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L2.7

Enhancing Student Learning Through Experiential Education

How would this plan work?
Why does Millsaps need this plan?
What are the learning outcomes for this plan?
How could we assess these learning outcomes?
Which students would this plan affect?
Would this replace or augment other programs on campus?
What resources would this plan require?
Are there any particular obstacles to this plan?

Contact persons: Darby Ray and Stacy DeZutter
For a copy of the proposal, click here.



How would this plan work?

  • This plan would require faculty and staff who oversee experiential learning programs at Millsaps to work together to develop and implement a coherent vision and consistent pedagogical and evaluative practices for such learning. It would require students to engage those practices in order to deepen their learning and their appreciation of the value and relevance of a liberal arts education for today's world and to develop their leadership skills, vocational preparedness, and civic awareness.
  • Without destroying the distinctive character of the top-notch experiential education programs already in place at Millsaps, this plan would fortify existing programs by giving them new resources for deepening and assessing student learning in non-traditional settings, for integrating that learning into the larger Millsaps curriculum, and for making that learning relevant to students' vocational discernment and exploration pursuits.

Why does Millsaps need this plan?

  • Currently, Millsaps offers a wide range of experiential learning opportunities, including study abroad, academic and co-curricular service-learning, and internships, among others. However, there is no uniformity of vision or practice in place. As a result, we are missing opportunities to make the most of these non-traditional learning experiences for students, for the institution, and for our off-campus partners.
  • A unified vision and set of shared practices for experiential education at Millsaps would invite collaborative efforts among program providers and student participants that could be pedagogically, vocationally, and socially transformative. For example, the methods, material resources, and faculty and student expertise needed for a video-based oral history project, community-based health care initiative, micro-financed social enterprise effort, or youth-focused conflict resolution project in Jackson could be developed in concert with similar projects in Tanzania, thereby multiplying their impact and creating fabulous opportunities for student learning, leadership, and vocational development

What are the learning outcomes for this plan?

  • Detailed articulation of desired learning outcomes would be an essential part of the process we are proposing and would, in turn, allow us to more effectively support and evaluate experiential learning. Outcomes that are typically associated with experiential education, and that we can expect to observe given an enhanced vision and practice for EE at Millsaps include the following:
  • Academic outcomes include articulating connections between course content and experiences; placing experiences and research/theory into reflexive relationship, using each to inform the other; demonstrating facility with complexity and "messy" problems as found in the real world; generating sophisticated works of art that reflect, interpret, express, reframe, or question experiences.
  • Community & leadership outcomes include awareness of local, regional, or global problems; ability to conceive and/or implement initiatives to address them.
  • Personal outcomes include ability to articulate how experiences shape understanding of self; enhanced vocational discernment; preparedness/planning for life after Millsaps.

How could we assess these learning outcomes?

  • Most outcomes can be demonstrated through written artifacts, such as analytical essays, proposals, reflections, etc. Some outcomes could also be demonstrated through presentations, performance, or artwork, or by sitting for an interview. In some cases, outcomes would be demonstrated through activity in the experiential setting itself (or in another setting), but could then be documented through written artifacts. Portfolio assessment is a common means of evaluating experiential learning. Typically, there would be well-articulated guidelines for how the portfolio should be assembled and what it should demonstrate (which would be based on the relevant learning outcomes). Portfolios need not be limited to text-based documents, and could include video, artwork, etc.

Which students would this plan affect?

  • This QEP would affect students who participate in any Millsaps experiential education program or project, including study abroad, academic or co-curricular service learning, internships, shadowing, and certain student research, independent studies, and honors projects.

Would this replace or augment other programs on campus?

  • This QEP would not replace any existing program. Indeed, the lack of an existing program is exactly why we need this QEP. All existing experiential education programs at Millsaps would be enhanced by the shared vision and coordinated practices this plan proposes to develop and implement. If, down the road, the faculty were to decide to adopt an experiential learning requirement at Millsaps along the lines of the fine arts requirement or in place of the current Core 10 requirement, then there would be the potential for "replacement" of an existing program (like Core 10).

What resources would this plan require?

  • This QEP could be scaled up or down. At a minimum, it would require a new working body (presumably a standing committee) to develop the specifics of an institutional vision and set of practices for experiential learning, as well as a faculty director with adequate time and modest staff support to coordinate the work of that body and to oversee the implementation of the vision and practices. Depending on the vision, additional resources might be necessary initially or down the road (e.g., faculty time to evaluate certain elements of experiential learning portfolios).

Are there any particular obstacles to this plan?

  • Current experiential education programs at Millsaps have emerged over the years from different directions and departments and with diverse leadership, and most have developed into distinctive and excellent programs. The main obstacle to this QEP would be inertia or a lack of ambition--a sense that what we have already is good enough.


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