What is Experiential Learning?

Experiential Learning (EL) is both a philosophy of education as well as a high-impact pedagogical practice which enhances traditional classroom learning. Through EL, students are encouraged to develop their professional skills in real-world settings. It is a learning process that integrates mentorship, self-guided exploration, and reflection with active, hands-on educational experiences, on or off campus. Through EL, University of Dayton (UD) students develop a deeper understanding of specific issues and their ability to address real human problems and needs, enabling them to cultivate their gifts, appreciate the interdependence of self and community, and discover a higher purpose for life and work.

During the EL process, educators guide students to develop a rich understanding of how their newly developed experiential knowledge fits within broader contexts, including: UD student learning outcomes such as practical wisdom and vocational discernment, classroom and major learning objectives, as well as personal growth and leadership development. Experiential learners at UD apply concepts and theories from the classroom to improve social justice and community issues, develop inter-cultural awareness, sharpen problem-solving abilities, and/or promote civic engagement. This integration of curricular and co-curricular experiences engages the student as a whole person and equips them to take action, transfer knowledge to new situations, and apply the Marianist traditions of community and service at UD and beyond.

EL is reflected in a number of opportunities at UD, including: student employment, co-ops and internships, education abroad, community-engaged learning, faith and vocation development, undergraduate and graduate research, creative projects, practicums, laboratory and field-based work, conferences and workshops, and student leadership experiences. EL at UD incorporates the following five key elements for student development:

  • EL Practitioner (professor, supervisor, and/or employer, etc.) designs learning outcomes for the experience and frames the learning experience for students
  • Participation in a self-guided learning experience where students can experiment and test out ideas in new and diverse settings on or off campus
  • A purposeful reflection component guided by the EL Practitioner/mentor, intended to deepen and generate learning by prompting students to make meaning of the experience.
  • EL practitioner/mentor guides students to make connections between the learning experience and other personal, academic, and professional areas, as well as the EL learning outcomes at the University of Dayton
  • Students are positioned to apply what they have learned through experiential learning to make a unique impact on the world for the common good
  • Student's developmental learning is assessed holistically to provide valuable feedback and continually improve future high-impact EL programs.

Get involved today!

At UD, EL is more than just a resume builder - it is about engaging in a process of discovery and realization, to explore one’s own gifts, talents, and skills and find meaningful ways to employ them in the world.

Click here for a list of EL opportunities at UD.


The Office of Experiential Learning

Roesch Library
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469