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The Rise and Fall of Experiential Education at an Australian University Thomas F. Patterson, Jr. Visiting Fellow Univ. of Western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia September 1989 - May 1990 December 2003 – April 2004 True or False Australia is an island, a continent and a country.

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The Rise and Fall of Experiential Education at an Australian University

Thomas F. Patterson, Jr.

Visiting Fellow

Univ. of Western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

September 1989 - May 1990

December 2003 – April 2004


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True or False University

  • Australia is an island, a continent and a country.

  • Australia’s population is close to that of the US.

  • Australia’s land mass is close to that of the US 48 contiguous States.

  • Australia has one of the world’s largest percentage of rural (‘outback’) inhabitants.

  • Australia is one of the oldest, flattest and driest places on earth.

  • Australia’s official national colors are the same as UVM’s.

  • Australia has been described as the world’s first truly multicultural society.

  • Australia has a higher literacy rate than the US.


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True or False University

  • The word ‘Vermont’ has a negative connotation among Australian sheep farmers.

  • Baseball and American Football are huge sports in Australia

  • The Tasmanian Devil is extinct.

  • Australians have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

  • Emu’s are flightless birds.

  • Kangaroos can be seen bounding down the streets of Sydney.

  • Of the ten most deadly snakes in the world, seven are found in Australia.



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Hawkesbury Agricultural College University

  • Founded 1891

  • Richmond NSW

  • Known for: “Discipline, practicality, application of knowledge, and maleness”

  • 1976 -- College of Advanced Education

  • 1989 – U Western Sydney


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1970s University

  • Faculty

    • Basic sciences

    • Agricultural sciences

  • Production oriented

  • Syllabuses, courses, lectures, exams and grades


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Late 1970s University


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The Pendulum of Practice University

Book

Learning

Experiential

Learning



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Hawkesbury Bibliography University

  • Progressive Education – John Dewey

  • Systems Thinking – Habermas, Ulrich, Wilson

  • Soft Systems Methodology – Peter Checkland

  • Action Research – Kurt Lewin, Kemmis & McTaggart

  • Organizational Learning – Chris Argyris

  • Self-Directed Learning – Malcolm Knowles

  • Experiential Learning – David Kolb


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Hawkesbury Experiential Learning Tenets University

  • Students …

    • are responsible for their own learning

    • learn by reflecting on experience

    • move from dependent to independent to co-dependent learning with faculty

    • progress by demonstrating competencies in periodic formative and summative evaluations

      • Autonomous learning

      • Effective communication

      • Systems thinking


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The Systems Agriculture Program University

  • Bachelors in Systems Agriculture

  • Learn how to manage complexity and change

  • Based on learning-by-doing (experiential learning)


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Experiential Learning University

  • Learn in groups (includes a faculty member)

  • Establish a learning contract

  • Keep a portfolio

  • Draw on resources

  • Learn about learning

  • Work with people

  • Write, reflect, present


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Course Progression University

  • Phase I – introduction of concepts, methods. 70% faculty designed projects, 30% students

  • Phase II – OCE, 60/40%  100% student designed projects

  • Phase III – 100% student designed projects. Career goals


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The “Truest Test” of an Undergraduate Academic Experiment

  • Is not found in …

    • Results of course evaluations

    • Percentage of graduates placed in jobs

    • Number of graduates receiving graduate degrees

    • Accreditation of academic programs

    • Faculty research, service, publications, awards and promotions


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Accolades and Discontent ExperimentA prophet in his own land…


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Chemistry Experiment

Biology

Botany

Agronomy

Horticulture

Agr. Economics

Animal Science

Brainstorm

Facilitate

Communicate

Work with people

Improve real world problems

Systems Thinking

Hard Soft


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Leadership Experiment

  • International attention and praise

  • Solid theoretical base

  • Growing cadre of successful graduates


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Downfall Experiment


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1995 Experiment


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Today Experiment

  • Systems Agriculture Program

    • Steady decline in student #’s

    • Cuts to faculty & staff

    • Endless restructuring

    • Declining resources

    • Talk of program termination


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Inherent Downfall Factors Experiment

  • Resistance to change (non believers)

  • High student drop-out rate

  • Higher Education model still evolving

  • Experiential learning

    • Inefficient from UWS viewpoint

    • difficult to measure

    • Requires constant monitoring & maintenance


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Hawkesbury Context Experiment

  • Leadership – visionary and aloof

  • Student body changing

    • Few interested in agriculture

    • Commute from home

    • Hold part-time jobs

  • Agriculture faculty marginalized

  • New faculty ---Ph.D’s and research


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What can we learn about experiential learning in higher ed? Experiment

  • Long term visionary leadership

  • Mature-aged students did better with experiential learning

  • Attracts students who learn through application of theory, practical experience

  • Does not fit will with traditional measures

  • Listening to feedback critical


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Not in Danger… Experiment