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Using a Multi-Source Evaluation Approach to Optimize Synchronous Industry-Integrated Experiential Learning Projects

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Written by Janine Bower, Director of Partnerships Success and Instructional Design @ CapSource + Professor of Sociology & Criminology at Keuka College

“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”

– John Dewey (1933)

 

Introduction

 

The experiential learning pedagogical approach has become an integral part of higher education, and the benefits of using experiential learning as a tool to engage students, increase their motivation for learning, and enhance their knowledge and skills are well documented. Among experiential learning approaches, synchronous industry-integrated project-based learning has gained prominence for its potential in engaging students in real-world, collaborative learning experiences from within the context of the classroom learning environment. Not only does this approach facilitate student learning, it gives students meaningful reference-worthy experiences that they can showcase on their resume, professional networking sites, and during job interviews.

 

As John Dewey (quoted above) notably points out, reflection is a fundamental part of the learning process. Facilitating the exchange of feedback for students in a timely and meaningful way is paramount for student growth. Although building and implementing this type of feedback mechanism can be challenging, especially in large class settings, in this article, we highlight a new CapSource tool that allows our educators to use a turn-key series of specialized Multi-Source Feedback as a tool for optimizing the facilitation of your synchronous industry-integrated experiential learning projects.

 

The Synchronous Industry-Integrated Project Based Experiential Learning Approach

 

Project-based experiential learning opportunities in the classroom, particularly synchronous industry-integrated projects that embed students in real-world organizations, are an excellent teaching method to help students build crucial career-related skills like Communication, Teamwork, Critical Thinking, and Intercultural Fluency. They’re also extremely helpful in exposing students to real technology tools they’ll ultimately be using while on the job.

 

We define synchronous industry-integrated learning projects as bringing real organizations with real challenges into the classroom learning environment through carefully designed project-based collaborations. Using this model, concepts and frameworks are brought to life and students are challenged to think critically and engage peers and mentors effectively in order to achieve project goals. 

 

The CapSource Experiential Learning Model involves synchronous industry-integrated projects that allow students to connect theory to practice in an authentic setting, one that has real-world challenges, constraints, and consequences for decision-making and action. Much like the reality of a workplace, students (and instructors) tackle issues and solve problems in a not-so-predictable environment. 

 

 

 

In these learning contexts, students have the opportunity to learn how they can respond to various real-world situations: How do they engage others and manage disagreements within a group setting? How effectively do they communicate their ideas and listen to those of others? What skills do they draw upon to make decisions, solve problems, and present outcomes to real-world stakeholders? By embedding synchronous industry-integrated projects into the classroom, instructors can provide a relatively “safe space” for students to assess their own learning and measure their own skills and abilities to perform in a higher stakes environment. It also provides instructors with useful information for evaluating student learning and curricular effectiveness. 

 

David Kolb’s (1984) Model of Experiential Learning is one of the most widely recognized and influential approaches to teaching and learning, and informs CapSource’s approach to designing effective learning experiences for students. In his model, Kolb situates “activity” in a broader four-stage circular process:

 

 

As the diagram above illustrates, reflection is a central feature of the experiential learning process as it serves the essential function of making the connection between the concrete experience and the learning and meaning derived from that experience (Denton, 2011).  Designing effective course-embedded synchronous industry-integrated project learning experiences, then, necessarily involves infusing points where students reflect upon their personal experience. These points of reflection also can serve as a construct for integrating self-assessment and feedback from instructors, peers, and mentors who are engaging the student in the project.

 

Multi-Source Evaluation as a Feedback Strategy

 

Feedback is an important part of the learning process. It has a significant effect on student learning and has been described as “the most powerful single moderator that enhances achievement” (Hattie, 1999).  Feedback can come in many forms, and while necessary for learning and personal development, it can be challenging for instructors to integrate procedures for adequate, timely, and meaningful feedback in the context of synchronous industry-integrated projects. This is particularly true for synchronous projects where much of the focus is directed to project-related assignments and tasks. Without purposeful feedback, students may be deprived the opportunity to more fully develop their competencies and capacity to learn through experience. 

 

One solution to this challenge is the use of a Multi-Source evaluation process, employing self-assessment, peer feedback, and input from industry partners on project progress and outcomes.  In their extension on Kolb’s experiential learning framework,  Black et al. (2021) suggest that a Multi-Source evaluation process can increase student engagement and career readiness. Furthermore, this approach may help reduce faculty feedback and coaching requirements in large class settings.

