Last month, LX and BYU hosted three sessions in the BYU/LX Experiential Learning Summit Series. In our first November webinar, we discussed how faculty can most effectively tell the story of their project-based learning efforts with panelist Mat Duerden (Experience Design and Management, BYU) along with moderator Dave Waddell (Experiential Learning and Internships, BYU).
Barriers to Faculty Recognition
Putting together an experiential learning curriculum or research teams can be overwhelming, but perhaps one of the biggest challenges that faculty face is receiving resources and recognition for their programs after initial success. Projects are overlooked in favor of flashier, life-changing discoveries. Universities aren’t providing PR resources to share faculty stories. Professors struggle to tell the story of their project in such a specialized field. Whatever the case, professors and researchers around the country are unable to get the recognition they deserve. This was the starting point for our discussion, and through all of these barriers, the panelists landed on one simple solution to telling effective stories about project success: the students.
Students as Faculty Advocates
Both panelists agree that students are the most critical way to gain resources and recognition for experiential learning. Students are stakeholders in their classrooms and giving them the tools to articulate their successes within the program is crucial to expanding success. The first step is identifying broad and interdisciplinary key learning values- for example, critical thinking or creativity. When students reflect on these learning values, their experience becomes something that can be applied to other courses, teams, or job interviews. Students need to be able to reflect on these goals and learning values and share them with different audiences- from recommending the course to a roommate to presenting findings at a conference to sharing the success of the project with the university community. Students are the best advocates for faculty because they know firsthand the impact of faculty success and giving students the tools and guidance to reflect on this success and the language to expand on it across audiences is the way experiential learning will get the resources and recognition desired.
Action Steps for Demonstrating Value
With students acting as advocates for faculty’s programs and courses, universities will be more likely to pay attention. But there could still be barriers to sharing the impact with others. Here are the best suggestions compiled by our panelists for action steps to get your project in wider settings:
Students need the guidance of faculty to reflect on learning outcomes that cross fields and expand into real-life. Focusing the goals of a course on being as interdisciplinary as possible will not only benefit the students but will connect the course to a community of other faculty members working to achieve the same results in different fields. This community is essential to promoting the value of your projects. Have students write down direct impact statements of their work that not only are perfect for a resume but for demonstrating your success and scalability to other teams across the university.
Participate in or create roundtables where faculty members university-wide can pitch their theses or findings and ask for collaboration from other fields. Having time dedicated to a short elevator pitch for the tangible success your projects provides eliminates the imposter syndrome that your project is not as deserving of attention as flashier and bigger projects.
Join opportunities and groups like the LX Consortium! We are working to connect pioneers of experiential learning and provide resources on how to share your work with others and demonstrate the most success possible. Interdisciplinary groups may be challenging to find, but once you do they are key to helping you tell your stories in the most effective and impactful way.
Our next webinar in the BYU/LX Experiential Learning Summit Series will take place on January 15th to discuss how to find and work with internal and external partners for capstones, consulting, and other projects in order to tap funding resources and expand higher learning. Registration links can be found at https://experience.byu.edu/experiential-learning-summit-2020