Experiential Learning

Informational Interviewing

Job Shadowing

Service Learning

Undergraduate Research



Experiential Learning:

  • is a process which develops knowledge, skills, and values from direct experiences typically outside the academic setting


  • encompasses a variety of activities including internships, externships, service learning, undergraduate research, study abroad, and other creative and professional experiences

Principles of “experiential learning” are used to design experiential education programs. Emphasis is placed on the nature of participants’ subjective experiences.

An experiential educator’s role is to organize and facilitate direct experiences of phenomenon under the assumption that this will lead to genuine (meaningful and long-lasting) learning. This often requires preparatory and reflective exercises.

Experiential education is often contrasted with didactic education, in which the teacher’s role is to give information/ knowledge to students and to prescribe study/ learning exercises which have Information/ knowledge transmission as the main goal.

At Sul Ross, the Title V Lobo Road to Success Grant focus is to embed “experiential learning components” into pre-existing faculty courses to enrich students’ learning experiences throughout the students’ academic coursework and to increase student retention rates and graduation success.

According to David Kolb (2005), "experiential learning" includes:

  1. Sharing and reflecting
  2. Processing and analyzing
  3. Generalizing
  4. Applying

Using these pedagogical processes, Sul Ross will better engage its students in the collegiate experience and keep them on the road to academic success. Students will have a variety of “experiential learning” opportunities from which to choose from in the completion of their Educational Career Program and Senior Capstone course projects.


An informational interview is a conversation with someone who can give you advice about an organization, field of work or a particular job that interests you. Your interviewee may be someone you already know like a supervisor, family friend or co-worker, or it may be with someone you do not know.

Though it may seem awkward to approach someone you have never met, seeking career information is an extremely valuable job search tool. Remember, most people are more than happy to discuss what they do for a living. Through your genuine interest in their job and career fields, you can get your questions answered. For more information.

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Discover what it's like to work in specific career fields through job shadowing. A critical but often overlooked component of career exploration, job shadowing enables you to "try on a job" for a half-day, day or more by observing a professional in the field. Job shadowing gives you firsthand experience into your desired career path, and can help you decide whether your dream job is right for you. For more information about SRSU opportunities.

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  1. Definitions of service-learning vary considerably among those who embrace it. At its heart, however, service-learning is a form of experiential learning that employs service as its modus operandi. Service-learning pedagogies are used by teachers in colleges and universities as well as in K-12 schools to enhance traditional modes of learning, actively engage students in their own educations through experiential learning in course-relevant contexts, and foster lifelong connections between students, their communities, and the world outside the classroom.
  2. Service-learning means a method under which students learn and develop through thoughtfully-organized service that: is conducted in and meets the needs of a community and is coordinated with an institution of higher education, and with the community; helps foster civic responsibility; is integrated into and enhances the academic curriculum of the students enrolled; and includes structured time for students to reflect on the service experience.
  3. At their best, service-learning experiences are reciprocally beneficial for both the community and students. For many community organizations, students augment service delivery, meet crucial human needs, and provide a basis for future citizen support. For students, community service is an opportunity to enrich and apply classroom knowledge; explore careers or majors; develop civic and cultural literacy; improve citizenship, develop occupational skills; enhance personal growth and self-image; establish job links; and foster a concern for social problems, which leads to a sense of social responsibility and commitment to public/human service.
  4. Service-learning is the various pedagogies that link community service and academic study so that each strengthens the other. The basic theory of service-learning is Dewey’s: the interaction of knowledge and skills with experience is key to learning. Students learn best not by reading the Great Books in a closed room but by opening the doors and windows of experience. Learning starts with a problem and continues with the application of increasingly complex ideas and increasingly sophisticated skills to increasingly complicated problems.
  5. Service-learning is a method through which citizenship, academic subjects, skills, and values are taught. It involves active learning—drawing lessons from the experience of performing service work. Though service-learning is most often discussed in the context of elementary and secondary or higher education, it is a useful strategy as well for programs not based in schools.

There are three basic components to effective service-learning:

  • The first is sufficient preparation, which includes setting objectives for skills to be learned or issues to consider, and includes planning projects so they contribute to learning at the same time work gets done.
  • The second component is simply performing service.
  • Third, the participant attempts to analyze the experience and draw lessons, through such means as discussion with others and reflection on the work.

