Experiential Educator Feature

Kevin Walker

Associate Professor of Business
Eastern Oregon University

What does experiential learning mean to you?

To me, experiential learning simply means the application of of theoretical knowledge. I’m a proponent of “by doing, learn.”

Why is experiential learning a priority for you?

It’s one thing to tell a student how things work. It’s entirely another for the student to internalize it because they had to apply it in a real-world situation. Students tend to have been training to memorize and regurgitate “knowledge” on exams. They also tend to focus only on what THEY think will get them past the next exam. Putting a student into a situation whereby they must APPLY knowledge and receive immediate feedback, positive or negative, on their decision engages their brains in ways that tend to force them to find better ways to use their knowledge.

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

I’ve worked with colleagues to choose and customize MBA Capstone simulations where students function as a CEO in increasingly complex simulations. I’ve also created projects where students select real-life legal issues and they are required to attend court hearings or work with people in special functional areas to learn how this knowledge is actually used. I frequently offer practicum credit for hands-on work in the summer.

Why do you use experiential learning?

It helps the student internalize the reason for the knowledge by forcing them to look at real-world practicalities. “This is WHY I’m making you learn this!”

How do your students benefit from experiential learning?

It’s far easier to get a job when the student can say “here’s what I’ve done and what I know how to do” than simply holding out a list of classes they paid for.

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

You have to be invested in it. You have to be creative and yet selective in the experiential education. In my opinion, it’s more work than a traditional lecture class because it takes more forethought and more customization to provide a good experiential learning experience.

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

#1 is critical thinking. I try to create an aspect of “prove it” either by competition with classmates or by challenging them to show me their abilities like I am a potential employer.

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

Look at everything on offer. I would venture a bet that most faculty attempting to create a comprehensive list of experiential learning opportunities will miss a lot of possibilities. Look for opportunities that fit your program, your location,your faculty background and interests. If you try to create things that someone else is doing, you may be missing something that you can excel at simply because you didn’t consider it or thought you had to follow someone else’s plan.

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Kevin Walker

Associate Professor of Business
Eastern Oregon University
Kevin was raised on a farm in southeast Kansas and was licensed as a Missouri paramedic. Following law school, he worked as a public defender in Idaho before opening a law office in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Kevin began teaching Fire Service Administration courses for EOU in January 2005 and became a tenure-track faculty member and the FSA program coordinator in the fall of 2010 leaving the practice of law to pursue development of a professional fire officer degree program in keeping with the precepts of the FESHE initiative while overseeing several adjunct faculty.