Assessment Resources and Rubrics for Experiential Learning

Students and instructor gathered around a computer in a chemistry lab
 Archeology dig with several studies working different parts of the site.
 A student in another country with a baby elephant.  Elephant has trunk draped over student's neck.
 Two students using a large tube to draw water from an artificial test pool.
 Instructor and several students measuring diameter of small tree in the forest.
 Student holding bird with several other students looking on.  Instructor showing student how to band leg.
 Instructor and two students wearing  protective gear and looking at paperwork in a lab.
 Grad student holding large species of cockroach native to South America.
 Students sitting outside in a circle, one with drum.
 Four students sitting outside Armstrong Center at a cafe table discussing a group project.
 Botany class outside, gathered around a tree and doing an identification exercise.
 Group of students sitting outside painting pottery bowls.

Pre and post assessments are integral part of the experiential learning journey. They empower students to develop ownership of their own experiences making sense and creating meaning of the outcomes of this high impact practice from intentionality to reflection to action.

The outcomes of experiential learning can be varied and unpredictable. How one student chooses to solve a problem will be different from another student, and what one student takes away from an experience may differ for his or her peers. Also, in experiential learning, the process is as important as the final product. Therefore, we need to develop assessments that measure success in both the process and the product—each area may require separate learning outcomes and criteria (Schwartz, M. 2012).

Essential Assessment Questions

To set about creating effective assessment methods, Qualters suggests asking the following:

  1. Why are we doing assessment?
  2. What are we assessing?
  3. How do we want to assess in the broadest terms?
  4. How will the results be used? (Qualters, 2010, p.56)


Assessment also empowers the instructor, the facilitator, the educator.

When thinking about the role of the instructor in the experiential classroom (or any other settings), it can be helpful to ask several critical questions:

  1. Whose experience is it?
  2. Whose definition of success is being used?
  3. What is the goal of the activity for the student?
  4. How invested is the instructor in guaranteeing a certain student outcome?

These questions can help instructors explore any pre-conceptions they might have, or discover areas in which they haven't fully relinquished control over learning (Chapman, McPhee, & Proudman, 1995, p. 243).

These two sets of essential questions can serve as a road map for designing experiential learning assessments. They can facilitate to define connections among experiential learning theory, practice, knowledge and impact.