In spring of 2019, leaders from the Internship and Career Center and Public Scholarship and Engagement came together to address UC Davis’ response to the growing literature on the importance of experiential learning for today’s university students and the disproportionate access available. Experiential learning can provide individuals many critical resources for success both as students and upon graduation. These include:
- Increased clarity about career interests
- Development of transferable skills
- Creation of a professional network
- Development of professional identity
- Opportunity to explore different fields of interest
- Sense of belonging in a profession and/or a community
- Increased capacity for effective civic and field engagement.
Additionally, increasing access to experiential learning opportunities has been identified as a key element of ensuring educational equity and strengthening student pathways to postgraduate employment or education.
When it became clear this issue demanded university wide expertise and engagement, leadership from Global Affairs, the Mark and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Office of the Provost STEM Strategies, and Undergraduate Education joined the conversation and the idea of a symposium was born.
During fall 2019, this Charting the Future Work Group framed four primary goals for the symposium.
- Map how experiential learning is being done at UC Davis.
- Begin developing shared language and definitions of the forms of experiential learning currently available, or anticipated at UC Davis.
- Explore developing shared mechanisms to document student experiential learning participation and outcomes at UC Davis.
- Identify barriers to experiential learning access at UC Davis and potential solutions.
A short survey was emailed to more than one hundred UC Davis staff, faculty and administrators engaged in a wide variety of experiential learning activities to determine the issues of greatest interest. The responses helped deepen the understanding of current campus programs, evaluation methodologies and documentation as well as perceived barriers to student participation in existing experiential learning opportunities.
Charting the Future of Experiential Learning at UC Davis
The survey was important in confirming work group goals as well as setting the stage for the interactive symposium of experiential learning leaders. In February 2020, a group of 50 UC Davis faculty, staff, and administrators gathered for the Charting the Future of Experiential Learning at UC Davis Symposium to assess the state of experiential learning at the institution and develop ways to increase participation. The goal of the event was to identify and pursue steps that would make experiential learning more widely accessible to all UC Davis students.
Following the February 28, 2020 gathering, the Work Group Members produced a report to summarize outcomes of the Charting the Future of Experiential Learning at UC Davis Symposium: a Campuswide Approach. The report identifies next steps to increase access, participation and recognition of student, staff, and faculty engagement in the broad spectrum of experiential learning activities currently in place or planned at UC Davis, including:
Assessment and student learning outcomes
- Learning objectives are likely to vary across the variety of contexts in which experiential learning is pursued on campus; development of a standardized approach or system for documenting and sharing experiential learning activity and outcomes — for example, e-portfolios — may be particularly useful.
- Definitions of experiential learning should be further vetted and refined by those involved across the university, and in some cases community partners, to finalize institutionally agreed upon definitions.
Credit, transcript recognition, academic requirements
- Expansion of experiential learning in the context of academic programs will require a more intentional effort to engage with faculty about the importance of experiential learning activities and how these activities might be integrated into degree requirements or how students might be recognized for their participation.
Communities of practice
- Developing communities of practice that encourage and support connections with others involved in experiential learning activities across UC Davis will help formalize mutual learning. Potential topics to be taken up include experiential learning definitions, possible assessment and documentation strategies, integrating experiential learning into academic programs, sharing effective practices and eliminating barriers to access.
Aggie Launch at UC Davis
As part of Aggie Launch — an initiative to redefine what undergraduate student success means for every member of the UC Davis community — a collective of campus partners is convening to initiate and facilitate ongoing stewardship, coordination, and oversight for the implementation of the initiative. Members of the Aggie Launch Collective are establishing short-term working groups to address questions raised by the initiative, including those related to fostering high quality experiential learning opportunities, such as: How do we increase access to experiential learning for all students? What programs exist that could be expanded? What institutional barriers can be identified and potentially modified or eliminated? Can we generate a set of uniform definitions for the various forms of experiential learning offered on campus? Can UC Davis more holistically evaluate the impact of experiential learning and publish results?