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Incorporating Active Learning Practices into Animal Sciences Classrooms

Published on: 12/5/2014
Author/s : Debra Aaron (University of Kentucky, Lexington)
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Most educators agree students retain more knowledge if they are engaged in active learning. Dale’s Cone of Experience (Edgar Dale, Audio-Visual Methods in Teaching, 1969) suggests students remember 70% of what they say and 90% of what they both say and do. Conversely, they remember only 20% of what they hear and 30% of what they see. The former is active involvement, the latter is passive. Traditional classroom lecture achieves active involvement by teachers but often restricts students to passive roles. While this may be comfortable for both, it does not maximize learning. Furthermore, changing demographics of students enrolled in animal sciences courses (more students from urban areas with little to no agricultural experience, greater diversity and an increase in nontraditional students) requires both lecture-based teaching and hands-on experiences. This presentation will discuss ways of engaging students in animal sciences courses, from classrooms to labs. It will begin with class attendance. This may seem obvious, but the first step in achieving active learning is making sure students show up to class. It will progress to note taking, which as old-fashioned as it may seem, is an integral part of the learning process because it keeps students engaged. Ways of asking questions and encouraging students to ask questions, thereby turning lectures into conversations, will also be discussed. Finally, some ideas for engaging students through real or simulated experiences and hands-on activities will be presented. Examples of experiential learning opportunities will include those used in an introductory animal sciences course (feeding trials with chicks and lambs, livestock handling and management situations, livestock judging “contest”) and an upper-level course in animal genetics (problemsolving lab exercises, an interactive genetic simulation program). These student-centered, experiential learning activities pave the way for retained knowledge in the subject matter and encourage students to look beyond the planned curriculum to explore continuous learning.

Key words: teaching, Learning, Student Engagement
 
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