The Critical Need for Experiential Learning Programs in Animal Agriculture

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Virginia Tech


Though experiential learning is a popular topic in higher education, a great deal of research in the field neglects to make ties between program outcomes and educational theory, creating a gap in knowledge regarding how participant students truly experience educational programs. Consequently, this study proposes an updated perspective of experiential education that considers the experiential and social aspects of these learning environments. While it is important to determine programmatic impacts, it is equally important to assess how learning has occurred, so programs can be modified accordingly.

The Equine Studies Program at the Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center began in 2010, with seven cohorts having completed the program since its inception. At this time, however, no study has been conducted to gain a thorough understanding of the program's purpose, nor assess if programmatic impacts align with its objectives.

This study utilized qualitative interview methods to determine the program's objectives and impacts on participants. The findings provide insight on how experiential learning programs can be enhanced to better prepare students for the challenges of modern industry. Recommendations are made for continued research in this area to determine how the implementation of experiential learning programs may impact overall undergraduate curricula. Additional research should also be conducted to compare the impacts of varying types of experiential programs.



experiential learning, social cognitive, undergraduate experiences