Tell us about your work experience:

Second-year student at Mills College studying Sociology and Women's Gender & Sexuality Studies Circulation and Monitor Desk Student Assistant at F.W. Olin Library Youth Leader at The Mosaic Project - workshop facillitation with Bay Area youth on conflict resolution and appreciating diversity Jewish Youth for Community Action - Co-wrote and developed curriculum to lead weekly meetings on Judaism, activism and youth empowerment

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

What will truly inspire students? How can innovation build new jobs and new connections between disciplines? How might we re-define jobs through hands-on experiential learning in higher education?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dan Ryan

@Amelia , this reminds me a little of conversation in connection with the Back to Basics post. The Bauhaus art school ( in the 1920s took the then radical move of combining fines arts and "ordinary" craft instruction under one roof. It'd be interesting to see what cross-fertilization might be possible between your ideas and that.  And, relatedly, the posts on coop education.

In my experience the thinking around "experiential" education tends to be pretty shallow. I think you are right to cajole us to stepping up our came a bit.

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