I recently got a chance to experience experiential learning first hand in a course called "Modern Marketing". The course eschewed the usual "academic" approach to education or the more trendy "case-based" approach to education. Instead it chose to teach modern marketing via participating in the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC).
The experiential learning involved:
- Reviewing potential team members
- Contacting them about joining or adding them to a team
- Setting up communication techniques
- Defining strengths and roles
- Forming a team contract to define team expectations
- Identifying potential clients to work with the GOMC
- Deciding as a team what client to solicit
- Contacting clients
- Forming an understanding to work with that client
- Creating a contract that would define the expectations
- Negotiating that contract
Before actually investigating the use of [Google Adword] marketing for a specific client's website.
I disagree. Inefficiency is inefficiency no matter how exciting the outcome. As we alter our pedagogy to become experiential we need to be aware of the potential inefficiencies in that approach and to aggressively counteract those inefficiencies. Otherwise our learners spend time doing something they are already skilled at.
For example, if Hertz required that anyone renting a car first go through Driver's Education, that would be an excellent idea for a young kid who never drove a car before and hasn't take that course. To require that for someone who has been driving for 20 years is silly. Similarly, in the marketing class experiential learning example above the above process is a useful learning lesson at the beginning of training (assuming such skills don't exist). But putting such a process at the beginning of every course is inefficient. Not assessing if these skills already exist is lazy.
What to do if you want to deploy more active, participatory experiential learning model?
In this case the solution is quite easy. Move efforts that are "core skills" to a module focusing on "core skills development." Then identify potential inefficiencies and root them out. In this case:
- Assign team members to teams
- Deploy an efficient communication framework to all teams and refine it (alas such a product probably does not exist thanks to lameness of Blackboard and Canvas) - Come on Google do it for us!
- Pre select all companies to work with and ensure they have already agreed to participate and signed a contract to that extent.
As medical training moves to experiential learning it must put effort into similarly rooting out components that are unrelated to the skills development (i.e., competency creation) task at hand. And to not accept inefficiency as a necessary component of that the end goal.
So what is the core weakness in the process of challenging the paradigm? Caution. The old paradigm is alive and well in the above inefficient example. Inefficiency leads to frustration and confusion. It saps excitement and drives folks back to the old way of doing things. Most importantly it ensure that it doesn't work that well. It's a classic example of, "I want to challenge but not alter". As I interpret Kuhn, the existing paradigm is a wall and to some extend we don't want to break it down for fear of what is on the other side. I'll avoid putting in Reagan's quote to Gorbachev.