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Collaboration – Collaborative learning combines two key goals: learning to work and solve problems in the company of others, and sharpening one’s own understanding by listening seriously to the insights of others, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences. Approaches range from study groups within a course, to team-based assignments and writing, to cooperative projects and research.

Common Intellectual Experiences – The older idea of a “core” curriculum has evolved into a variety of modern forms, such as a set of required common courses or a vertically organized general education program that includes advanced integrative studies and/or required participation in a learning community (see definition). These programs often combine broad themes—e.g. technology and society, global interdependence—with a variety of curricular and co-curricular options for students.

Experiential Learning – Experiential learning is the process of strengthening connections among education, work and personal development.  It emphasizes connections between the classroom and “real-world” experiences for authentic instruction. Using experiential learning, faculty facilitates acquiring, applying, integrating and evaluating a body of knowledge within an academic discipline. It is important to note that experiential learning is always active learning but active learning is not always experiential learning.

Field Work – Supervised student research or projects carried out away from the institution and in direct contact with the people, natural phenomena, or other entities being studied.

Internships – This is often a credit-bearing, free-standing activity in a student’s discipline of study. It is usually assessed by a faculty member and supervised by an employer who is not a faculty member. The student may work with practicing professionals, complete a project, attend public events, interview and observe constituents and employees. The student may or may not be paid for this experience. When attached to a classroom course, a student may spend several hours a week volunteering in an agency, supporting co-curricular activities, shadowing a professional in the field, or observing people in their natural environments. Key to this form of experiential learning is some type of guide reflection. The mission of the experience may be to support the integration of theory and practice, explore career options, or foster personal or professional development.

Learning Communities – The key goals for learning communities are to encourage integration of learning across courses and to involve students with “big questions” that matter beyond the classroom. Students take two or more linked courses as a group and work closely with one another and with their professors. Many learning communities explore a common topic and/or common readings through the lenses of different disciplines. Some deliberately link “liberal arts” and “professional courses”; others feature service learning.

Problem-Based Learning – In problem-based learning courses, students work to solve complex and authentic problems that help develop discipline-specific knowledge as well as problem-solving, reasoning, communication and self-assessment skills.

Service Learning – This term is used to denote optional or required out-of-classroom community service experiences/projects attached to courses or a separate credit bearing experience. The location may be the broader community outside the university or one embedded in co-curricular activities. In these experiences, students participate as an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflect on the service activity to better understand course content and gain a broader appreciation of the discipline and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility. The idea is to give students direct experience with issues they are studying in the curriculum and with ongoing efforts to analyze and solve problems in the community.

Signature Work – Culminating work that prepares students to integrate and apply their learning to a significant project completed across a semester of study or longer.

Study Abroad – Many colleges and universities now emphasize courses and discipline-specific curriculum that help students explore cultures, life experiences, and worldviews different from their own.  The experiential learning component is the cultural immersion which provides novel challenges for navigating a new place and culture.  A course connected to a study abroad can also include internships, field work, service-learning experiences and undergraduate research.

Undergraduate Research – Many colleges and universities now provide research experiences for students in all disciplines. Courses are designed to connect key concepts and questions with students’ early and active involvement in systematic investigation and research (e.g. data collection). The goal is to involve students with actively contested questions, empirical observation, cutting-edge technologies, and the sense of excitement that comes from working to answer important questions.


Association of American Colleges & Universities. (n.d.) High-Impact Practices Webpage. Retrieved from http://www.aacu.org/resources/high-impact-practices 

Kolb, D.A. (2015). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. 

National Society of Experiential Education. (n.d.) Webpage. Retrieved from http://www.nsee.org/ 

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