Research in Higher Education

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 248–267 | Cite as

Strategies and Intervening Factors Influencing Student Social Interaction and Experiential Learning in an Interdisciplinary Research Team

  • Laura Ryser
  • Greg Halseth
  • Deborah Thien


Faculty have long incorporated students into interdisciplinary research projects to meet increasingly common demands for collaborative research by federal funding agencies. Despite the critical role of experiential learning in building student research skills and capacity, few have explored social interaction mechanisms used to facilitate student experiential learning in an interdisciplinary research team. Drawing upon the New Rural Economy project as a case study, interviews with 13 students from eight Canadian universities were conducted to explore these social interaction mechanisms. While findings revealed an array of social interaction mechanisms used to develop student learning networks, the quality of these mechanisms were mixed; thereby influencing the utilization of these networks for guidance and feedback. As faculty organize social interaction mechanisms, they should consider factors such as previous experience, student and faculty relationships, finances, language, gender, ethnicity, and other issues, that will have an impact on student engagement with experiential learning.


Canada Student training Interdisciplinary research Social cohesion Social capital 



The authors wish to thank Kyle Kusch, Hélène Deverennes, Margaret Lacourciere, Katia Marzell, Nancy Delury, and Victoria Bell for their invaluable assistance with this study’s research activities.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rural and Small Town Studies ProgramUniversity of Northern British ColumbiaPrince GeorgeCanada
  2. 2.Canada Research Chair, Rural and Small Town StudiesUniversity of Northern British ColumbiaPrince GeorgeCanada
  3. 3.Department of GeographyCalifornia State University, Long BeachLong BeachUSA

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