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Graded By the Street: Experiential Learning

Experiential learning submerges a class in applied activities that dissolve the boundary between the academy and whatever’s beyond it. Whether as focused simulations, individual ethnographic projects, or semester-long endeavors that involve an whole class, experiential learning forces us to consider how our discipline does its best work in the world.

I can offer one detailed example. This semester I am teaching ENGL 3120: Electronic Writing and Publishing, but we’ve rebranded it Occupy Class. My students work collaboratively every work to compose and publish stories to www.occupyclass.org, our online investigation of the Occupy movement in its local, national, and international manifestations. We spent the first three weeks of the semester studying journalistic methods and online platforms — just long enough to make decisions about what and how we wanted to publish. We currently publish 6-10 articles weekly to the site.

Critical questions: How can digital tools and practices help us design experiences that are just as (or more) pedagogically useful as “reading texts”? What similar classroom activities have you used or observed that can give the group a rounder understanding of experiential learning? What problems or anxieties does the concept of experiential learning present to your discipline or your own teaching? How or why must we throw traditional ideas of assessment out the window when we move towards experience?

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