Plus One Podcast

Video Episode 16 - Kathy O’Reilly on experiential learning and being an undercover sherpa

August 29, 2021


We discuss “bringing the passion” – the need to bring enthusiasm and energy to any class in order to engage the students.  Performance as projection rather than being in-authentic.  We’re not pretending, or acting, we’re projecting, bringing our authentic selves into the classroom, making the connection.


Being an “undercover Sherpa – “I'm not going to climb the mountain for you. But I'm going to show you where the path is. And I'm going to do my best to make sure you don't fall off the cliff.  Getting them there, supporting them along the way. But it's not doing it for them. It's their learning experience.


When I first asked Kathy to be on the podcast, she said “why do you want me on the podcast? Because I don't do anything in innovative…”.  But Kathy and I have always utilised experiential learning in our teaching, and this is not common – it is still innovative.


A Doctorate focussed on making positive change for your students…


“The area I'm studying is about bringing that workplace learning into the classroom. Instead of farming our students out on internships to get those practical skills, why can't we help them get those practical skills along with the academic knowledge that they're acquiring?


Setting up a company project for your students


How can I improve my own practice? Will you just walk us through one of your company projects, because that's your experiential learning in action, isn't it?


“It can be very daunting. Absolutely. And I think what you need to have going in, is that you need to have a strong network. But you have to think about where am I going to get these projects from?


Charities and social enterprise - that's one of your undergrad modules, isn't it? What has charity got to do with business?


“It’s a great way for students to learn. There's a whole movement, all about community engaged learning. And we actually have a great group at UCD called CELT, all about community engaged learning and teaching. And it's a wonderful way to help universities to give back to the community, while their students learn at the same time.


The course I run is called Service Learning. And it's about doing a business project for a local nonprofit or charity.


Connections, CBIF and a new career focus…


I think what this is all showing me and actually, a lot of what the CBIF workshops showed me also is that I like helping other educators to look at their practice and improve their practice. I really like doing that.  I want to teach the educators…


Favourite quotes about teaching:

  • “Transformative learning shapes people. They are different afterward, in ways both they and others can recognize” (Carolyn Clark 1993)
  • "Don't tell me you can't; tell me you'll try and I will show you, you can." ( personal trainer!)
  • "Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Absolutely."




  • UCD CELT (Community Engaged Learning & Teaching
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  • Ripen – connecting university classes with companies for experiential learning

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