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Measuring the Impact of Experiential Learning

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

ERM Technical Session 4: Professional Development in Undergraduate Programs

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


John H. Callewaert University of Michigan

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John Callewaert is Director of Strategic Projects in the Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, College of Engineering, University of Michigan. He previously served as a program director with the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute, Director of the University of Michigan-Flint's Office of Research, and the Director of the Institute for Community and Environment at Colby-Sawyer College. He completed doctoral study in Resource, Policy and Behavior at the University of Michigan. His undergraduate degree is in Agricultural Engineering Technology from Michigan State University.

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Numerous institutions are focusing on expanding experiential learning opportunities for engineering students. Kolb [1] defines experiential learning as an iterative process involving conceptualization, active experimentation, concrete experience, and reflective observation. Experiential learning has also been identified as an important pedagogical feature of current engineering education leaders in the recent MIT report "The Global State of the Art in Engineering Education" [2]. Many believe experiential learning provides more real-world learning environments and opportunities to build skill sets that may not necessarily be provided in the classroom such as leadership, problem solving, and teamwork. However, as noted by Chan [3], while experiential learning has been increasingly explored and adopted, few have researched the appropriate assessment methods that can be aligned with the learning outcomes of experiential learning.

This paper analyzes survey responses to a set of experiential learning student outcomes questions from 1500 undergraduate engineering students at a large R1 institution. Responses are primarily from questions included on the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Consortium survey. The SERU Consortium is a group of leading research-intensive universities who collaborate on a range of activities including the generation of institutional, comparative, and longitudinal data on the student experience in research universities [4]. In addition to the SERU questions, several additional questions were asked about the specific student experience at the institution.

In order to assess the impact of experiential learning, responses from students who had participated in one or more the college’s experiential learning opportunities such as student project teams or a project with the multidisciplinary design program were compared with students who did not participate. Only activities that were intentionally designed as an experiential learning opportunity were included in the analysis.

Several key findings - all with a statistically significant difference (<.05) – were identified: • Experiential learning participants reported higher participation in other engaged learning experiences (e.g., study abroad, leadership, etc.) compared to non-participants. • Participants reported higher levels of participation and leadership in student organizations. • Participants reported less difficulty with learning about campus activities and getting involved. • Participants reported higher levels of growth on a variety of outcomes (conduct research, leadership, comprehend academic material, understanding their field of study). Most interestingly, participants reported lower ability upon entry but experienced higher levels of growth in a wide range of skills such as teamwork, writing, critical thinking, leadership and communication. This resulted in comparable or higher current levels of ability compared to non-participants.

[1] D. A. Kolb, Experiential Learning Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Second. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc., 2015. [2] R. Graham, “The Global State of the Art in Engineering Education,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 2018. [3] C. K. Y. Chan, “Assessment for Community Service Types of Experiential Learning in the Engineering Discipline,” Eur. J. Eng. Educ., vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 29–38, 2012. [4] University of California, Berkeley, “Student Experience in the Research University,” Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 04-Oct-2018].

Callewaert, J. H. (2019, June), Measuring the Impact of Experiential Learning Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33095

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