Date of Award
Master of Science
Agricultural Education and Studies
Michael S. Retallick
Experiential learning, the process of making meaning from direct experience (Itin, 1999), has been recognized for its educational value in higher education (Smith, 2005). It is often called "learning by doing" because students are involved in a range of skills and activities that require active observation and reflection. Experiential learning can involve laboratory work, field trips, problem-solving, and an assortment of other highly engaging activities included in academic coursework (Roberts, 2006).
Science With Practice (SWP) and Agriculture students Providing integrated solutions for Agronomy and farm business management Questions (AgPAQ) are two examples of experiential-based courses at Iowa State University. SWP is an academic and work experience for undergraduate students who work closely with faculty and staff members on specific projects and/or work assignments. The students set goals at the beginning of the experience; journal and reflect throughout the semester; and, at the end of the experience, (a) submit a final portfolio and final reflection of the experience, and (b) make a professional poster presentation. AgPAQ, previously known as Agron 356/Engl 309, is an upper division learning community where students concurrently enroll in a cluster of four courses (i.e., agronomic, agribusiness, and communication courses). Small teams of students work with real clients and precision agriculture tools to address the client's needs by preparing a complete crop and soil management plan.
The purpose of this descriptive census survey was to explore the impact of graduates' participation in one of three of the Iowa State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences integrated, experiential learning programs. A descriptive follow-up survey was conducted on: AgPAQ, Agron 356/Engl 309, and Science With Practice. The objectives to this study were to: (a) determine the impact the program had on career/graduate school; (b) investigate the level of skill improvement attributed to the program; (c) determine the influence the program had on career development and decidedness; and (d) investigate the extent to which the program enhances career/graduate school preparation.
The accessible population consisted of 123 graduates. Findings were based on data obtained through a web-based survey from 54 (43.90%) respondents. Non-response error was addressed comparing early and late responders. Since no statistically significant differences were found, the findings may be generalizable across the population.
The results of this study, coupled with the literature of higher education, student learning, and experiential learning, indicated that the respondents believe that their experience had a positive impact on the development of their skills and abilities. The results showed a positive influence on their career/graduate school aspirations. The results also indicated that the programs were able to positively enhance career/graduate school preparation by helping the participants transition from undergraduate student to employee/graduate student.
Ultimately, colleges and universities can benefit from the findings of this study because of the demonstrated impact that experiential learning programs have on their participants. The findings of this study revealed that the respondents preferred real-world, hands-on experiences. Thus, agricultural educators, colleges, and universities should consider implementing well-planned experiential learning programs, based on the literature and best practices, into their educational programs and curriculum.
Bridget Anastasia Driscoll
Driscoll, Bridget Anastasia, "Graduates' perspectives regarding the impact of the integration of experiential learning in academic programs" (2011). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 12116.