 

In the context of synchronous industry-integrated projects, Multi-Source feedback can optimize experiential learning since it provides faculty with useful information for monitoring project and student performance, engaging in meaningful interventions, and assessing their own teaching and learning pedagogy.  At CapSource, our Multi-Source Feedback System helps educators ensure a higher likelihood of positive learning and project outcomes by soliciting input from four key stakeholders as demonstrated in the graphic below:

 

 

The data gleaned can be a useful tool for supporting student and project success in numerous ways, including:

  • Gaining insight into students’ perceptions about their level of preparedness at the start of the project and inform scaffolding that undergirds the learning process;
  • Monitoring project health and student performance and guiding intervention strategies;
  • Promoting student learning and development in relation to course and program learning goals, career competencies and career readiness;
  • Enabling self-assessment, reflection, and identification of areas of strength and opportunities for growth;
  • Evaluating teaching and learning pedagogies and demonstrating academic program and course outcomes as an indirect measure of student learning.

 

Gathering input from these key stakeholders can be achieved through a series of well-timed, behavior-based surveys administered over the life cycle of the project as illustrated below:

 

 

Incorporating measures of career readiness into the Multi-Source evaluation process can further help students identify and develop skills and attributes employers are seeking and give more meaning to learning experiences as opportunities for students to develop career-related skills (Gray, 2021). The CapSource Multi-Source Feedback tool integrates the National Association of Colleges and Employers eight career competencies, and draws upon empirically grounded methodological techniques for gathering feedback on situational behavior.  

 

Career competencies reflected in our Multi-Source Feedback System include:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • Teamwork and Collaboration
  • Intercultural Fluency
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism and Work Ethic
  • Self- and Career-Management
  • Digital Technologies

 

While there are clear benefits to a Multi-Source Evaluation approach to feedback, consideration should be given to factors that influence the quality of feedback obtained. For instance, most students are not trained on assessing peers’ performance and providing constructive feedback, and left without guidance and instruction on how to do so may defer to familiar but ineffective frameworks and references that can actually inhibit the kind of reflection and growth instructors are seeking to cultivate. As another example, self-reported questionnaires are administered in a broader situational context, and the interpretation of these appraisals should be understood as such in order to avoid overgeneralizing, or to considering students’ performance and appraisals thereof to reflect a pattern beyond the situation and experience. 

 

Conclusion

 

As a leading pedagogical approach for bringing real-world learning experiences to the classroom environment, synchronous industry-integrated projects offer students a unique opportunity to engage in collaborative learning while working with real organizations and using critical thinking, communication, teamwork, and other transferable and discipline-specific skills to solve real-life challenges. Reflection is a key component of the experiential learning process, and course-embedded synchronous industry-integrated projects provide an opportune context for giving students useful and timely feedback. We suggest Multi-Source Feedback as an approach, and offer instructors a Multi-Source Feedback system to optimize teaching and learning outcomes in their CapSource synchronous industry-integrated project experience.

 

If you’re interested in leveraging this tool or learning about additional features we incorporate into the CapSource Experiential Learning Management System, feel free to learn more, register today, or schedule a demo with someone on our team!

 

 

Sources:

 

Black SL, DeGrassi SW, Sweet KM. (2021). Multisource feedback as an experiential learning enabler in large-format management classes. Journal of Management Education, 45(3), 479-517. doi:10.1177/1052562920987292

 

Cao, Y. (2010). Study of feedback in experiential learning. 2010 International Conference on E-Health Networking Digital Ecosystems and Technologies,157-160. DOI: 10.1109/EDT.2010.5496616.

 

Denton, D. (2011). Reflection and learning: Characteristics, obstacles, and implications. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 43(8), 838-852. DOI: 0.1111/j.1469-5812.2009.00600.x

 

Gray, K. (2021). The sample behaviors that provide evidence of career readiness. National Association of Colleges and Employers. Retrieved from https://www.naceweb.org/career-readiness/competencies/the-sample-behaviors-that-provide-evidence-of-career-readiness/ 

 

Hattie, J. (1999). Influences on student learning. Inaugural Lecture. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237248564_Influences_on_Student_Learning 

 

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of educational research, 77(1), 81-112. DOI: 10.3102/003465430298487