Experiential Educator Feature

JoAnne Ferrara

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Professor
/
Manhattanville College

What does experiential learning mean to you?

Providing authentic experiences to engage participants in communities of practice.

Why is experiential learning a priority for you?

As a teacher educator I am charged with preparing the next generation of teachers. In doing so, I must provide teacher candidates opportunities to work in real classroom alongside master teachers.

Can you give us an example of a successful experiential learning engagement that you've coordinated/delivered?

Eighteen years ago I developed a model that built a collaboration between a higher education partner and a local elementary school with four purposes in mind: the preparation of new teachers, the training of veteran teachers, conducting research, and improving outcomes for students. Given the success of this model, my institution created a network of schools implementing the same structure.

Why do you use experiential learning?

Experiential learning develops a context for participants to engage in real-world challenges and solutions. It aligns well with project-based learning and design thinking.

How do your students benefit from experiential learning?

They benefit from “learning by doing” rather than reading information from a text. Students become quite reflective and good problem solvers when they share their experiences with classmates, or with their host teachers.

What's the most challenging part of being an #ExperientialEducator? (coordinating/delivering an experiential learning curriculum to students)

There are several that come to mind: finding the right environment that supports students’ learning outcomes, communication among partners, developing policies.

What skills do your students use when engaged in experiential learning?

Strong communication skills, taking initiative, and developing empathy.

What advice do you have for faculty and institutions considering experiential learning?

Start small, define your mission, find the right partner, and build trust among stakeholders.

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JoAnne Ferrara

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Professor
/
Manhattanville College