VALUE Research Hub

Critical Thinking Assessment across Four Sustainability-Related Experiential Learning Settings


Heinrich, W. F., Habron, G. B., Johnson, H. L., & Goralnik, L. (2015). Critical Thinking Assessment across Four Sustainability-Related Experiential Learning Settings. Journal of Experiential Education, 38(4), 373–393.


Today's complex societal problems require both critical thinking and an engaged citizenry. Current practices in higher education, such as service learning, suggest that experiential learning can serve as a vehicle to encourage students to become engaged citizens. However, critical thinking is not necessarily a part of every experiential learning process. This project explored several learning experiences that used mindful instructional design of experiential learning to promote critical thinking outcomes. This project looked at four different learning settings that varied in sustainability topics and extent of experiential learning that suggests applicability to a wide educational audience. Our work identified four effective features of instructional design that supported critical thinking: planning, instruction method, content, and explicit critical thinking outcomes. We found that strong critical thinking outcomes result from experiential learning with appropriately scaffolded critical thinking exercises and processes.

Themes: College Students, Critical Thinking, Experiential Learning, Instructional Design, Outdoor Education, Physical Environment, Planning, Qualitative Research, Scaffolding (Teaching Technique), Scores, Scoring rubrics, Student Projects, Sustainability, Systems Approach, Teaching methods, Visual Aids