Experiential learning: Exploring its long-term impact on socially responsible behavior

Jay Caulfield, Treesa Woods


Today’s students are exposed to world events that require considerable cross cultural understanding and recognition that education is far more than learning facts about specific disciplines and diverse groups while sitting in a classroom. For the past several decades, research in education has repeatedly demonstrated that adults learn effectively through experience. However, does experiential learning, when designed specifically to heighten awareness of a significant social problem, evoke socially responsible behavior specific to that problem in the long run?  Employing a qualitative longitudinal research design involving 25 graduate students as participants, this study explored that question. Findings indicated that 94.7% of participants who reported a high impact learning experience when participating in experiential learning while enrolled in a graduate class also reported engaging in socially responsible behavior because of that learning experience. In some instances, the socially responsible behavior continued for as long as three years after the class had ended.


experiential education; experiential learning; high impact learning; qualitative longitudinal research; social responsibility

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