Experiential Learning

In an effort to expand and enhance experiential learning across the institution, DCAL coordinates resources to engage Dartmouth students, faculty, co-curricular educators, and community partners in the design and delivery of experiential learning opportunities.

About Experiential Learning

“Experiential education is a philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people's capacity to contribute to their communities.” - Association for Experiential Education

As a pedagogy, experiential learning requires students to actively and iteratively apply and reflect on the concepts, knowledge, and skills acquired in their course of study. It provides students with the opportunity to confront the uncertainties, complexities, and challenges of bringing theory into praxis, and translating ideas into social application.

At Dartmouth, experiential learning encompasses a wide range of activities, including but not limited to research opportunities, outdoor programs, service for social impact, entrepreneurship, art and performance, clinical placements, internships, project-based learning, and global experiences. In our model, experiential learning can be academic, co-curricular, or a hybrid. To be considered experiential learning, an activity must include the following components:

  • Students intentionally engage intellectually, creatively, emotionally, or physically in a direct experience
  • Students have the opportunity to take initiative, make decisions, problem solve, and be accountable for the results
  • Students conceptualize and critically reflect on the experience

An experiential learning opportunity must be designed to promote student learning and development. At Dartmouth, experiential learning demonstrates a positive impact on students’ confidence and abilities to:

  • Innovate, take risks, and learn from failure
  • Work effectively with people from very different backgrounds, cultures, and life situations
  • Understand the importance of deep thinking and the power of the intellect to address the world’s most difficult issues
  • Effectively communicate about complex issues and objectives
  • Apply multiple disciplines and perspectives to a complex problem or opportunity

Dartmouth's Experiential Learning Initiative

Experiential learning was already a prominent component of "the Dartmouth experience," both in and beyond the classroom, when the Experiential Learning Initiative began in 2015. In a 2014 survey, departments reported over 120 courses characterized by experiential learning taught by over 70 Dartmouth faculty. More than 70 co-curricular programs (including employment, internships, outreach, research, and service opportunities) reported experiential learning as a central component of the programs.

Since that time, the Experiential Learning Initiative has funded 42 pilot projects through its Seed Grant Program and formally engaged 100 faculty, 70 staff, and hundreds of students from 20 Arts and Science departments, seven co-curricular centers, and partnerships with Tuck, Thayer, and Geisel. The initiative has included the Seed Grant Program, Mini-Grant Program, Student Experiential Learning Fund, Stamps Scholars Program, Learning Fellows Program, and DELTA Summit, among other offerings. Impact extends beyond those who have received direct funding through the initiative to countless students, faculty, staff, and community members who have interacted in various ways with the courses, projects, performances, resources, conversations, and efforts connected with the initiative.

Learn more about past projects:



Learn more about ongoing programs: