Leonie (second from the left) among social work lecturers from Utrecht University of applied sciences

Experiential knowledge. How do we recognize it? Can you see it, feel it, taste it? What does it mean? How can you harness it and how do you develop it with students? With a diverse group of social work lecturers, we orientated ourselves to questions like these under the guidance of Windesheim colleague Leonie de Quelerij. Leonie is one of Windesheims representatives within the Erasmus plus project ‘Partnership experiential knowledge’, which focuses on knowledge exchange on integration of the knowledge source experiential knowledge in higher education.

Within this project, several bachelors and master’s in social work and nursing from different European countries exchange their knowledge and experience in integrating experiential knowledge into their education. Personal experiences of students regularly underpin the motivation of students to choose this study. And experiential knowledge as a resource is proving increasingly important to use as a professional in practice. Making contact from person to person, with good insight into one’s own experiences alongside theory and practice makes the professional even more meaningful to the person they support.

Windesheim has knowledge of, and experience in training teachers and (prospective) professionals around experiential knowledge. Learning from your own experience and that of others is crucial to the development of experiential knowledge. Allowing lecturers in particular go through this process and be more at ease with the source of experiential knowledge helps students to do the same and help them use this source of knowledge in a professional way. Going through that process together with colleagues and giving meaning to experiential knowledge together is also an important step in forming policy around integration of experiential knowledge in education, the partnership teaches us.

During the workshop, we focused on the theory and definition of experiential knowledge and the core values of experiential knowledge; Practical, Existential, Political-Critical, Personal, Ethical and Relational (PEPPER) (Weerman et al, 2021). By using some practical exercises, we learned together about experiential knowledge and from each other’s experiences. The practical methods can also be used in the classroom together with students to give meaning to experiences and develop experiential knowledge together Participant: “There is a lot of knowledge within the experiences of students and teachers that makes them authentic as professionals and we can value and use them more.

Quote participant: “It was very nice and inspiring to exchange experiences and knowledge from experience with colleagues. Most important is that this breaks taboos and that we thereby make more room within the team for experiential knowledge and thus indirectly (and pe directly) also make more room for students’ experiential knowledge in our lessons.”

A lecturer working on the creative activity ‘antennae

What is next?
This spring, the workshop will be offered again for those interested and we will make the collected methods, workshops, trainings and approaches working with experiential knowledge available to lecturers. We are also looking into the possibility of offering training to lecturers who want to develop their own experiences into experiential knowledge and participants can search  whether they can and want to use this as a lecturer to guide students in their process. In addition, a group of social work lecturers, in collaboration with the Lectorate Participation, Care and Support, is working on a plan to further develop integration of experiential knowledge in our education.
Want to know more? Mail sascha.vangijzel@hu.nl

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