Our emphasis on Experiential & Community-Engaged Learning

FLC’s “knowledge in action” moves learning out of the classroom and into real world contexts. We emphasize FLC-unique forms of experiential learning and community-based learning, which are defined, encouraged, and supported by our EXCEL Center.  

Defining Experiential & Community-Engaged Learning

Experiential learning, often described as ‘learning by doing’ or ‘hands-on learning,’ encourages students to build their knowledge through application and reflection. It often reimagines a key assignment as a project or activity. Experiential learning involves risk-taking, making mistakes, and its results are often unpredictable. It also often involves forms of understanding that can be characterized as social, cooperative, and open-ended. Experiential learning provides multiple entry points into the learning process and can increase student agency through inclusive pedagogy. 

Community-engaged learning is a type of experiential learning that fosters opportunities for students to work alongside community partners in addressing community needs and empowering their strengths. It is based on the understanding of mutually beneficial relationships and reciprocity of learning and action. Community-engaged learning understands that knowledge sits in many other places beyond academia and works to integrate multiple ways of knowing into course themes. 

Elements shared by experiential and community-engaged learning include:

  1. Faculty design and facilitate opportunities for sustained learning-by-doing
  2. Students can shape an open-ended learning process
  3. Learning happens in applied contexts, which can be within or outside of the classroom setting
  4. Intentional design to reflect on the experience and integrate with new ways of understanding

Unique aspects of Experiential & Community-Engaged Learning

We have created a FLC-unique understanding of Experiential & Community-Engaged Learning, emphasizing Relevance, Reciprocity, and Reflection. Learning can become deeply meaningful when “learning by doing” is expanded to include interacting, including, valuing, and reflecting.

Relevance 

  • to student lives
  • to course themes
  • to pressing social and ecological issues of our time

Reciprocity

  • where community partners are valued and included in project design
  • where projects have mutually beneficial outcomes for student and social/ecological systems
  • where lands and waters are respected as Indigenous places, from original inhabitance to ongoing stewardship.

Reflection

  • as the integral component of experiential and community-engaged learning
  • as requiring deliberate and intentional facilitation by faculty for transformative student experience
  • as an opening to explore personal reflexivity, understanding how positionality shapes our perceptions of experiences

Apply for EXCEL Spring 2023 Funding

Resources

See communications and materials developed by the EXCEL Center. Visit the EXCEL Center in the Academic Hub.

Contact

Becky Clausen
EXCEL Center Co-coordinator
Academic Hub
Phone: 970-247-7237
Email: clausen_r@fortlewis.edu

Deb Powers
EXCEL Center Co-coordinator
Academic Hub
Phone: 970-247-6295
Email: dlpowers@fortlewis.edu