Five takeaways from experiential education conference

January 02, 2018

Association for Experiential Education annual conference 2017This past November our CONNECT2Careers (C2C) Training Coordinator Amber Shevin had the opportunity to attend the Association for Experiential Education's (AEE) annual conference in Montreal, Canada. AEE brought together outdoor and experiential education professionals from around the world to discuss innovative techniques and new ideas in the field of engagement-based learning.

In between braving the sub-freezing temperatures, Shevin attended presentations on motivational interviewing, social and emotional learning, presenting like a rock star and tools for effective leadership, to name just a few. Being in the middle of a curriculum refresh with C2C's own workshop series, Shevin took home numerous insights to incorporate into our work. Below are five takeaways that you will likely see in action if you attend an upcoming C2C workshop this spring! 

1) Outcome Driven Presentations  

When creating a presentation or workshop, always start by outlining the goals. What main points do you want participants to take away? By starting with a clear layout of the desired outcomes, you lay a strong foundation from which to create the most effective instructional plan around.  

2) Know Your Audience 

When teaching or delivering a one-time workshop, knowing your audience can help you to create and deliver material in the most relevant and engaging manner. In some situations, it may be strategic to start your presentation with some information gathering. For example, ask your participants a series of quick questions, having them raise their hands if the question or statement applies to them. This has the benefit of both getting your audience engaged and providing you with useful information around which you can tailor your presentation as you go. 

3) Meaningful Reflection Within a Workshop 

Meaningful reflection is often an important, even pivotal, part of any workshop, presentation or lesson. Intentionally placing this moment within the presentation can be critical. Conventionally, the time for reflection is set at the end of a lesson however at times it can be more purposeful if placed in the middle or earlier on. This can strategically give time for reflection that is followed up by further processing and understanding throughout the remainder of the workshop. 

4) Engagement, Engagement, Engagement! 

Purposeful activities create engagement. Engagement leads to buy-in and buy-in leads to learning. Kick off your presentation with a "sponge activity,” which can take the form of an introductory slide or directions on the board for participants to see and interact with as they enter the learning space. It can be a thought provoking question related to a topic you will discuss or an individual or partner task. No matter when participants arrive, sponge activities have the ability to "warm up" the classroom, allowing the presenter to begin with an engaged and prepped audience that is ready to listen, participate and learn.  

5) Innovate 

To create renewed excitement and grab the audience's attention, consider a fresh take on an old game or ice breaker. Small changes or a bit of competition can make a big difference. For example, one frequently used "getting to know you" activity is the commonality mingle. Rather than simply asking participants to move around the room and find things they have in common with others, make it a competition. Partner up your audience and see which partner team can find the most things they have in common. 

Opportunities like this help C2C fulfill our goal of providing the highest quality experience and learning outcomes to those we serve. By keeping the big picture in mind but still focusing on the details our team is able to incorporate innovative techniques from the field of experiential learning into our work. Having this opportunity to learn from and connect with field experts ensures our approach stay fresh, impactful and effective.