This post is one in a series on leveraging students’ prior knowledge from experiential learning in your course.
Looking backward: Compare “most valuable” ideas from across the semester
To increase the likelihood that learning will stick with students beyond final exams or end-of-semester projects, build in assignments and opportunities for students to synthesize their learning. Leveraging the added motivational value that comes from experiential learning connections can add additional power to synthesis activities (see “Before the Semester), and asking students to share this learning with future students provides additional motivation as students experience their own competence (Deci & Ryan, 1985).
How does peer teaching enhance learning for all students?
Peer learning benefits both the peer who is teaching and the peer who is learning. For the peer who is teaching, writing this kind of letter provides an opportunity to reflect on important course concepts and relate them to personal experiences (Keith, 2011; Maier & Panitz, 1996). Being able to put something in your own words can be an effective way to evaluate how well you understand it, and students who are able to paraphrase for their peers can have the advantage of calibrating more easily to their peers’ level of understanding.
Have students write a letter to future students enrolled in another iteration of your course. In their letters, students may be prompted to make a variety of connections between what they learned in the course and from their experiential learning activities. For example, they might describe examples of course concepts drawn from experiential learning, or they might explain a complex theory or methodology from the course in their own words and use it to analyze a specific situation encountered in experiential learning.
Looking forward: Anticipating the future use of course material
Opportunities that ask students to synthesize material with the goal of solidifying it in their minds can be even more effective when they include a forward-looking goal, such as a future co-op or other experiential circumstance in which students need to be prepared to leverage their curricular learning. This can also prepare students to be more successful in those experiences.
How does organizing knowledge prepare it for future use?
It can be challenging for students to articulate and organize what they know. Prompting students to work within a general organizational structure, such as a “professional toolkit,” can help them select, prioritize, and organize their knowledge (Atlas, 2007; Lutsky, 2009). Relating the toolkit’s contents to experiential learning activities—both past and present—can also give students helpful “test cases” for relevance and usefulness.
Have students reflect on the concepts, skills, and procedures that they have learned in your course that are most relevant to their experiential learning, both what they have done in the past and what they anticipate doing in the future. Then have students compile this knowledge as a “professional toolkit” that they can use as a resource in the future–including in future co-op and other experiential learning activities. In formatting the toolkit, students may be able to utilize other concepts and skills from your course, or choose a format that will make it an especially valuable reference for them and their classmates (shared online, in a gallery walk, etc.).
Atlas, J.L. (2007). The end of the course: Another perspective. The Teaching Professor, 21(6), 3.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985) Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.
Keith, K.D. (2011). The last word: Engaging students for life. In R.L. Miller, E. Amsel, B.M. Kowalewski, B.C. Beins, K.D. Keith, & B.F. Peden (Eds.), Promoting student engagement: Volume 1: Programs, Techniques and Opportunities (pp. 215-219). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Lutsky, N. (2010). Teaching psychology’s endings: The simple gifts of a reflective close. In D.S. Dunn, B.C. Beins, M.A. McCarthy, & G.W. Hill, IV (Eds.), Best practices for teaching beginnings and endings in the psychology major: Research, cases, and recommendations (pp. 331-345). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Maier, M.H., & Panitz, T. (1996). End on a high note: Better endings for classes and courses. College Teaching, 44(4), 145-148.