Thinking about the service creates a greater understanding of the experience and the way service addresses the needs of the community. It promotes a concern about community issues and a commitment to being involved that mark an active citizen. At the same time the analysis and thought allow the participants to identify and absorb what they have learned.

Learning and practicing citizenship are life-long activities which extend far beyond the conclusion of formal education. Service-learning can be used to increase the citizenship skills of participants of any age or background. For this reason service-learning can be a tool to achieve the desired results of programs, even those involving older, highly educated participants. For example, service-learning can be part of the training of participants to prepare them to do high quality service that has real community impact.

Some service-learning occurs just from doing the work: after a month working alongside police, a participant has surely learned some important lessons about how to increase public safety, and something about what it means to be a good citizen. However, programs that encourage active learning from service experience may have an even greater impact.

  1. A service-learning program provides educational experiences:

Under which students learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service experiences that meet actual community needs and that are coordinated in collaboration with school and community;

That is integrated into the students’ academic curriculum or provides structured time for a student to think, talk, or write about what the student did and saw during the actual service activity;

That provides a student with opportunities to use newly-acquired skills and knowledge in real-life situations in their own communities; and

That enhances what is taught by extending student learning beyond the classroom and into the community and helps to foster the development of a sense of caring for others.

  1. Service-Learning is: A connection of theory and practice that puts concepts into concrete form and provides a context for understanding abstract matter. This provides an opportunity to test and refine theories as well as to introduce new theories.

…A use of knowledge with a historical understanding or appreciation of social, economic and environmental implications as well as moral and ethical ramifications of people’s actions. This involves a strong use of communication and interpersonal skills including literacy (writing, reading, speaking and listening) and various technical skills.

…An opportunity to learn how to learn — to collect and evaluate data, to relate seemingly unrelated matters and ideas, and investigate a self-directed learning including inquiry, logical thinking and a relation of ideas and experience. A transference of learning from one context to another will allow for the opportunity to reflect, conceptualize and apply experience-based knowledge.

…An emphasis on diversity and pluralism that lends to empowerment in the face of social problems; experience that helps people understand and appreciate traditions of volunteerism; and a consideration of and experimentation with democratic citizenship responsibilities.”

Status of Service-Learning in the United States:

Based on studies of school-based and college and university-based service-learning programs, we estimate the following number of individuals are participating in service-learning programs across the country. To the best of our knowledge:

Colleges and Universities

  • There are more than 6.7 million students in public and private 4 year institutions of higher education
  • Almost 30% report participating in a course where service is part of the curriculum (unpublished data from the HERI study at UCLA)
  • Almost 2 million students participate in service-learning at 4 year public and private institutions
  • Over 1.5 million students participate in service-learning at private 4 year institutions
  • Over 350,000 participate in service-learning at public 4 year institutions
  • Over 800,000 students involved in service-learning participate in schools that are members of Campus Compact
  • At Campus Compact member 2 year institutions, almost 130,000 students participate in service-learning
  • Almost half of all community colleges in the U.S. offer service-learning courses. For more information.

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What is Undergraduate Research?                 

Its central premise is the formation of a collaborative enterprise between student and faculty member-most often one mentor and one burgeoning scholar but sometimes (particularly in the social and natural sciences) a team of either or both. This collaboration triggers a four-step learning process...

  • the identification of and acquisition of a disciplinary or interdisciplinary methodology
  • the setting out of a concrete investigative problem
  • the carrying out of the actual project
  • the dispersing/sharing of a new scholar's discoveries with his or her peers- a step traditionally missing in most undergraduate educational programs (NCUR)

Essentially, undergraduate research involves the same steps as research done by professionals.

This list of a generalized version of what Lopatto (2003) identifies as the essential features of undergraduate research as stated by faculty engaged in the practice. Figuring prominently in his list is also the idea that students experience some independence, have room for creativity, and feel ownership of the research project.

Undergraduate Research Teaches Disciplinary Practice

Undergraduate research experiences help students understand a particular topic or phenomenon in a field while simultaneously strengthening their comprehension of research and research methods. Undergraduate research is inquiry-based learning that involves practicing a discipline, not just being told about it. Students learn and apply the tools by which knowledge is created in their disciplines. They discover firsthand how the steps of the research process are related to one another, experience the triumphs and pitfalls inherent to the creative process, see that research is an iterative process and that ambiguity is part of the real world, develop an understanding and appreciation of how knowledge evolves, and produce an original contribution to that body of knowledge.

