What is Experiential Education?

Experiential Learning

 The University of Windsor has many different types of Experiential Learning opportunities within the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. UWindsor's experiential learning philosophy is underpinned by Kolb's Learning Theory. In the theory, Kolb shares how a reoccuring learning cycle allows a variety of students to access deep learning opportunities. The cycle uses four main stages such as a 

  • Concrete Experience
  • Reflective Observation
  • Abstract Conceptuatlization
  • Active Experimentation.

To support this view, UWindsor has adopted

  • A Career Development Model
  • A Curricular UWindsor Typology of Experiential Learning (see below)
  • A Co-Curricular UWindsor Typology of Experiential Learning (see below)
  • A strategy to track and identify experiential learning opportunities within and beyond the curriculum

Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2017). The experiential educator: Principles and practices of experiential learning. Experience-based learning systems.

Click on the various drop boxes to see how experiential learning happens at the University of Windsor.

The selection of this terminology was determined by the Provost’s Task Force on Experiential Education. Details about the process can be found in an internal document titled Experiential Education: A path towards improving the student experience.

For further information please see http://web2.uwindsor.ca/pac/publications/PTFEE/files/assets/common/downloads/Experiential%20Education.pdf

Curricular Experiential Learning

Curricular Applied Research: Learning opportunities intended to enhance a student’s skill development by bringing them together within organizations, business, or industry to address specific real-world challenges. Applied research projects encompass a wide variety of activities and include products, processes, and services (Sattler & Peters, 2012). Students do not typically receive a regular salary or wage from the employer (e.g., design projects; community-based research projects). For example GART/SOSC 2100 Ways of Knowing and GART/SOSC Ways of Doing 3100

Case Studies: Provide an opportunity for students to apply their learning to real-life scenarios by working through complex, ambiguous, real-world problems by encouraging the learner to work out their own approach to defining, analyzing, and solving the challenge, rather than analyze it from a distance (Angelo & Boehrer, 2002). For example Political Science, POLS 4650 Seminar in Globalization.

Clinic: Provides practice-based work experience, under the supervision of an experienced professional, and opportunities for reflection and development of professional identity where the experience is not required for discipline-specific professional licensure or certification (e.g., Community Legal Aid Clinic, Faculty of Law).

Community Service Learning, Curricular: Meaningful community service with classroom Instruction and critical reflection to enrich the learning experience and strengthen communities. In practice, students work in partnership with a community-based organization to apply their disciplinary knowledge to address identified community needs or global issues (Sattler & Peters, 2012). For example Faculty of Education (80-207; Language & Cultural Engagement Seminar), SOSC-4500 Practicum in Social Change GART/SOSC 2100 Ways of Knowing and GART/SOSC Ways of Doing 3100, Women's and Gender Studies - WGST-4500 Practicum in Social Change.

Co-op: Academic study that alternates with progressive skills acquisition through paid work experience. Placements are developed and/or approved by the university in a block placement model ending on an academic semester. Students are engaged in productive work and receive feedback from their employers; the time spent in periods of work experience must be at least 30% of the time spent in academic study (CACE, 2016; Sattler & Peters, 2012).

Consulting Project: Work with an organization, business, or industry to identify issues or opportunities and develop solutions or strategies to industry problems. For example GART/SOSC 2100 Ways of Knowing and GART/SOSC Ways of Doing 3100

Creative Performance or Exhibit: Production of a dramatic, artistic, media, musical performance or exhibit for an audience. For example Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Dramatic Art–Acting; Music Performance - MUSP 3930 Recital I & II, Visual Art VSAR - 4800/4810 Studio Practice I & II

Field Placement: Provides students with an intensive hands-on practical experience in a setting relevant to their subject of study. Field placements may not require supervision of a registered or licensed professional, and the completed work experience hours are not required for professional certification. Field placements account for work-integrated educational experiences not encompassed by other forms, such as co-op, clinic, practicum, and internship. An example includes the Department of Communications, Media and Film (CMAF 3990 & CMAF 4990; Internship I & II)

Field School (Field Work): Exposure to the work setting through participation in work activities, participation in laboratories, site visits, study tours, or field trips, and more (O’Shea, 2014). Experience used to enhance the learning of academic content and to gain work-related skills (Sattler & Peters, 2012). For example: 

Final Cumulative Activity: A final cumulative activity in the senior or final year of study that Is based significantly on knowledge and skills acquired in earlier coursework and which are considered foundations. It involves a creative, iterative, and often open-ended process subject to constraints that may be governed by protocols, practices, standards, or even legislation to varying degrees, depending on the discipline. Students are often required to learn additional skills or acquire further knowledge on their own initiative to complete the activity, much as if they were engaged in professional, creative, or scholarly practice. The outputs from this activity are typically communicated in a manner, forum, or venue that can be expected as appropriate for the discipline represented. If relevant and appropriate, the activity may ultimately seek to emulate a significant scope of practice, scenario, or otherwise substantial undertaking that the student could be expected to fulfil as part of the discipline. For example HIST 4990 Research Capstone ThesisDRAM-4710. Drama and Community: Applications.

