The Impact of an Experiential Instructional Design on College Student Development

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1-2000


Although there is a lack of research regarding the impact of ropes courses on student development, this paper states that there is significant information on this experiential learning experience contributing to student retention. It describes research designed to study how an experiential ropes course can impact undergraduate male and female (18 to 26 years old) student development among students attending a university in a rural area of a Mideastern state. Along with survey data, observations, and journal writings, the students completed open-ended questions about their experiences on the final paper and were interviewed. When the data was analyzed from a qualitative approach, four themes emerged. Trust, friendship, community, and communication are components of problem solving. The paper suggests that given the recent attention to school violence and violent behavior against diverse populations, the areas of community development, trust development, and teaching non-violent ways to solve problems are timely topics. It concludes that experiential learning, such as a ropes course, can increase a college student's ability to solve problems in a socially acceptable manner; build and teach a person how to appropriately trust others; empower a person with the skills necessary to be part of a healthy community; and increase a college student's interpersonal skills, social skills, and physical ability.


Copyright © 2000 the authors. All rights reserved.