Elisha Samarasinghe, 4th year undergraduate student Sprott School of Business

Having been a TA at Sprott for several courses, I have seen firsthand the necessity and importance of experiential learning opportunities for the development of students. With the guidance of Professor Andrew Webb and Rowland Few, I probed several databases to mine data on the broad topic of experiential learning within business schools. Our goal was to conduct a scoping review of the current experiential learning literature in modern management journals (post 2010). The preliminary search yielded over 800 results, and were sequestered into common themes and ideals; resulting in 37 appropriate articles to be considered for our scoping review. A discernible commonality between all of the articles proved to be a tenet of soft skill development. Unsurprisingly, experiential learning assisted in the development of skills that were required and demanded by employers after university.

Sprott’s summer research internship provided me with an opportunity to explore the presence and effectiveness of experiential learning opportunities in Canadian Business Schools. The opportunity itself was unique and advantageous; very rarely are undergraduate students allowed to co-author a research paper with the possibility of publishing.

This initial discovery prompted us to ponder the equality of experiential learning opportunities in provinces across the country. Considering that there are over 80 business schools in Canada, a student’s exposure to experiential learning is heavily dependent on the school they attend. Provincial mandates vary from province to province, and densely populated provinces like Ontario and British Columbia offered a seemingly unfair advantage in experiential learning opportunities when compared to smaller provinces. Accreditation bodies like the AASCB also play a role in a university’s experiential learning opportunities; which can limit or enhance opportunities depending on which school a student attends. The aforementioned preliminary research raised more questions than answers for our paper’s direction, so we took our work-in-progress paper to the ASAC conference held at the Goodman School of Business. Presenting at a conference for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. I was granted a high level of autonomy by Professor Webb, and I was able to present our work to a room of highly established professors. The experience was gratifying and humbling, and provided extensive insight on which direction to take our paper.

Experiential learning within management education has been researched thoroughly since Kolb’s introduction to learning styles in 1984, and has been on the forefront of pedagogical development ever since. When collating and summarizing the data we collected, it was clear that there is a large disconnect between the proponents of experiential learning in management education and its opportune presence within post-secondary curriculums. From a practical perspective, it is within a business school’s best interest to promote said learning opportunities; as their alumni become ambassadors of their school’s brand. However, the current business school model is preparing students for the current work environment; which can be surmised as irresponsible.

Our world is facing a plethora of unforeseen issues that require change agents to solve, and that becomes possible with a curriculum that encourages the type of learning to inspire individual and creative thought processes.

Professor Webb, Rowland and I have decided to submit a theoretical essay to the Academy of Management and Learning Journal to address that avenue of our research, and submit our scoping review to other journals in the hopes of publishing. I would have never been able to participate in this research opportunity if it weren’t for Sprott’s commitment to providing experiential learning opportunities to its students. The logical and essential next step for our school is to make opportunities and experiences like mine accessible to the majority of its student body.

Monday, August 26, 2019 in , ,
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