In fall 2015, a DCAL assessment team conducted a review of research on the known outcomes of experiential learning. Four main categories of impact emerged, providing a framework for experiential learning at Dartmouth.

Impact of Experiential Learning

Within each category, the assessment team identified several distinct competencies that align with these impacts. The outcomes of experiential learning include increasing students’ confidence and ability to:

  1. Innovate and take risks
    • Self-efficacy: belief in one’s own ability to perform well in a variety of circumstances
    • Resolve: ability to act despite uncertainty of success
    • Creativity: ability to sample ideas and retrieve or form unconventional knowledge
  2. Solve complex problems
    • Complex reasoning: ability to extend and refine knowledge by comparing, contrasting, abstracting
    • Incorporating perspectives: capacity to understand where others’ ideas come from and negotiate/apply perspectives
  3. Collaborate across differences
    • Communication skills: ability to effectively convey information to others
    • Cultural intelligence: ability to function effectively in culturally diverse contexts
    • Empathy: aptitude for understanding another person’s inner experiences and feelings
  4. Think critically and reflect on learning
    • Connecting theory to practice: competence in applying abstract ideas to connect situations
    • Reflection: capacity to intentionally explore and appraise experiences to create meaning for the benefit of learning

This set of competencies is not exhaustive. Through our work with experiential learning, DCAL intends to explore a wide range of strategies for enhancing student learning and development through experience and reflection across Dartmouth’s liberal arts education.

Faculty Testimonals

"The experiential learning component was key to the students' ability to think critically and outside the box, to improvise, to collaborate across differences, to experiment, and to see the impact of public humanities. Several of the students remarked that every student should be encouraged/required to take an experiential learning course before they graduate. It forces them outside of their comfort zones and they discover resources they did not know they had.”

- Ivy Schweitzer, Professor of English, on ENGL 27: American Poetry

“I observed that the experiential component of the course made students more emotionally/personally invested in the course material, more aware of the impact of their own subject position on their knowledge, and ultimately, more open to multiple perspectives on an issue. This experience gave me the opportunity to expand my own knowledge of best practices in experiential education. I worked hard to help the students understand the central role of reflection in the experiential classroom. I think that I improved some of my own reflective pedagogies as a result.”

- Sara Chaney, Lecturer in Writing, on C0Co 6: Autism: Science, Story, & Experience

 “When [students] failed, they developed strategies for learning from that failure and proceeding regardless, whether that meant simply cutting their losses, rethinking their project design, adjusting their expectations, improvising alternatives, or reconsidering their motivations to succeed. In more expansive terms, their reflections showed learning that integrated many different aspects of organization, direction, and design, but fundamentally proceeded from their own unique backgrounds, motivations, and direction. Assessments show students becoming more aware of their own learning challenges and feeling more capable of meeting those challenges after this experience.”

- Michael Evans, Neukom Fellow and Film and Media Studies Instructor, on FILM 7: Mass Media and Democracy