Internship: Program-related experience in a professional work environment (Sattler & Peters, 2012). Internships generally involve the integration of theory and practice, personal development, career exploration, and professional socialization. Learning is assessed via reflection. Placements are conducted over an extended period and are typically paid, full-time, and supervised by an experienced professional. For example CMAF 4990/CMAF 3990 Internship I & II

Lab: Providing students with the opportunity to practice science through applying course concepts in a laboratory or field environment (by observing, measuring, testing, etc.), For example, DRAM 2100/CMAF 2100 Speech Communication to Inform students learn theory in the lecture and practice doing speeches in the small labs, DRAM 1280/DRAM 1290 Improvisation and Introduction to Acting for the Theatre I & II)

Practicum (clinical placement, practicum work experience, professional placement, mandatory professional practice): The experience required by both an academic program and a regulatory college/professional association by which professional capabilities are developed in a work setting or simulated work setting (i.e., simulation lab), under the supervision of an experienced registered or licensed professional (e.g., preceptor), with the aim of meeting the work hour requirements for professional licensure, certification, or registration (Sattler & Peters, 2012). For example Faculty of Education, Practice Teaching; SOSC-4500 Practicum in Social Change, and School of Social Work, Field Practicum (47-473).

Publication or Conference Presentation: Presenting, publishing, or contributing towards a piece of original scholarly work to convey knowledge, foster engagement, and stimulate public discourse in the community at large. For example, students may present at Congress or UWill Discover.

Research Project: An inquiry or investigation conducted by a student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline (Council for Undergraduate Research, 2012). For example PSYC-4960 Thesis: Seminar & PSCY 4970 Thesis: Research; HIST-4990 Research Capstone Thesis.

Student Abroad: International study or work within the discipline for at least one academic term. For example Student Exchange, INCS 3570/INCS 3580 Directed Studies Abroad I & II, Teachers for Tanzania, and European Union Study Abroad Program.

Co-curricular Experiential Learning

Co-curricular On-campus work: Paid, not for credit, on-campus student jobs. For example Ignite Work-Study, MITACS internships, student library assistants.

Co-curricular on-campus non-work: Student government programs or student club or leadership positions that provide learning opportunities for students. Paid or unpaid. Not for credit. For example, involvement in student clubs, opportunities offered by the Student Success and Leadership Centre.  

Community Service Learning (co-curricular): Co-curricular CSL experiences differ from course-based CSL in that students engaged in co-curricular CSL are not enrolled in a designated CSL course. Students work in partnership with a community-based organization to apply disciplinary knowledge to address identified community needs or global issues. In the absence of the course content and context from which to draw, participants are purposefully supported by staff to apply disciplinary knowledge relevant to their course of study in community settings and to take part in an intentional reflection on the experience. For example, UWindsor’s VIP Community Service Learning Program and the Developing Teachers Partnership.

Externship: Supervised, short-term, unpaid, and non-credit experience in a workplace focused on skill acquisition in a professional field of study. Typical placement duration of one to two weeks. Externships are designed to provide students with an opportunity for networking, career exposure and exploration. For example Union Gas

Ignite Work-Study: Paid, part-time, on-campus work opportunities during the academic term for students who demonstrate financial need. Concurrent work experience is not necessarily in the Practice of future profession and is often tied to general professional and/or personal development (Sattler, P. & Peters, J., 2012). For example the University of Windsor’s Work-Study program.

Job Shadowing: Like an externship, where students learn about a job, including skills, educational requirement, work environment, and lifestyle associated with a career, by shadowing a competent worker; however, placement duration is typically limited to a single day.

Para-Professional: Involves student participation, paid or unpaid, in the structured format under The purview of a university department that provides services or support to a third party. Provides returning learners the opportunity to reflect upon their experience and allows for personal exploration. For example, peer helpers, student ambassadors, or student advisors.

Research Assistantships: Student functions as a research assistant and collaborator on academic research, creative activities, or other expressions of academic scholarship. For example, Hired on a research-related project with a faculty member or department. Learn more about UWindsor researchers!

Teaching Assistantships: Hired to provide supplementary teaching support to a faculty member or departments, such as marking, delivery of labs, or facilitating tutorials or leading discussions. For example University of Windsor Teaching Assistantship program.

Volunteer: Opportunities to contribute to professional development, explore career options, And network with professionals by donating time to an organization. For example Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers and Big Sisters.


Experiential Learning Theory is a pedagogical philosophy mainly identified within Ontario Higher Education as coming from educational theorist and social psychologist David A. Kolb. In Kolb's view, experiential learning is a dialogic cycle involving a "Concrete Experience", "Reflection and Observation", "Abstraction and Conceptualization" and "Active Experimentation". The cycle can be applied for various learning styles and in various settings such as the individual, small groups and within organizations. Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory has been developed by other foundational scholars.

Image source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Foundational-scholars-of-experiential-learning_fig1_270671768

Frequently people use the term work-integrated learning interchangeably with the term experiential learning.  Work-integrated learning as defined by Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada) is a subset of experiential learning.  CEWIL defines work-integrated learning (WIL) as follows:

"Work-integrated learning is a model and process of curricular experiential education which formally and intentionally integrates a student’s academic studies within a workplace or practice setting. WIL experiences include an engaged partnership of at least: an academic institution, a host organization and a student. WIL can occur at the course or program level and includes the development of learning outcomes related to employability, personal agency and life-long learning" (CEWIL, 2018).

Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada). (2018). WIL definitions. Retrieved July 8, 2019: https://www.cewilcanada.ca/_Library/Rebrand_CEWIL/WIL-Def-Final.pdf

Work-integrated learning requires a complex set of standards and quality frameworks.  For more information see: