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  • Destiny Yarbro

9 Experiential Learning Practices and a Deaf President Now! Activity

Of the nine experiential learning practices listed below by Schwartz (2012), I will explore a classroom scenario that illustrates “encouraging the big picture perspective” as well as “creating emotional investment” (p. 2).

1. Mixture of content and process: There must be a balance between the experiential activities and the underlying content or theory.

2. Absence of excessive judgment: The instructor must create a safe space for students to work through their own process of self-discovery.

3. Engagement in purposeful endeavors: In experiential learning, the learner is the self-teacher, therefore there must be “meaning for the student in the learning.” The learning activities must be personally relevant to the student.

4. Encouraging the big picture perspective: Experiential activities must allow the students to make connections between the learning they are doing and the world. Activities should build in students the ability to see relationships in complex systems and find a way to work within them.

5. The role of reflection: Students should be able to reflect on their own learning, bringing “the theory to life” and gaining insight into themselves and their interactions with the world.

6. Creating emotional investment: Students must be fully immersed in the experience, not merely doing what they feel is required of them. The “process needs to engage the learner to a point where what is being learned and experience strikes a critical, central chord within the learner.”

7. The re-examination of values: By working within a space that has been made safe for selfexploration, students can begin to analyze and even alter their own values.

8. The presence of meaningful relationships: One part of getting students to see their learning in the context of the whole world is to start by showing the relationships between “learner to self, learner to teacher, and learner to learning environment.”

9. Learning outside one’s perceived comfort zones: “Learning is enhanced when students are given the opportunity to operate outside of their own perceived comfort zones.” This doesn’t refer just to physical environment, but also to the social environment. This could include, for instance, “being accountable for one’s actions and owning the consequences” (Chapman, McPhee, & Proudman, 1995, p. 243).

Deaf President Now! Activity

Imagine yourself at the 1988 Deaf President Now rally in Washington, D.C. Over the last couple of days, you have seen yet another under-qualified hearing person appointed as the president of Gallaudet University (the only Deaf university in the world). The Deaf community is demanding the appointment of the first Deaf president of the university and the long-overdue national recognition of Deaf rights. Their campaign slogan in sign language is “Deaf can do everything, except hear.”

Take a moment to ponder this situation. What is unjust about this appointment? What emotions are you feeling? You decide to be a hearing advocate in the movement. Identify one phrase you can say using what you have learned so far in class. Then write down four phrases you want to be able to say to the Deaf community protesters and rally leaders around you. We will write these phrases on the board, filter out the duplicates, and then learn how to sign them together.

Experiential Learning Opportunities

This activity serves multiple purposes. First, it encourages the big picture perspective; allowing students to “make connections between the learning they are doing and the world” (Schwartz, 2020, p.2). Students see how key American Sign Langauge (ASL) is to the USA Deaf community and their history. Sign language becomes more than a hobby; it’s a tool they wield to enact social change.

Second, it creates emotional investment in what they are learning. Generation Z is “hyper-focused” with justice and equality (Porter Novelli Purpose Tracker, 2020, p.3). Thus this kind of activity emotionally connects my hearing students with their Deaf peers of the past. It “strikes a critical, central chord within the learner” through the context of righting social wrongs (Schwartz, 2012, p. 2).

To make this activity even more relatable to current events, it could focus on learning signed phrases that could be utilized in current social change movements such as the awareness campaigns on TikTok regarding Black ASL and the broadening recognition of Tactile Sign used by the DeafBlind community.


Porter Novelli Purpose Tracker. (2020, August). Gen Z joins the social justice movement.

Schwartz, M. (2012). Best practices in experiential learning. Ryerson University.


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