Experiential Learning through Internships

June 5, 2018

A project on Experiential Learning was successfully completed at Syslab within the Environmental Practicum course. The project, called “Experiential Learning through Internships and (guided) Reflection”, was supported by the CEU Teaching Development Grant. Its goal was to introduce a more structured reflection scheme and refinement of the Practicum course as a whole.

The Environmental Practicum course has been running at the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy since 2013. It is focusing on students’ authentic learning through individual internships conducted at environmental organizations with various research as well as political mandates. The course is trying to connect theoretical academic knowledge with practical experience through solving real-life problems. The project aimed at ensuring successful and meaningful experiential learning and its adaptation to postgraduate academic program by introducing new reflective activities, particularly guided reflection, into the Practicum course.

The list of organizations provided placement offers this year included United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), UNU Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES), Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Secretariat, Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC), Schneider Electric, Regional Centre on Urban Water Management (RCUWM), Black Sea Commission, Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi), University of Manchester, among others.

The project concluded with short presentations followed by a group discussion among students and invited guests. During the session, students were presenting the results of their internships, but most notably, talked about their experiences, achievements, and challenges.

As a result of the project, the course was enhanced through the refined teaching strategies – the list of required activities and assessments was expanded by a number of reflective exercises, the structure of the final session was modified. The course’s syllabus was updated by incorporating reflective learning techniques into the existing scheme, such as introducing questionnaires throughout the course for guided reflection.

In the end, through these experiments with various reflective tactics several distinct goals were achieved:

  • students’ habit to act and think as “reflective practitioners” was fostered, which can serve as a valuable skill for their further careers;
  • instructors’ professional development was supported through new reflective learning techniques;
  • the Environmental Practicum course syllabus was updated by introducing new exercises without overwhelming students and consider a number of additional improvements for the future.