Practice Learning is dedicated to forwarding experiential education
at Emory. Our name says it all: take a THEORY you learned in a
classroom, put it into PRACTICE in the local community, and after
a period of reflection and analysis, a deeper LEARNING will be
experience is a powerful pedagogical tool, allowing students to
internalize theories and concepts by trying them out for themselves.
A select and growing number of faculty members at Emory are incorporating
this pedagogy into their courses in Emory College, Oxford College,
and the professional schools. Some courses include fieldtrips,
ethnography, tutoring, or other community-based experiences as
complements to the traditional lecture, reading, and writing components
of coursework. Other courses are completely based in practice,
such as science laboratory courses that meet only in the laboratory
setting, or internship courses that enable students to work directly
with community organizations. The methods of Theory Practice Learning
are diverse, but the purpose is always the same: to foster reflection
about the connection between ideas and experience.
Practice Learning first began as grassroots movement
among faculty members who advocated "public scholarship" and better
resourcing of internship classes. Now TPL is a program within
the Emory College Center for Teaching
and Curriculum and serves as an integral resource to the College's
Black Studies (later African American and African Studies and
now two separate units--Program of African American Studies and
Institute for African Studies) was inaugurated in the college
in 1971 integrating "town with gown" was a directive
from the College faculty. This initiative set by the college for
Black Studies led to the establishment of emory's first internship
program in 1972 within the Atlanta community which at the time
was overwhelmingly compromised of African Americans and White
Americans. As our Program in African American Studies celebrates
its 30th Anniversary, it is a delight to observe that it stands
as a model for so programs such as TPL.
Delores P. Aldridge,Ph.D.
does TPL work?
is a holistic approach to learning. Students need a strong theoretical
and factual grounding as well as time to evaluate and analyze
what they have learned. Through concrete experience, students
test what they have been taught and then synthesize their own
ideas. The following model is an adaptation of the learning cycle
of theory developed by David Kolb, a scholar in the area of organizational
education and management.
Experience - Provides opportunity for rigorous engagement
with questions and issues. These activities allow students to
meet academic objectives of the course by gathering data through
interactive class activities, field trips, internships, journals,
etc. At the same time, students are actively participating in
their own learning and can absorb material through direct sensory
experience rather than just books.
Observation - Provides specific, structured exercises that
teach students how to form the experiential data they have gathered
into something more logical and meaningful. These skills and methods
of analysis not only clarify experiences but also raise questions
about ethics and other factors effecting the emerging data.
Conceptualization - Challenges students to arduously consider
the data in the light of theories being pursued in the course.
Students also learn to recognize how theory helps organize, direct
and implement its application. They are asked to look further
into theory to determine its descriptive and explanatory effectiveness
as well as its deficiencies. Designed to address the multidisciplinary
dimensions of questions, this component helps students discover
additional theoretical and analytical aspects that will require
Experimentation - Allows students, who now have achieved some
critical insight, to transform their theoretical knowledge into
new hypotheses which require further testing and evaluation. These
experiments encourage students to build, refine, and test theory
further. Simultaneously, students begin to form deeper senses
of their own responsibilities as researchers and practitioners.
Active experimentation also acquaints students with the ancillary
skills required for effective academic performance including teamwork,
communication, site selection, and time management.
"I was telling one of my friends about my job at TPL. He asked
me what TPL was for, and I told him that we were trying to help
more professors at Emory to use experience-based learning in their
classes, and that we think students learn more when they have
the opportunity to try things out and test what they learn. After
I explained the point of TPL, he said, 'Isn't that common sense?'
Richards, TPL staff and Emory Alumni