Experiential Learning at Dartmouth

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. Specifically, experiential learning at Dartmouth should demonstrate 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

Experiential learning is already a prominent component of “the Dartmouth experience,” both in and beyond the classroom. 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.

For more information about experiential learning at Dartmouth, contact us.