A guide for Learning Contracts, Outcomes, and Assessment: Experiential Learning Program May 2008 draft 1

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A Guide for Learning Contracts, Outcomes, and Assessment:

Experiential Learning Program

May 2008

The intentional consideration of a set of learning outcomes is what differentiates positions in the Experiential Learning Program (ELP) from a job or a typical graduate assistantship. Each student selected to participate in the ELP program is provided a job description by the university which is augmented by a learning contract.
The learning contract is a simple letter that the student, supervisor, and Coordinator of Student Success develop together. This contract stipulates outcomes all three parties expect from the experience the student will have in the ELP program.
Generally, students in their first year of the program will establish outcomes based on their undergraduate experiences. They will set goals that focus on learning how to “navigate the system” (see below).
In the second year of the program, students will select a theory, model, or construct from their academic studies and apply it in their work. For instance, an assistant basketball coach in the MBA program might decide to apply “guerilla” marketing concepts to promote attendance at home and away games.
In the third year of the program, students would expand upon their work in year two, seeking to not only apply what they have learned in their academic program, but to develop and apply their own perspectives about the information they have processed. For instance, the student might attempt approaches to using guerilla marketing concepts that are directly related to lessons learned from year two, but are different or enhanced versions of perspectives studied in class.
Learning contracts should have between three and five outcomes that the student is attempting to realize through actions associated with the experience.
The model for learning that we are using to frame the ELP program consists of four inter-related processes and is continuously refined through action research conducted by staff at Holy Names University.

  1. The forward application of theory and experience to practice. This involves the opportunity to think about what you know from your experiences and what you know from constructs you studies in your previous and/or current academic work, and to intentionally apply what you know to your work setting. Additionally, the opportunity to reflect on your work, how you are approaching your work, and how you can do things better, all within the context of an academic construct will theoretically enhance the effectiveness of your efforts. An example is a graduate assistant who coordinates a group meeting with student athletes to look at how their skills as athletes can be transferred into demonstrated leadership skills that support values such as citizenship, service to others, and social justice.

  2. The understanding of how to navigate the dynamics of organizational life. This involves learning to exist successfully within the culture of an organization while also learning to manage the politics and dynamics critical to being successful.

  3. The reverse application of theory and experience to practice. This involves the opportunity to reflect on one’s experiences and to critically link them to theory. It further involves the ability to develop a personal understanding of the experience and how one takes ownership of ideas and practices that lead to personal success.

Beyond the learning outcomes approach to the ELP program, graduate assistants will be expected to be model citizens or to model appropriate and professional behavior at all times. This includes paying attention to the total educational experience undergraduate students have. Questions and perspectives graduate assistants should consider include:

  1. How does the GA influence a student athlete in understanding the balance between academic and athletics?

  2. How does the GA support the students in which s/he works with in locating appropriate resources for academic support?

  3. How does the GA support and encourage student athletes to participate in civically minded opportunities that impact the HNU community and external local and global community?

  4. How does the GA realize the values, mission and goals established for Student Affairs including support for orientation programs, students’ leadership development and conflict resolution?

  5. How does the GA work to support campus recruitment and retention goals and efforts?

  6. How does the GA influence a student athlete in understanding their role as a part of a team, regardless of position, ranking or scholarship?

  7. How does the GA uphold a professional image?

  8. What ethical considerations must be taken into account?

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