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An empirical investigation into the impact of an experience -based learning course on students' emotional competency

Elizabeth J Jowdy, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Through experience-based learning courses students deepen and possibly alter presently held understandings and assumptions when such classroom experiences allow students to practice skills and reflect on behaviors, actions and activities that simulate "real world" situations (Andresen, Boud & Cohen, 2000). Engaging in "real-world" situations exposes students to the type of emotion-laden interactions that are encountered upon entering the workplace. To date, little research has been conducted that investigates the relationship between experience-based learning courses, reflection and emotional competency. Therefore, this research explored new ground, opening up further discussions as to the role of experiential learning in developing students' emotional intelligence. Sport Event Management, a course conducted at a University in the North Eastern US region with 25 undergraduate and graduate students, was the setting for this empirical investigation into the impact of an experience-based learning course on students' emotional competency. Specifically, a quasi-experimental, mixed methods design was used to determine if students' emotional competency could be developed over the course of one semester when students were not formally trained or instructed in emotional intelligence theory. To aid in the examination of the impact on students' emotional competency development, differences between the experience-based learning course, Sport Event Management, and two courses using more traditional teaching methods were investigated. Differences between experimental and comparison group students' emotional competency were investigated at the conclusion of the spring semester using quantitative (ECI-U) and qualitative (Critical Incident Interview and exit interview) methods. Results from the quantitative measure (ECI-U) supported the contention that an experience-based course can positively increase students' emotional competency over the course of one semester but for graduate students only. However, qualitative results suggested that for both undergraduate and graduate students the impact of an experience-based learning course was more conducive than traditional courses to fostering the social and emotional learning that contributes to emotional competency development. Specifically, the experience-based learning course contributed to students' development of emotional competencies related to self-understanding and their ability to understand and interact with others in an organizational setting.

Subject Area

Business education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Jowdy, Elizabeth J, "An empirical investigation into the impact of an experience -based learning course on students' emotional competency" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3216954.