A Guide for Learning Contracts, Outcomes, and Assessment:
Experiential Learning Program
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
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?