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Experiential Learning through the Cooperative Education Lifecycle (DARE ExCEL)

students at microscopes


The Center for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning Excellence (CASTLE) aims to transform approaches to STEM education from kindergarten through faculty development, through interdisciplinary research. The ExCEL DARE focuses on an important area of research in STEM education, which is the study of experiential learning. Experiential learning is defined as students learning from direct experiences. Opportunities of this type include: mentored research, cooperative education (Co-op), internships, service learning, volunteering, and study abroad, among other experiences.

While there is research on the impact of undergraduate research programs on student learning, retention and skills, there is limited research on the impact of Co-op and other experiential learning opportunities and the benefits students gain from these experiences. In addition, there is limited research on the impact of experiential learning opportunities on graduate student training.  Drexel University offers unique experiential learning opportunities such as Co-op and Students Tackling Advanced Research (STAR), which provides a unique testbed for studying experiential learning. Because Drexel has entrenched experiential learning opportunities, it provides unique opportunities to ask questions about the benefits of experiential learning and what makes for a good experiential learning experience. Our work in this area will allow development of models for experiential learning that have national impact.

Tracking Experiential Learning Outcomes Across three CAA Campuses

The ExCEL DARE project garnered the attention of the Colonial Academic Alliance (CAA), who have now partnered with CASTLE to track experiential learning outcomes across three CAA campuses including, Drexel University, University of North Carolina Wilmington and University of Charleston. There is national interest in better mechanisms to assess experiential learning because no instrument exists to compare all types of experiential learning. Through the support of the CAA IN/CO Grant Program, the three schools are working together on the development of a single validated tool to collect data across a wide variety of experiential learning activities. This initiative will also establish a centralized hub of data that will grow over time, allowing deeper understanding of experiential learning outcomes in education.

Broader Impacts

As one of the premier institutions offering established experiential learning opportunities, Drexel provides unique opportunities to ask questions about the benefits of experiential learning and what makes for a good experiential learning experience. As other institutions begin to explore ways to incorporate more experiential learning opportunities into their STEM students’ learning experiences, we have the opportunity to serve as a national model for experiential learning in STEM if we can adequately demonstrate the benefits of our experiential learning programs. At the same time, this research could give us concrete information to use to more effectively recruit STEM students into programs at Drexel.

Project Updates

April 30, 2018
IN/CO Dare Spring meeting

Representatives from Drexel University, University of North Carolina Wilmington, University of Charleston and CAA met to define the scope of the project including desired outcomes, technical approaches and project sustainability. 

August 2018
The Colonial Academic Alliance launched the Innovate/Collaborate (IN/CO) Grant Program in April 2017, providing grants of up to $40,000 (dispersed over a two year grant period) to fund initiatives that address pressing policy challenges in higher education; fuel collaboration between institutions; enhance institutional excellence; and promote innovation in intellectual inquiry. IN/CO Grants fund multidisciplinary teams of faculty and staff from two or more Alliance member institutions.

Read the report

Learn More

Learn more about the CAA project “Tracking Experiential Learning Outcomes Across Three CAA Campuses."

Colonial Academic Alliance