Research demonstrates positive outcomes of experiential learning related to civic and community outcomes. This includes a variety of well-organized experiences that have a positive effect on students’ sense of social responsibility and citizenship skills (Astin & Sax, 1998; Eyler & Giles, 1999; Gray et al., 2000; Kahne & Sporte, 2008; Kahne & Westheimer, 2003; Levine, 2010; Moely, McFarland, et al., 2002).
Substantial, meaningful engagement in the community through service-learning and experiential community engagement activities enhances students’ commitment to community service (Astin et al., 2000; Astin, Sax & Avalos, 1999; Eyler & Giles, 1999; Fenzel & Peyrot, 2005; Markus, Howard & King, 1993; Vogelgesang & Astin, 2005).
Today’s educators generally recognize that pedagogies other than traditional lecturing can promote deeper learning. A number of pedagogies designed to facilitate experiential learning have been implemented and improved over time. Common features of these pedagogies include addressing real-world questions, issues, and controversies; developing research and communication skills; problem solving; collaborating in and beyond the classroom; fostering deep understanding of content knowledge; and participating in the public creation and improvement of ideas and knowledge (Jones & Pfeiffer, 1998).
Fundamentally, experiential learning is learning through reflection on structured activities, in contrast to rote or didactic learning. Wurdinger and Carlson (2010) contend that most college faculty teach by lecturing exclusively because few learned other pedagogies in graduate school. The authors urge supplementing lectures by inviting students’ active participation in the learning process “through discussion, group work, hands-on participation, and applying information outside the classroom” (p. 2). High-impact experiential learning programs enhance the classroom environment to support student learning.
We must recognize that experiential learning happens in curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities. It is important then to create a structure that seeks to identify, support, sustain, and recognize the full breadth of experiential learning at UT. This third initiative therefore uses a multifaceted approach to promote, enhance, and expand experiential learning activities and projects.