Experiential Education


Experiential education “rests on theories of experiential learning, a process whereby the learner interacts with the world and integrates new learning into old constructs” (Eyler, 2009, p.1).  Some might assume that the experience of another culture, by default, creates a more culturally sensitive individual, but international service-learning proves that this is not always the case. To be ethical, experiential education in an international context must be framed within a thoughtful process of pre-departure learning, engagement with the community partner as co-educator (i.e. as subject within the experience, not object of the experience), and structure post-engagement reflection.  Experiential education aims to increase student agency within the learning process, and agency in an international setting can be defined  as the desire to grow within a community of difference and dialogue with others using the imaginative power of taking multiple perspectives.

There is an increasing demand from Canadian university students for experiential education processes in their undergraduate studies; if demand for international experience is not met by the university, there are many international volunteer agencies a student can access, but they are not always ethical in their approach to international engagement. Therefore, it is the belief of EIESL that ethical engagement in international experiential education be paramount in importance when the program originates from a university institution.