Experience in Education: A Lesson on Consistent Thinking

Twenty years ago, I was working towards my master’s degree at the local state college. Several fo the faculty were qualitative researchers, and they shared that part of their work with their graduate students. As a “science guy,” I had experience with quantitative data, so the methods unfamiliar to me. Over time, I explored the methods, and came to understand qualitative data as a strategy that gives researchers a different lens with which to understand teaching and learning.

One of my mentors organized a group of her students to present a paper entitled “Using Qualitative Research Methods to Enhance Our Teaching” at the 1998 New England Education Research Organization conference.

I recently went in search of paper, and was able to find only the part that I contributed. A link to my portion appears below. What was most striking to me is how my thinking about teaching and learning has been remarkably consistent over two decades. I observed in the paper:

As a participant in interviews, I was reminded of the importance that experience plays for me as a learner. I read books and articles, I listen to lectures, and I participate in discussions, but true learning occurs only after I have meaningful experiences with new knowledge.

This idea appears in my writing today, and meaningful experience continues to be a central part of the classrooms I design for all learners.

Ackerman’s share of Using Qualitative Research Methods to Enhance Our Teaching