Experiential learning is one of the areas I am exploring its more unconventional forms via community volunteering projects in my work with students.
In the domain of library and information studies, it is hardly a new trend. Melville Dewey (Melville Louis Kossuth “Melvil” Dewey) praised its importance and role in educating future librarians.
Experiential learning usually takes place in controlled environments via placements. Common forms of practice-based learning have been identified as internships, placements, fieldwork, volunteering and community-based projects/service learning. Sometimes, the terms practice-based learning and experiential learning are used interchangeably but I prefer experiential learning because it emphasises the component of personal experience and involvement.
The use of experiential learning within community projects setting is an additional avenue rarely explored due to the difficulty of making it part of the regular curriculum.
Some examples from Qatar
For two academic year, 2017-18 and 2018-19, small groups of students from the MA in LIS progamme at UCL Qatar worked on a project involving a local school with the aim to improve its library. Students used their initiative to apply what was taught in class (theory) and solve real problems in a school library in QatarInnovative unconditional experiential learning can create opportunities for students to develop skills and knowledge to deal with real problems in a library set up and generate workable solutions to resolve such problems.
It was a pleasure to discuss their work and it attracted local attention being presented in a paper at the 4th Qatari Library and Information Association conference in 2019. This is a poster summarising the students’ experience.
An assignment of a group of students in 2018 produced a poem about children visiting the National Library of Qatar. This was developed further by other students and graduates translating it in Arabic and working on the design to produce a novel book on the engagement of children with libraries in Qatar.
An example from Malta
Comic books in the Library