10 High Impact Practices in Experiential Education

Taken from the BCCAT publication: Experiential Education: Experiential Education in BC Post-Secondary Institutions: Challenges and Opportunities


The term ‘high impact’ is used in the EE scholarship to describe practices that are attributed to successful student learning outcomes through experiential learning design (Anderson, Greeno, Reder, & Simon, 2000; Andresen, Boud, & Cohen, 2000; Dewey, 1938; Kolb, 1984; Moon, 2004; Schön, 1983, as cited in Johnston & Sator, 2017). These practices are summarized in above and include the following:

  • Throughout the experiential learning process, the learner is actively engaged and helps develop the curriculum;
  • The learner is engaged intellectually, emotionally, socially, and/or physically;
  • The results of the learning are very personal and form the basis for future learning;
  • The learner is prompted to reflect in and on their experience, before, during, and after the learning event;
  • Relationships and connections are developed and nurtured between learner and self, learner and others, and learner and the world at large;
  • There is acknowledgement that the experiences and learning cannot totally be predicted;
  • Disruptive opportunities during and after the experience are nurtured and learners (and educators) are supported to explore and examine their own values and beliefs; and
  • The design must incorporate educator recognition of learner input, multiple possible outcomes, and the need for customizable teaching and assessment, tools, and techniques.


Research shows that quality work-based learning experiences include these characteristics:

  1. Experiences provide exposure to a wide range of work sites in order to help youth make informed choices about career selections.
  2. Experiences are age and stage appropriate, ranging from site visits and tours, job shadowing, internships (unpaid and paid), and paid work experience.
  3. Work site learning is structured and links back to classroom instruction.
  4. A trained mentor helps structure the learning at the worksite.
  5. Periodic assessment and feedback is built into the training.
  6. Youth are fully involved in choosing and structuring their experiences.
  7. Outcomes are clear and measurable.




Integrating all the recommendations described above, six main criteria are outlined for enhancing the educational quality of the structured work experience. These quality criteria integrate Kolb’s four learning modes with each other and with program evaluation recommendations and recommendations for moving forward with work-integrated learning.


They include:

  1. Deliberately structure the work-integrated learning program.
  2. Empower the learner with autonomy in the structured work experience.
  3. Provide students with relevant challenges in the workplace.
  4. Consider the learning environment.
  5. Work in partnership with students and the workplace organization.
  6. Ensure continual assessment of student learning and evaluation of the work-integrated learning program.

  1. Johnston, N., & Sator, A. J. (2017, March). Experiential education. Retrieved October 3 2017, from bccat.ca: www.bccat.ca/pubs/expeducation.pdf
  2. National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability. (2004). Career planning begins with assessment: A guide for professionals serving youth with educational and career development challenges. Retrieved December 12, 2017, from National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability: http://www.ncwd-youth.info/career-planning-begins-with-assessment
  3. Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. (n.d.). A practical guide for work-integrated learning. Retrieved from Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario: http://www.heqco.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/HEQCO_WIL_Guide_ENG_ACC.pdf


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High Impact Practices in Experiential Education Copyright © 2021 by Nicola Soles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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