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Creating Experiences Where Students Forget About the Grade

We hope you all enjoyed the BYU/LX Experiential Learning Summit Series, which concluded in April of 2021. Our members are able to view past webinars and insights from this series in the Members’ Area section of our website. In our last webinars this March, speaker Dr. Bill Heinrich shared some great perspectives about experiential learning and challenging students.

Bill Heinrich focused his presentation throughout our March sessions on how to create experiences where students forget about grades and focus on the experience. Students benefit from experiential learning through emotional attachments to what they learn, but teachers are also growing and changing from the process. This makes experiential learning extremely important.

Heinrich broke down the idea of a classroom script- the cultural ideas around a learning experience, shaped by values and experience. Both lecturers and students walk into a classroom with an idea of how a course will be structure and what they will get out of that course based on their past experiences. It is imperative for interdisciplinary work that scripts are dissected and understood by everyone in order to create common objectives within the lab, field placement, study abroad program, or classroom.

This script must be reworked in order to create experiential, place-based, or project-based learning. In order to do this and create a program that leaves students feeling empowered and fulfilled, Heinrich suggested several steps instructors must intentionally unpack and destabilize normal classroom hierarchies to make way for something new. This is imperative for inclusion, accessibility, and equity within the classroom, and it leads the way for data-driven models to be used within the course.

Gravity: Instructors should identify what idea in the course has the largest pull on the learning experience for students, providing the most benefit and causing the most retention of student attention.

  • Script: In the past, the course has always circled around a syllabus and a grade, with the final grade having the most gravity with students. Intended outcomes outlined in the syllabi are content knowledge, deliverables, and networking.

  • De-Script: In a new understanding of what an experiential course could look like, the gravity is the people students are serving and learning from and the solutions that they are creating or building. The emergent outcomes are personal growth, professional growth, and a sense of ownership over their classroom experience.

Ownership: Instructors must decide who has the onus of control for learning.

  • Script: According to the past script, the instructor is the only one who sets outcomes and the learning process. The social structure of the classroom is that the instructor knows things and then shares them.

  • De-Script: Courses can be re-worked so that students identify solutions and create paths to meet them. They are discovering knowledge while the instructor guides them with expertise.

Place: Instructors have the ability to decide which physical and conceptual resources will work best for their students and the intended learning outcome.

  • Script: Class is always held within a lecture hall.

  • De-Script: Students go to the location of their project, reconfiguring the space to create a cross-functional team.

We greatly appreciated the discussions and questions from the members who tuned into this March session of the BYU/LX Experiential Summit Series. More insights, resources, and full webinars are provided to our members. You can sign up as a member for free on the Members page of our site.


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