Making Meaning Transfer: Empowering Students to Effectively Apply Experience
thesisposted on 01.05.2012, 00:00 by Stephanie J. Lewis
Experiential education programs have the power to change and grow the values and identities of students, through intense and meaningful experiences. While such change during a temporary program is a foundation of learning for the student, there remains the need to support the academic transfer of these new learnings as well as the emotional transition of the student upon their return home. In this work, I delve into the literature to better understand theories regarding personal transitions and transference of learnings, to see what can be done to prepare students to leave temporary experiential programs. Transition progressions from group development, transition theories, and study abroad re-entry create a general model that can inform educators and students of what to expect. Group work, reflection, higher level thinking, processing, and debriefing can improve transference of learning to the home environment. To better understand what is being done to prepare students to leave temporary experiences, I also synthesize eleven interviews with leaders and educators in the fields of outdoor semester schools, residential environmental education, and outdoor adventure programs. These programs assist their students through re-entry by facilitating four main categories of activities: reflection; mental preparation and making plans; acknowledging and celebrating growth and learning of the student; and facilitating support networks and correspondence. Such themes shine a light onto the theoretical literature of transitions and transference, and provide a view into the further needs of research and practice. I conclude by providing practitioner-friendly suggestions and inspirations for facilitating such activities in their own programs.