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The Impact and Feasibility of an Optional Experiential Learning Activity and Study Sessions on Student Engagement

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Title: The Impact and Feasibility of an Optional Experiential Learning Activity and Study Sessions on Student Engagement
Author: Szeto, Anne
Department: Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition
Program: Applied Nutrition
Advisor: Buchholz, AndreaHaines, Jess
Abstract: Background: With expanding class sizes, it is important to develop learning initiatives to increase student engagement. Studies have found large class size to be associated with decreased engagement – a construct strongly associated with learning and performance outcomes. Experiential learning activities and study sessions, which address the four underlying predictors of engagement identified in the literature (interest, autonomy, self-efficacy, and belonging), may effectively engage students and improve their academic performance. Objective: To examine the impact and feasibility of an optional experiential learning activity and study sessions on student course engagement and academic performance. Methods: An intervention study was conducted in two large first and second year undergraduate nutrition courses at University of Guelph, Ontario, in fall 2012 and winter 2013. All students (n = 980) were invited to participate in an out-of-class optional experiential learning activity and study sessions. The experiential learning activity involved completion of, and reflection on, a 3-day food record, a tour of a health assessment research lab, and body composition (% body fat) assessment. Study sessions were instructor-led and addressed study/ test-taking strategies difficult course content, and review of practice questions. To examine impact on student engagement and academic performance, baseline and follow-up Classroom Survey of Student Engagement scores and %tile ranks, respectively, were compared. Participation rates and results from satisfaction surveys were used to examine feasibility. Results: There was an increase from baseline to follow-up in both student engagement (Active and Collaborative Learning 22.1% increase, p < .001; Student-Faculty Interaction 11.2%, p = .038; Level of Academic Challenge 15.6%, p < .001) and performance (%tile rank ΔM = 7.63). One hundred seventy-two (17.6%) students participated in the experiential learning activity, and attendance per study session ranged from 4 to 29 students. Satisfaction survey results indicate students became more interested in the course after participating in the experiential learning activity. Students appreciated the instructors’ support in offering study sessions. No further conclusions about study sessions can be made due to low attendance. Conclusion: Results suggest an experiential learning activity can generate interest and increase engagement and performance in large undergraduate nutrition courses.
Date: 2014-07
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