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Putting Theory Into Practice: Teaching Strategies to Increase Student Interest and Engagement in Introductory Animal Science Courses

E.L. Karcher

Putting Theory Into Practice: Teaching Strategies to Increase Student Interest and Engagement in Introductory Animal Science Courses
E.L. Karcher*. Purdue University West Lafayette, IN, USA.

Each year it is estimated that 58,000 new job openings are available for graduates with a bachelor’s or more advanced degree in food, agriculture, renewable resources, or the environment. However, only 61% of these jobs are filled with graduates in these areas of expertise. One possible way to close this gap is to focus on classroom instructional strategies that can greatly influence student curiosity and interest in a subject. In introductory animal science courses, the majority of students have little or no previous knowledge or experience in agriculture. This provides an opportunity to increase interest and curiosity in animal production early in a student’s undergraduate program. Specific classroom interventions, such as active learning strategies, create learning environments to foster student feelings of interest and curiosity. Implementation of active learning through social, authentic, problem-based activities develops student interest and motivation by supporting needs for autonomy and relatedness. Hands-on, problem-based activities may be more interesting and motivating to students compared with traditional lecture strategies. Additionally, first-year students in animal sciences self-report high levels of curiosity in animal science. The goal should be to continue stimulating this curiosity throughout the course and undergraduate program. Case studies and laboratory stations, designed with interactive and group-based instructional methods, have shown great benefit to sustaining curiosity in first-year animal science students. Classroom interventions targeting introductory courses have the potential to increase career awareness by stimulating student interest and curiosity in the subject. This integration may assist in closing the growing employment gap in the agricultural sciences.

Keywords: Active learning, Motivation, Undergraduates.

Biography: Dr. Elizabeth Karcher is an Assistant Professor in Animal Sciences at Purdue University and is the Undergraduate Programs Coordinator for the department. She teaches a variety of courses and has developed study abroad programs on animal production in Europe and Southeast Asia. Her research focuses on the development of innovative experiential learning platforms to enhance student learning. Dr. Karcher is the recipient of the USDA Excellence in College and University Teaching and Engagement Award, the Purina Animal Nutrition Teaching Award, and the NACTA Teacher Scholar Award.