Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

Developing and Assessing Experiential Learning Opportunities

Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

Developing and Assessing Experiential Learning Opportunities

Article excerpt


Experiential learning has always been an important aspect of a university education. On the most basic level, the experience of "going to college" provides learning in the form of being on one's own for the first time, making friends, and finding one's way around a new campus and community. More is often learned outside of class than in, and experiences provide the opportunity to reflect upon and assimilate classroom learning. There is a growing trend to more formally introduce educational experiences in which students can participate, innovate, and influence the processes and work flows. Social media tools offer efficient and cost-effective ways to engage students that allow them to publish their work, promote events, and enhance their professional networks.

There are many ways to engage students by getting them involved in conferences, seminars, and workshops. Rather than simply attend an event, students can actively engage the event by providing extensive coverage via a blog and other social media tools. The event can be covered by an entire class or a recruited group of students, or as an activity for a student organization, or one that is engaged by student media. Typical media coverage of an event may include one story using few sources, photos, or a short video package. However, web and social-media tools provide a much larger news hole for more extensive coverage that a large-scale event often merits. A team of reporters can extensively cover a conference, engaging an external audience, often on a national or international level, and providing a permanent archive of the activities. Students can use tools and technologies in their reporting to cover the event in innovative ways.

Experiential learning has been discussed in journalism for the past two decades. Most recently, the "teaching hospital" model, where journalism students receive practical experience as an integral part of their education, has been proposed and promoted (Knight Foundation, 2013). However, few case studies exist that illustrate innovative ways to add student media experiences into journalism curricula. This study outlines one such endeavor, the project from Texas State University, in which students cover the South By Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. Since 2008, this project has put students in contact with professionals and cutting-edge communication topics, allowing them to use the most current technologies and media platforms. Internships, traditional student media participation, and classroom exercises can qualify as experiential learning, but this analysis describes a course-level experiential activity. A rubric is introduced that can provide an assessment tool for judging the level of experience provided by any experiential learning environment.


Experiential learning is a "process during which a person experiences an event, acquires competencies and then compares the knowledge gained with that gleaned in similar situations" (Brandon, 2002, p. 62). Bloom (1956) developed a taxonomy of learning that is applicable to experiential environments. He identified three domains: cognitive, or mental skills; affective, or emotional and attitudinal areas; and psychomotor, or manual and physical skills. Each domain had a series of categories that reflected the level and type of learning, thus demonstrating learning as a series of phenomena that can each be exercised and measured in different ways. Bloom's Taxonomy was later synthesized by Lorin Anderson into the following categories: Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating (Pohl, 2001). These categories represent a hierarchy moving from passive learning (remembering, understanding) to active learning (applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating) and highlight the role of experiences in the process.

Various theorists have defined approaches to experiential learning. Dewey discussed experiential learning in regard to the agency it creates. …

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