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The Society for Experiential Education Definitions and Principles Design Project

Phase 1 Summary
Bill Heinrich and Patrick Green 

This is a summary of the a) background and methods and b) insights from early data collected in response to the initial design question: What problem would a definition of experiential learning solve?

In co-chairing this process we began a design process to lead the Society of Experiential Education (SEE) toward a new definition of Experiential Education and updated principles of practice, at the request of the Board of SEE. In the context of advancements in experiential education through the lens of new research, updated conceptual frameworks, novel models of practice, and broad institutionalization across higher education, the Board of SEE requested that the Research and Scholarship Committee explore and articulate an updated definition and principles of practice. This request led to a plan for a design process that incorporates the insight and experience of practitioners and scholars across experiential education programs and contexts. You might notice some tentative language in this summary as we are in the first of five stages of a design process, and we are circumspect now about knowing what the process will yield in 12 more months. That being said, we engage this reflective process with open minds and community-engaged posture. 

We’re modeling a process on IDEO’s human-centered design phases. It’s a simple and robust method focusing on developing solutions in service of people. It provides a fairly functional framework that people can follow, and serves as a map of both progress and reflection. This toolkit explains the process, in abstract. The project phases begin with Empathy building, understanding a common definition of a problem, ideation/brainstorming, prototyping, and testing. We anticipate an iterative cycle of data, sensemaking, and reflection in each phase. The phases are planned in consideration of academic breaks and common work times (i.e. semesters). The test will be the published updated definition and principles. Here are our operating principles

The HCD process includes five smaller investigations or inquiries. Since we aim to share our knowledge, we have established a research project hosted by University of Dayton, led by Dr. Karen Velasquez, and Dr. Michael Odio from the University of Cincinnati. 

Because this project will progress and change over time, we include the following outline, created in June, 2023, as an historical note. Sharing our thinking helps us remain transparent and reflective about how our thinking about the process of developing a new definition and updating principles changed from our initial plans, and how the outcome of the process is informed by many people and organizations with an interest or perspective.  
  1. Empathy. We’re redesigning this definition and values on behalf of stakeholders-members and others who we need to identify and empathize with through data gathering, storytelling, interviews, etc.
    1. We’ll aggregate and share this data so everyone who wants to look (now and in the future) can see what the problems our stakeholders are/were facing.
    2. Individuals and groups as stakeholders; are universities or schools ‘stakeholders’?                                          i.    engaged learning faculty
      ii.    community partners/campus partners
      iii.    accreditors, regional and topical
      iv.    SEE leaders are one group of stakeholders 
  1. We don’t yet know what challenges these stakeholders face, but once we do, we can co-define a problem or challenge.
    1. And put it out for comment, review, feedback. We can make adjustments and finalize a problem statement.
    2. time horizons for this version of the vision, meant to evolve 
  1. Then we brainstorm concepts and definitions (and updated principles)
    1. Present to larger groups, gather feedback, refine 
  1. Then we try it out a leading definition and values set (time limited prototype)
    1. We gather feedback about how it lands in public
            i.    key metric: what difference does this make?
                      1.  point back to stakeholder needs for functionality 
  1. We test an option in the wild (aka deliverable)
    1. Watch, learn, discuss, adjust, celebrate and share

Another layer of sharing this outline is that we expect our thinking to change. We will document changes along the way and do our best to acknowledge how our reflections and discussions led us to change our paths. This public iterative process, we believe, is essential to an engaging and useful outcome.

Finally, to create an inclusive and welcoming conversation at all points, we’ve adopted some principles of action in this process.

All are welcome. We’ll include broadly and keep track of who showed up when so we can establish communal input patterns to gather great amounts of insights; and watch for missing layers/groups who we need to hear from.
Participation is flexible. Show up when you can. You’ll be briefed and you’ll have an opportunity to contribute. We all have data gathering/analysis strengths and time constraints, so let's use them as best as we can.
Make and keep commitments. This is volunteer work AND  it shouldn’t last forever, so we’ll establish a schedule and move forward with the best decisions we can, and remain open to revision and reconsideration.
Own our decisions. I’ll be ‘it’ for a while, and we’ll need to establish a core/leadership group who breaks tie votes and whose job it is to seek and name consensus.
Communicate. We’ll keep track via logs, diary, data, attendance, and decisions. We’ll write a lot. We’ll do regular updates. We’ll create slide decks. We’ll tell our story in all the ways we can, during and after.

We want to create a definition and updated principles that are welcome and ultimately informative to SEE members and other experiential educators. The attempts here to document our process serve as a reminder of our commitments to sharing our work as we go through this process. 


Last Updated on Thursday, July 11, 2024 12:56 PM