Undergraduate Research is Engaged Learning

Undergraduate research is engaged learning in a number of respects. It is a form of both experience-based learning and active learning, and it can engage students with contexts, including the social and civic. The mentoring and collaboration dimensions of undergraduate research can foster ownership for learning and encourage a commitment to high standards and accountability. While the research process in a discipline may be well-established, research always requires creativity, as well as patience and resolve in grappling with what sometimes feels ambiguous to all participants, including the faculty mentor. These features create opportunities for students to explore their own learning styles as well as develop exposure to those of others.

Undergraduate Research Can Take Many Forms

Undergraduate research projects can be designed to fit a variety of class constructs and to promote student learning at all levels of undergraduate education. Undergraduate research projects can be student or faculty initiated, and students can either participate in a work in progress or enter a project at its start.

When they are structured properly, class-based activities (naturalistic observation, surveys, quantitative writing assignments and experiments) can be undergraduate research experiences. So can class-based research projects (term papers, service learning, community-based and campus-based learning), capstone experiences (senior and honors theses), and out-of-class student/faculty collaborative research (like summer research experiences).

Some institutions and departments offer support and programs for undergraduate research through student/faculty summer research programs or undergraduate research offices. Even without such support, faculty can follow a well-defined process for developing undergraduate research and determining its best form for the course or experience they are considering. For more information.

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Volunteering, much like job shadowing or pursuing an internship, is a great way to gain experience, build your resume and create a professional network--all while giving back to your community, school or cause of your choice. You can volunteer at faith-based, nonprofit or government agencies--or even right here on campus. Find volunteer opportunities at websites including Serve.gov, Do Something!, Idealist.org and Volunteer Match.

For more information about SRSU opportunities.

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An internship is an opportunity to enhance classroom learning through practical career-related work experience. Internships can be found in corporate and private businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. All internships should have the primary goal of providing students supervision and a chance to learn while contributing to the organization’s needs.

At Sul Ross State University, we are available to assist you with developing a successful internship program. Whether by phone, in-person, or through email communication, we can help create a positive internship experience for you and our students.

There are two primary types of internships. The details of each are listed below.


Paid Internships are opportunities offered primarily in the private sector or large organizations that are designed to pay students to learn while they work. Employers that offer paid internships are generally for-profit, are evaluating interns as potential full-time employees upon graduation, and/or have short-term large projects. The rate of compensation can be determined by the employer; however, most successful internship programs offer comparable hourly wages, stipends, licensing, and/or tuition reimbursement.


Unpaid internships are opportunities that do not offer any form of monetary compensation for the student. The decision to offer an unpaid internship is largely determined by the employer or the area of discipline. However, the general rule is that for-profit companies should offer interns some form of compensation. Unpaid internships are generally reserved for not-for-profit organizations including religious institutions, charities, universities, state and local government agencies, and various hospitals.

It should be noted that unpaid internships are scrutinized heavily by the U.S. Department of Labor and, as such, have a minimum set of criteria that must be met for the internship to be considered legal. At SRSU, adherence to these criteria is expected. For specific details regarding the identified standards, please refer to Part 2 of this guide or visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm.


In addition to determining the amount of monetary compensation (if any), employers must also decide whether internships should be offered on a for-credit or not-for-credit basis.

  • For-Credit Internships – Students earn university credits that count as an academic or extracurricular semester course. They are often strongly related to a student’s academic discipline and must be approved by the university/academic department. Generally, they also require the completion of various forms of documentation throughout the duration of the academic semester or year. Examples of documentation include: journals, essays, presentations, mid-term/final evaluations, etc.
  • Not-for-Credit Internships – Students do not earn university credits for their internship experience. However, to be included in our job search database, the university must still approve the internship posting. By establishing an approval process, SRSU ensures that students are offered a meaningful learning experience.


2016 Faculty Research Forum

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For more information, please contact the Title V Activity Director/ Director of Experiential Learning.



Jenny Penland, Ed.D.
Activity Director/Director of Experiential Learning
Lawrence Hall 307