The evolution of experiential learning in the Faculty of Engineering

From rogue experiment to curricular innovation and beyond


  • Robert Vladimir Fleisig McMaster University



Experiential-based learning in engineering education is nearly synonymous with student-centred, hands-on learning using design projects. The pedagogical model adopted by pioneers of this kind of learning in engineering is one step removed from lecture-based classes. That is, the pencil and paper assignment is simply replaced with a hands-on experience with little or no change in the learning outcomes, methods of assessment, and learner-support strategies. This paper argues that this pedagogical model has outlived its usefulness. Experiential learning ought to be employed as a means to train students in durable mindsets, behaviours, and ways of thinking. Just offering students a hands-on experience is not sufficient. In short, there is a need for a new way to think about experiential education in engineering. This reflective essay maps out the journey of one engineering educator’s rogue experiment with experiential education to new ways of thinking about it.