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Experiential Learning @ HKU

Theory and Practice as One

Experiential Learning @ HKU

When you know something but don’t act on it, your knowledge of it is still superficial. After you’ve personally experienced it, your knowledge of it will be much clearer and its significance will be different from what it used to be. Chu Hsi Zhu Xi, Chapter 9, translated by D.K. Gardner, 1990, p. 116.

That learning is fundamentally experiential has been pointed out by philosophers and educationists in the East and the West. The above quotation from the Chinese philosopher, Zhu Xi, crystallizes the essence of experiential learning. The dialectical relationship between knowing and doing is well captured by the often cited quote “知行合一”(“knowing and doing are unified”) from Wang Yang Ming [王陽明], another Chinese philosopher. Similarly, “learning by doing” is a central concept in the education theory of the influential American educationist, John Dewey. In recent decades, American anthropologists, such as Jean Lave, have reinvigorated the concept of learning as participation in social practice.

At HKU, Faculties have been incorporating various forms of experiential learning into their curricula (either credit-bearing or non-credit bearing), and some have already made it a graduation requirement. Examples of these initiatives can be accessed on the website of the Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Centre.

Our short-term goal is to support as many staff and students as possible to design and pilot new opportunities for experiential learning, and to strengthen and expand existing ones. Our medium-term goal is to ensure that all curricula will embed experiential learning in their courses. Our long-term goal, however, is to bring about a paradigm shift in our understanding of learning as experiential so that it becomes not only a guiding principle in the way we design our curriculum, pedagogy and assessment, but also a predominant mode of learning.