Experiential education and social justice: philosophical and methodological considerations for integrating experiential learning in educational leadership

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Marin E. Burton (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Glenn Hudak

Abstract: Experiential education has been practiced in the United States for the last forty years. During that time, the philosophy and practice has taken a variety of shapes and has evolved in purpose and methodology. Experiential education can be used as a meaningful approach to education often yielding transformational results. This inquiry explores the belief that one aim of education should be to prepare students to become responsible and active citizens within the democratic society they will eventually help to shape. This means offering opportunities for students to engage in meaningful experiences that allow them to grapple with the complexities of social constructs in addition to other intended curricular outcomes. Experiential education is one form of education that can engage students in an active way so they can practice the democratic skills they will use while outside the educational environment. Using philosophical memoir, I describe the lived experience of experiential education. I explore the aims and promises of experiential education and explore how experiential education is well positioned to be a vehicle for transformational change and how it can be used to address aims of social justice. Experiential education is connected to principles of social justice when it challenges authority hierarchies, when choices are offered during educational experiences and when educators work to create agency within their students, by increasing cultural awareness of self and others through shared experiences of diverse learners. Further, educators would be well served to intentionally utilize experiential methods in order to create truly democratic educational environments that critically examine various issues of equity and justice. Educators and students alike are socially constructed beings that co-create knowledge within experiential classrooms. Rooted in pragmatic philosophy, I analyze narratives of experience illustrating how knowledge is constructed and how this educational approach can be used for democratic aims. This epistemology set the stage for philosophical themes discussed throughout the inquiry, such as understanding knowledge construction in a way that is useful for the lived experience and utilizing democracy as a way of life. These pragmatist ideas influence and compliment experiential practice encouraging students to examine cultural contexts and practice skills needed within society as they experience and then intentionally reflect on those experiences. This work helps educators to seek to fulfill pragmatist's promises of democracy. Intentionally focusing on social justice as an educational endeavor asks educators to recognize the cultural constructs of all players within the educational scene. These constructs influence self-concept which in turn, influences how we engage with one another in our educational endeavors. Negotiating principles of social justice means examining institutions for power, privilege and hidden curriculum that may be oppressive or sending messages to students about their worth. It also means nurturing the voices of all learners encouraging them to become agents of change within their personal and social worlds in order to work toward more equitable and just social environments. The idea is not that experiential education should be used at all times or that it offers a panacea for educational woes. It would be counterproductive and the antithesis of what this inquiry is suggesting to dogmatically prescribe a particular practice. However, just as pragmatists hope for the promise of the democratic experiment, there is hope for experiential praxis to make transformational change toward a more socially just world.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2010
Education, Experiential, Justice, Methodology, Philosophy, Social
Critical pedagogy.
Educational sociology $z United States.
Education $x Social aspects $z United States.
Transformative learning.
Social justice.

Email this document to