Capturing the Impact of Experiential Learning through Student Design Competitions


Inviting failure isn’t a consideration often given in today’s world that desires idealized perfection. However, it is through repeated challenges we create invested learning. Experiential Learning Theory involves learning from experience. When a concrete experience is enriched by reflection, given meaning by thinking and transformed by action, the new knowledge becomes richer, broader, and deeper. Creating opportunities for students to tap into the benefits of experiential learning with hands-on experiences and reflection connecting theories and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world situations is supported. In interior design education, students have the opportunity to participate in design competitions that introduce them to real-world design problems through a process that evolves from an analytical and experimental approach. The real-world issues promote the opportunity to apply theories to meet the client’s inclusive needs. Information learned in the classroom and lived personal experience contributes to reflective solutions and provides alternative design solutions. Contributing through competitions, students learn to stack knowledge and transfer results to their next level of design development, often seeking unique and innovative solutions for a challenging brief. The study investigates how design educators can use design competitions as a framework to guide students through experiential learning techniques. Action research conducted by educators is used to evaluate the student’s learning outcomes, observing that competitions pushed their personal concept of their capabilities and a broader perspective of design. The results drawn from this study will influence future research and pedagogical development.


Jeannine Vail
Assistant Professor, Interior Design, University of North Texas, Texas, United States

Natalie Ellis
Assistant Professor, Department of Design/Interior Design, University of North Texas, Texas, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Design Education


Experiential Learning, Inclusive Practices, Student design competitions, Design Pedagogy

Digital Media


Capturing the Impact of Experiential Learning through Student Design Competitions (pdf)