Experiential Learning Modules: Its Contribution in Developing Teaching Curricula in International Agricultural Development Courses
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Curriculum and Teaching
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This dissertation comprises of three chapters, on the topic of ELMs which were developed under the project “Developing Global-Ready Agriculturists through Experiential Learning Modules: Solving Problems of Food Insecurity & Human Suffering in Haiti”. The first chapter is entitled “The Narrative and Phenomenological Study of Food Insecurity through International Service Projects in Haiti”. It uses a social constructivist approach, based on the experiences and lessons learned. This research work captures living experiences, feelings, observations made, perceptions and realities of the International Service Learning (ISL), intercultural adaptation, and resilience of the local people. The purpose of the study is to investigate the phenomenon of food insecurity in the region of Gressier. This study showed that the political, economic and social distortions contributed towards absolute poverty which deprived Haitians of basic necessities such as health, education, housing, and food. The geographic location also contributed to worsening the food insecurity status of the community. This led to a cumulative and cyclical spiral of poverty, continuously affecting the food security in Gressier. The people, however, showed resilience, trying their level best to sustain a living. This phenomenological study also allowed to better understand what ELMs are and the processes behind their development. The second chapter is a case study on “Experiential Learning Modules for Teaching International Agricultural Development: How to Use the Tools and Assess Their Impact.” This study was undertaken with undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in Rural Sociology courses at Auburn University during the Fall 2017 and 2018 semesters. The ELM entitled “Sustainable Management Practices of Plantain in Haiti with Emphasis on the Control of the Disease Black Sigatoka” was used as a case example. This allowed students in the classroom to have a lively experience while learning about international agricultural developmental challenges in developing countries. This study reflects on the strengths and limitations of ELMs as a teaching tool and providing suggestions for improving the teaching module and recommending further research for testing the curricula. The ELMs provided a vicarious experience within a classroom setting, with an effective instruction delivery. The study showed a high level of reflexivity, critical thinking, and knowledge acquisition. The objective of preparing students for an international career in agricultural development in poor developing countries was met. The ELMs provided a way to teach agricultural development through an Experiential Learning (EL) while in Haiti, as well as within a classroom setting. The third chapter is entitled “Assessing Change and Consequences of Experiential Learning based on an International Service Project in Haiti”. The purpose of this study is to assess the knowledge, tools and meta-cognitive skills acquired by the developers of the ELMs (graduate students) while participating in the short ISL. The study revealed that the EL had a very high and positive impact on the students. The EL heightened their ability to carry out community study and apply course content in real situations, using more confidence in solving complex problems and making decisions in situations of uncertainty. The ISL also allowed the development of empathy towards the marginalized groups and for the students to become more civically engaged towards alleviating poverty and food insecurity. The students mentioned that their course content was enhanced by field experiences which were vital to adult education.