Serving Faculty, Staff, Students, & the North Georgia Community
Teaching A Whole New Mind?
Connecting Experiential Learning to the Classroom
The big news, for some of us, is that traditional teaching—that is, teaching “factoids” devoid of context—does not necessarily educate students to become leaders and engaged citizens. Students must learn content; however, content devoid of skills becomes meaningless. Skills have become even more critical as ever increasingly fast-paced changes in our world have changed the educational landscape. In fact, we are now educating students for careers that have yet to exist.
To teach these skills, North Georgia faculty are adopting innovative teaching and learning strategies, both curricular and co-curricular, to provide students context for learning the skills they will need. These innovations are being integrated into a wide variety of existing courses and programs: in first-year courses, in learning communities, in writing in the discipline courses, in senior capstone culminating experiences, in undergraduate research experiences, in service learning, in study abroad, and in internships and cooperative education programs.
What are these all-important skills that characterize good leadership and enable lifelong learning? They are outlined in North Georgia’s Learning Outcomes, that students will be able to
- communicate effectively,
- think analytically, contextually, and holistically,
- learn by integrating knowledge,
- reflect critically to take informed action, and
- analyze ethical interactions in local and global communities.
The learning outcomes are just one aspect of the transformation in teaching and learning that is taking place on our campus and throughout higher education. We are redefining academic experiences to teach these skills through experiential learning.
Experiential learning expands the classroom beyond its traditional walls, beyond the traditional campus, out into the region. Experiential learning is regional engagement that invites the community into the academic experience and that infuses the academic experience into the community. Experiential learning is the place—anywhere—where students learn, apply, practice, and develop leadership skills under the guidance of faculty and in the context of real situations with real consequences.
Experiential Learning and A Whole New Mind
Another way to think about the skills imparted by experiential learning is detailed in a book by Daniel Pink: A Whole New Mind. Pink claims that three factors have changed our society: abundance, Asia, and automation. We live in a time of abundant resources and finances, a time when many jobs employing knowledge workers are moving to Asia, and a time when automation is changing the way professionals do work. Because of these changes, Pink argues that our society now—in what he terms “the Conceptual Age”— requires us to use our whole minds.
Pink argues that we must go beyond using just the analytical parts of our minds, the parts which produce reasoning processes which have been rewarded in us as knowledge workers in the information age. Instead, we will need to use our whole minds—the rational as well as the creative—in this new age. These parts of our minds are the conceptual parts that allow for leadership skills, the six capacities Pink describes as those that “will guide our lives and shape our world”: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning (67).
Experiential Learning at North Georgia
Examples from across the campus illustrate applications of Pink’s capacities in experiential learning to engage students across North Georgia’s curriculum:
Pink claims it’s “not just function but also design” (65). Experiential learning emphasizes that it’s just not about creating anything that is merely functional. From now on out, it’s about doing more with “a product, a service, an experience, or a lifestyle that’s merely functional. Today it’s economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging” (65).
- Dr. Georgia Mann’s history interns, and students in a soon to be developed class, are creating oral histories by preserving the stories of military personnel and veterans. In the process of providing a service, they are creating records that go beyond building on textbook history to become emotionally engaging. Other internship posts Dr. Mann’s students have filled include ones at the Gold Museum, on archeological digs, and with the State Department in Berlin. She will soon be conducting an oral history class that will network with Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Pink claims it’s “not just argument but also story” (65). Experiential learning forces us to realize that “it’s not enough to marshal an effective argument. . . . The essence of persuasion, communication, and self-understanding has become the ability also to fashion a compelling narrative” (66).
- Students in Ms. Kelly West’s environmental biology classes are fashioning compelling narratives by cleaning up local rivers and connecting the experience to what they have learned in class through writing.
Pink claims it’s “not just focus but also symphony” (66). Experiential learning insists that “what’s in greatest demand today isn’t analysis but synthesis—seeing the big picture, crossing the boundaries, and being able to combine disparate pieces into an arresting new whole” (66).
- Our longest existing learning community—the Corps of Cadets—engages regularly in FTX. COL Tom Palmer explains that the experiences force students to synthesize, arranging previously learned skills into new patterns to achieve the FTX objective.
Pink claims it’s “not just logic but also empathy” (66). Experiential learning shows that “logic alone won’t do. What will distinguish those who thrive will be their ability to understand what makes their fellow woman or man tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others” (66).
- Dr. Terrie Millard’s physical therapy students and members of the University’s equestrian team have forged these relationships with local children, in equestrian camps. The Gold Dust Riders hold the camps twice a year to provide disabled children experience with horses. The riding experience helps them to gain confidence in their abilities, enabling them to overcome disabilities.
Pink claims it’s “not just seriousness but also play” (66). Experiential learning argues for being serious, “but too much sobriety can be bad for your career and worse for your general well-being. In the Conceptual Age, in work and in life, we all need to play” (66).
- Each semester, Dr. Elizabeth Combier’s Spanish students stage live performances of plays in Spanish, encouraging students to encounter the playful for the amusement of real audiences.
Finally, Pink claims, it’s “not just accumulation but also meaning” (66). Experiential learning focuses us on pursuing—and encouraging others to pursue—“more significant desires: purpose, transcendence, and spiritual fulfillment” (66).
- Dr. Carmen Mas, in Teacher Education, is developing new learning communities that will integrate Spanish language classes and experiences throughout the curriculum so that students will experience transcendence by making their teacher preparation more meaningful.
Experiment with the Experiential
Join the transformation. Enjoy forging more connections between academics and leadership. Conserve the traditions of teaching; it is about seriousness, focus, function, arguments, logic, and accumulation. Expand the teaching and learning experience to include experiential learning; experiment with incorporating a whole new mind of design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.
To add your example as a link, contact the Executive Director for Regional Engagement.
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