Student Engagement, Experiential Education, and the World of Tomorrow

Student Engagement, Experiential Education, and the World of Tomorrow
Submitted by Andrew H. Potter, Chief Academic Officer, Envision 

“I’ll Be Back”:  The Future is Coming for Us…

If you have been paying attention, you may have heard that a robot is going to take your job.  To listen to some of the rhetoric, it seems that most of us will wander aimlessly across a barren planet in search of work only to realize that the Terminator movies were actually documentaries sent back from the future.

While we may not be able to identify the exact job titles of tomorrow, current and emerging trends indicate that:

  • 85% of the jobs in 2030 don’t exist today1
  • Nearly 50% of current work activities can be automated with existing technology2
  • By 2030, ~375 million workers may need to change their occupation category3

Simply, the future will be different—really different.  Compared to the present and the past, it will require different skills, different behaviors, and different mindsets. While the next twenty years will be defined by disruption on a historic scale that will redefine the world of work and life, it will also create a period of incredible opportunity for individuals who can innovate, think critically, collaborate, and communicate effectively. 

Getting “Future Ready”:  Who Will Win and Why

How do we prepare today’s learners to thrive in tomorrow’s world when we don’t even know what it will look like?  In short, experiential education is a proven model that powers cognitive, emotional, and social engagement.  This engagement enables students to foster the skills they need to compete and, more importantly, collaborate to build the world of tomorrow.

As the acceleration of technology fuels the growth of economies around the globe, research overwhelming demonstrates that in order to prepare for this future world:

  1. Individuals need to develop strong social, emotional, and high-level cognitive skills and capabilities as these are difficult to automate and can transfer between occupation categories.
  2. Individuals need to become innovators and problem solvers by leveraging their curiosity and permitting themselves to fail while iterating on new solutions to old problems.
  3. Individuals need to be able to effectively communicate and collaborate with a diverse set of people and technologies.

Simply, the success stories of the future will be about individuals that can create solutions to challenging problems while communicating and collaborating with an increasingly diverse and global population.  To channel Aristotle, we will need to become “fully human”.  The ubiquitous nature of information and the application of technology through artificial intelligence will actually establish emotive and relational skills as the dominant traits of nimble and adaptable humans in the second half of the 21st Century.

The Power of Experiential Education: Five Key Actions 

Recent advances in cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and pedagogical philosophy indicate at least five simple ways that educators can positively impact student enagement through experiential pedagogy, thereby enabling students to “get future ready”:

  1. Build a Learner Centric Ecosystem – Educator’s should emphasize an overall learning design that is personalized and adaptive.
  2. Commit to a Participatory Instructional Design – Educator’s should double down on the inclusion of active, multi-sensory experiences within the overall learning ecosystem.
  3. Foster Social Relationships – Educator’s should purposely design opportunities for students, parents, teachers, and community members to collaborate and connect with each other as human beings.
  4. Leverage Brain-Based Insights – While legitimate debate exists here, educators should incorporate insights from neuroscience to contribute to a learning design that amplifies cognition (for example, multi-sensory experiences amplify long term memory; active human socialization supports movement of information from memory to the frontal lobe; etc.).
  5. Enable Competency-based Assessments – Educators should empower students with the opportunity and the ability to transfer knowledge and skills and apply them in new contexts.

After nearly twenty years of working in the K16 education space, I have found the fundamental issue impacting learning and the transfer of that learning to be engagement.  Research continues to demonstrate that properly designed and delivered experiential pedagogy4 remains one of the best ways to engage students so that they can build the skills they need to succeed in the future. 

And we need to get moving on this important work; the future is coming for us…


Andrew H. Potter is the Chief Academic Officer at Envision, one of the nation’s leading experiential education organizations.  In this role, he directs the organization’s academic strategy and oversees the development of faculty, curriculum, methods, and pedagogy that annually enable 25,000 students to find their passion and their future, while preparing them to thrive.  Learn more at Envision Experience . Andrew can be contacted at [email protected].

[1] Institute for the Future and Dell Technologies. (2017). The Next Era of Human Machine Partnerships.

[2] Chui, Manyika, and Miremadi. (2015). Four Fundamentals of Workplace Automation.  McKinsey & Company.

[3] James Manyika, et al. (2017). Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained:  Workforce Transitions in a Time of Automation.  McKinsey Global Institute.

[4] If you are looking for models or frameworks to help support your design and delivery, I would recommend reviewing the “Rigor & Relevance Framework” (see Willard Daggett. (2012). The Daggett System for Effective Instruction. New York:  International Center for Leadership in Education) and the “5E Instructional Model” (see Bybee, R. W., et al. (2006).  The BSCS 5E Instructional Model:  Origins and Effectiveness.  Office of Science Education Report, National Institutes of Health).

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