Tuesday, November 14, 2006 - 3:00 PM

“A Moving Force”: A Memoir of Experiential Learning.

Steve R. Simmons, Univ of Minnesota, 411 Borlaug Hall, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108

Experiential learning encourages the making of meaning from individual and shared educational experiences while helping concepts become more relevant to a learner. Early 20th Century educational theorist, John Dewey, advocated the articulation of a “theory of experience” that could guide educators. Despite the long period of time since Dewey, such a unified theory is still undefined. One approach to theory building around educational practice is to articulate principles, values and beliefs that emerge from one’s own personal experiences as a student and teacher. Preparing a “memoir of learning and teaching” can be an effective means for beginning to identify such principles, values and beliefs and for inviting others to examine them. This paper summarizes a “memoir of experiential learning” that was written during the author’s professional leave at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, which served as a backdrop for reflecting about the relationships between experience and learning. The memoir describes selected situations drawn from the author’s involvement over several years as a teacher within a field-based Agroecosystems Analysis course. The memoir includes quotations from Dewey and others whose writings have enhanced understanding of the role of experience in education. This paper also offers perspectives on approaches to effective teaching and learning in an experiential context.