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Experiential Learning Activities for Academia

Bringing learning to life in academia

Both students and staff stand to gain a real edge from immersive experiential learning activities that bring their studies to life.

For students, the difference can be huge: helping them both to develop the skills needed to excel in their academic life – for example through independent thought and reasoning – and to ultimately become more employable once they finish their studies.

MTa’s approach to experiential learning is well-placed to help you bridge the gap between theory and reality by using simulated activities to mimic real-world situations in which participants learn valuable skills to take into the workplace. You could use these versatile kits to facilitate short activities that develop participants’ soft skills and emotional intelligence.

A recent survey of employers by UK university admissions group UCAS shows that employers particularly value skills like questioning, creative thinking, teamwork, leadership and problem-solving. These skills are hard to teach from a text book but really come to life in MTa’s experiential learning.

The UK’s University of Leeds, for example, used MTa Insights as an integral part of a one-day workshop on employability. Students worked on a short problem-solving activity that enabled them to reflect on the skills, attitudes, approaches and behaviours that would allow them to be as effective as possible in similar situations.

Leeds University students use MTa Learning experiential activities

At Aberystwyth University in Wales, tutors used another MTa activity as part of a one-hour tutorial to build teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills. To succeed students needed to clearly define their criteria for success, plan, monitor progress, change approaches, listen, question, explain, apply logic/creative thinking, develop ideas, lead and follow. No group completed it on the first attempt but then reflected and attempted it again.

“Results from [a student] questionnaire indicated that specific employability skills were improved in 88% of cases, and 73% of participants felt the exercises were valuable in developing personal and transferable skills,” says Aberystwyth geography lecturer Dr Duncan Quincey.

As these training materials deal with complexity and develop complex skills, learning exercises are equally useful as part of organizational behaviour and psychology curricula.

“We can help bring theory to life, for example team theory or leadership styles,” says MTa managing director Jamie Thompson. “We’ve used our activities to demonstrate Eduardo Salas’ theory on the big five in teamwork or Peter Hawkins’ theories on systemic team coaching and the five disciplines of successful team practice.

And for those returning to education, these activities are equally valuable.

“We use this on our Emerging Leaders program, a 4 day residential program, which bring together some of the top upcoming leaders from companies such as SAAB, Toyota, BHP, BMW…,” says Gene Howell from the Australian Institute of Management. “It has a tremendous dynamic in enabling people to see for themselves how teams work – or don’t! It’s a fantastic tool, well worth it, and more than exceeds value for money.”

You could also use experiential learning activities to build skills like networking and collaboration across teams – which are so important in helping to break down silos in academia, and bringing breakthroughs in research. And they work well across borders.

“The MTa Kit exercises work across cultures – I’ve used it with experienced managers from the Ukraine, the UK and Malaysia. The learning is always clear and people can relate their learning back to the workplace,” says Iain Lauder, at Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh Business School in Scotland.

And finally, experiential learning is just as useful for academic staff looking to develop their own communication, leadership and team-working skills.

Indeed experiential learning should be a key component in delivering on the mission of universities and colleges everywhere to advance education through great teaching and research, laying the foundations for the next generation of great citizens and leaders.

Find out how you can bring your own learning to life with the MTa Insights suite of experiential learning activities. All the examples in this article are among 53 different experiential learning activities included in this highly versatile and portable kit.

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A set of 53 sophisticated experiential learning activities in areas such as team skills, leadership, communication, problem solving, negotiation and change.

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