Experiential Educator Feature

Paul Jaijairam

Deputy Chair/Professor
Bronx Community College (CUNY)

What does experiential learning mean to you?

Experiential learning means that students are learning by doing a specific task in order to obtain a desired student learning outcome. This can be done through applying specific subject matter theories in solving “real-life” problems especially in a group setting. This setting will also serve to build teamwork and communication skills.

Why is experiential learning a priority for you?

Experiential learning is a priority because it increases students’ skills and knowledge beyond the words in textbooks or during class lectures. It serves as an important learning pillar as students are able to connect the classroom material and real-world scenarios.

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

An example, of a successful experiential learning engagement in my classroom is to have my students, in a group setting, select two companies trading on the NYSE and analyze their financial statements. They are asked to perform various analysis (ratios, vertical, horizontal, trend, etc.) and present their findings to potential investors, creditors, and the current board of directors as to the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, a SWOT Analysis.

Why do you use experiential learning?

I use experiential learning in my classroom as it in a nutshell brings the material in the textbooks and lectures to reality. This reality is what will be expected of our students as they enter the workforce.

How do your students benefit from experiential learning?

My students benefit from experiential learning as they are able to apply knowledge to actual real-world scenarios. They are primarily able to work on enhancing their critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills.

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

Almost all of our Business Department’s AAS degrees have an embedded course (College Work Experience) in the curriculum that addresses experiential learning. However, our AS Degrees (transfer degrees) do not so we rely on individual instructors to be able to implement some form of experiential learning in the classroom. Therefore, the challenge is to engage all of instructors to provide this beneficial learning to this group of students.

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

As mentioned above, our students, using real-world examples, are expected to learn how to appropriately collaborate as a member of a group, as well, as enhancing their communication skills both oral and written, and critical thinking skills.

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

My advice and personal view are to have your students involve in some form of experiential learning else we are not truly preparing them to enter the real-world. It can be from something as simple as “flipping the classroom” or having a formal class project as part of the syllabus. If it is the latter, it should be a project that is embedded for all sections of that course. If each of us reflect back to when we were students, I do believe that at some point in our academic career have asked the question “when are we ever going to use what is being taught when we graduate and enter the workforce.” By demonstrating on how specific learnt knowledge can be applied when they enter Corporate America, students can close the knowledge and practical application gap and truly appreciate the academic curriculum.

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Paul Jaijairam

Deputy Chair/Professor
Bronx Community College (CUNY)