CRITICAL REFLECTION ENHANCES INSTRUCTOR AND STUDENT ENGAGEMENT TO DEEPEN PLACE-BASED LEARNING EXPERIENCES; A PILOT STUDY
In this study, the instructor of an introductory non-majors science course, participated in a faculty-staff learning community to learn about and incorporate a farm-situated, place-based experiential learning project with critical reflection. Photovoice and the SHOWED approach to critical reflection were used for students to explore their own visual interests through photography and determine an ecological phenomenon in the photo. The final product of the project was a paper and presentation comparing and contrasting the phenomenon in local, diversified and global, industrial food production systems. Students then critically reflected on their learning experience using the Ash & Clayton’s DEAL model.
Pre- to post-course, students showed statistically significant increases in sustainability meanings subscribed to the campus farm (t(12)=-2.349, p=0.037, d = 0.652), place attachment to the campus farm (t(12)=-3.039, p=0.010, d = 0.843), and civic mindedness (t(12)=-2.378, p=0.035, d = 0.659). The instructor reported that students were more observant during farm tours, every student chose different ecological topics based upon their photovoice reflection, and they were more invested in researching self-developed topics tied to their personal interests. Topic diversity made presentations more interesting, impactful for students, and improved grading enjoyment. Future studies should survey student perceptions of critical reflection in science courses.