Balancing Act Integrating Broad and Narrow Constructs of Experiential Learning in Higher Education

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Tyler L. Hough
Isabelle A. Jenkins
Charlie Pierce
Ashley Bellet


This paper explores the dualistic nature of experiential learning (EL) definitions in higher education, advocating for a balanced integration of broad and narrow constructs. Through case study and collaborative inquiry, diverse disciplinary perspectives—from engineering to performing arts and urban education—are examined to understand EL's application and impact. The paper highlights the importance of accommodating both overarching frameworks for universal applicability and specific definitions for disciplinary depth. It proposes that broad definitions enhance inclusivity and adaptability, while narrow constructs ensure targeted learning experiences and skill development. The findings suggest that EL is a versatile pedagogical tool. It is adaptable to varied academic landscapes and yet maintains its essence of active, reflective engagement with the world. Finally, the paper argues that both the broad and narrow definitions are necessary to ensure EL remains a transformative educational pedagogy.

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How to Cite
Hough, T., Jenkins, I., Pierce, C., & Bellet, A. (2024). Balancing Act: Integrating Broad and Narrow Constructs of Experiential Learning in Higher Education. Experiential Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 7(2).
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Author Biographies

Tyler L. Hough, The Chicago Center and The Philadelphia Center

A social entrepreneur and nonprofit strategist, Tyler L. Hough has spent the past decade building and leading organizations that make a difference in the world. He currently serves as the executive director of the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture and The Philadelphia Center. Together, these centers emphasize innovative, community-focused pedagogies that not only expand the traditional college classroom experience but also promote self-awareness, global citizenship, and engagement with issues like race, equity, and inclusion through critical place-based pedagogies.


Tyler has published work in the Metropolitan Universities Journal and presented his research at NAFSA and the Society for Experiential Education (SEE) Conference. He is also a SEE fellow and serves on the editorial board for Metropolitan Universities Journal.

Tyler earned his MS in higher education policy from Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, a BA in political science from Loyola University Chicago, and certificates in finance, project management strategy, and DEI from the University of Chicago.

Isabelle A. Jenkins, The College of the Holy Cross

Isabelle A. Jenkins, PhD, is the Director of the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning, Teaching, and Engaged Scholarship at the College of the Holy Cross. Isabelle also teaches in Holy Cross' first-year program and serves as a First-Year Advisor. Isabelle teaches disability theology and leadership and works with faculty and Worcester community partners in her administrative role, helping to implement community-based projects and placements in particular Holy Cross courses. Isabelle completed her doctoral work in May 2023 at UMass Boston in higher education. Her dissertation, "Consciousness and Context for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy" examines inclusive teaching practices and barriers and supports for implementing them in order to better teach to diverse populations. Isabelle earned her Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School in 2014 and graduated from Holy Cross in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in religious studies. 

Charlie Pierce, The University of South Carolina

Charlie Pierce is the Faculty Executive Director of the Center for Integrative and Experiential Learning (CIEL) at the University of South Carolina. He leads a team of dedicated professionals who help students make meaningful connections across their experiences within and beyond the classroom through Experience by Design and Graduation with Leadership Distinction. Charlie is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on geomaterials and geotechnical design. His educational research and scholarship focus on collaborative problem-based learning environments and their impact on student development of transferable workplace skills. He holds a PhD and MS in civil engineering from Northwestern University and a BS in civil engineering from the University of New Hampshire.

Ashley Bellet, Purdue University

Ashley Bellet is the Assistant Professor of Costume Design at Purdue University and a professional designer and crafts artisan. She received her MFA from the University of Memphis, BAs in Theatre and English from Sewanee, and is completing her PhD from UW Madison. Ashley serves on the Board of Directors of The United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) as the Vice President for Commissions, and as the Associate Editor for Education for the journal Theatre Design and Technology (TD&T). She has worked at The Santa Fe Opera, First Folio Theatre, Playhouse on the Square, and American Players Theatre, among others.

As a designer and craftsperson, Ashley’s research leans heavily on practice-based methodologies (PaR) and pedagogy for the design classroom. Combining material culture studies, aesthetic theory, and object agency, she constructs costumes that examine the architecture and energy created in the space between the body and the costume. Her work with USITT highlights her design pedagogy, integrating hands-on experiences with a deeper level of aesthetic research constructed outside of the production process