The 4 Essentials for Experiential Learning in Hospitality Management Education

junttila, Minna and Kay-Jones, Simon orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-5741-3875 (2015) The 4 Essentials for Experiential Learning in Hospitality Management Education. In: Koulutuksen kehittämisen katsaus: Airuet aallonharjalla. Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences, Finland, pp. 148-152. ISBN 978-951-830-400-8

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JAMK University of Applied Sciences introduced in autumn 2014 specialisation studies on Sustainable Gastronomy as part of Bachelor of Hospitality Management degree, aiming at graduates with a comprehensive understanding of the sustainable food chain and eco-gastronomy. In order to educate innovative and responsible agents of change, the pedagogy chosen was experiential learning, earlier successfully used in agroecology and food studies.

Experiential learning requires mastering certain skills – something that needed to be guaranteed at the beginning of studies; at the same time it was also a question of ´learning to learn´ in higher education. We looked at Kolb´s learning cycle theory, as well as Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development. However we felt that more could be done by linking the sequential learning of Kolb, from experience, experimentations and synthesis with Vygotsky’s ideas of peer development and spatial proximity. Therefore the type of tasks was linked with the place of learning and a third, the new type of content was introduced - new skills workshops on six central skills for experiential learning.
A more structured learning path was created through the enriched learning cycle. The chosen six skills of Observation, Dialogue, Documentation, Communication, Teamwork and Reflection were practiced through Studio culture: one skill per week, one repeatable structure to the day. Each Studio comprised of the Link (Link to previous week), the Showcase (Ideas presented through Petcha Kutcha talks), the Taster (a Workshop starter as an introductory task to the day), the Activity (the main Workshop activity), the Presentation (Presentations and Reflection on the day’s activities), and the Synthesis (Synthesis and Link to the following weeks theme).

Timing and chance opportunities helped us. We were dealing with first year students in their introductory courses, at their first professionalism level at a pre-specialism stage. Due to moving to another campus, we were beneficiaries of new learning environments. This helped us to create a positive learning environment, without student and staff being preconditioned to any particular form of learning.
The process revealed four essential tools for delivering experiential learning. Firstly, having a similar structure for each day, and linking the sessions, gave the students an opportunity to see their skills grow and with it their confidence and motivation. Secondly, Dialogue is central: learning to evaluate, give and take feedback, and improve their argumentation skills ensures the development of autonomous learners. Thirdly, ownership is key: maintaining motivation is only possible by handing students over the ownership of the process and content of their study. Students should feel comfortable enough to experiment and fail, while studio group projects should be linked to individual projects in order to push students to excel and develop ‘deep learning’. Finally, places matter: providing positive environments for learning offers students the flexibility and inspiration to develop their motivation. Ownership can be embodied in co creation spaces but more are needed. Dialogue can be fostered with the correct spatial atmospheres but smaller informal groups are required.
Looking forward, it is essential therefore that a dialogue between learners and facilitators is fostered that challenges what further structures can be made, what dialogues can be encouraged, what ownership can be fostered and what places can be created in order to motivate all involved to learn through experience in the future.

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