Learning Theory and Research Design: How Has ABSEL Fared?


  • Richard J. Butler
  • Peter M. Markulis
  • Daniel R. Strang


Since its inception in the early 1970’s, a major focus of ABSEL has been research on learning. However, after years of ABSEL research, many of us perceive little in the way of definitive findings relative to understanding the relationship between experiential exercises and learning outcomes. This paper examines two major problems that may have impeded our work in the area: lack of adequate research designs and lack of a good framework for conceptualizing the learning process. The authors have reviewed eight years of ABSEL proceedings and classified studies of learning according to their use of good research design techniques and according to the nature of the learning that the researchers investigated. Suggestions for altering research methods and foci of study are offered.