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Changing roles and environments in experiential learning

María Florencia Amigó (Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)
Justine Lloyd (Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 23 June 2020

Issue publication date: 27 April 2021




The purpose of this paper is to report on the implications of new and unfamiliar roles for educators, students and employers generated by experiential learning (EL) activities. It considers how a series of tensions and instabilities in traditional role identities for each group arise from an expanded definition of university learning environments.


The paper thus uses the concept of liminality, or “in-between-ness”, to explore processes of role transition via EL. This theme emerged from analysis of qualitative data gathered via focus groups and interviews with academic unit convenors, workplace supervisors and students across a range of disciplines.


Because none of the cohorts were fully supported in or securely ascribed to these new roles, the unsettled nature of EL is argued to be both a key benefit and challenge to educators.

Research limitations/implications

This paper was based on a small-scale study of a specific EL programme. As such, it could be complemented by longitudinal and broader-scale research across different sites and national contexts, as well as with cohorts that the authors do not canvas here: university administrators, policy advisors and employers more broadly.

Practical implications

The paper reflects on how higher education institutions can support participants in these new educational settings, as well as raising the question of whether new roles are still emerging from this process.

Social implications

The paper canvasses impacts of EL on individual participants as well as the sector itself.


The authors believe that understanding EL activities through the lens of liminality provides a new approach to its impact at individual, institutional and social levels.



This project was funded by a 2015 Australian Collaborative Education Network (ACEN) research grant. Research assistants Nanditha Hettitantri and Carina Hart conducted interviews and contributed to data analysis, as well as sharing ideas through generous conversations and discussions of drafts of this paper and previous publications. The authors would also like to acknowledge participants in Macquarie University’s Professional and Community Engagement (PACE) Community of Practice, especially Jacqueline Mackaway, Marie Kelliher and Sian Paine, as well as former PACE Academic Director Michaela Baker.


Amigó, M.F. and Lloyd, J. (2021), "Changing roles and environments in experiential learning", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 420-434.



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