Advanture-based learning and emotion in groups : an investigation of students' perceived experiences of adventure-based learning in groups in a science undergraduate subject

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. Access is restricted indefinitely. ----- In this thesis, an investigation was undertaken of the use of adventure-based group learning activities in a first year subject in a science degree program. The adventure-based learning (ABL) activities were intended to foster the development of personal and interpersonal generic skills in line with the espoused graduate attributes of the university, in addition to the academic skills and scientific knowledge traditionally taught at this stage of the program. This research represents a novel approach to firstly designing a science-based subject to incorporate (ABL) activities, and then evaluating the experience in terms of the participating students’ perceptions of the emotions they experienced and the effects of the activities and their associated emotions on their learning processes and outcomes. Relevant contemporary theoretical perspectives were drawn primarily from five fields: adventure-based learning; group theory and teambuilding; experiential learning; emotional theory and emotions in learning; and adult teaching and learning. It was found that anecdotal and research evidence in the literature supported the benefits of ABL in terms of personal and interpersonal development of the individuals involved. Many of the benefits are linked to the heightened emotional states both during and after the activity that ABL may induce. This literature almost entirely focuses on the corporate world and little has been researched on the use of ABL in tertiary education - particularly in science education where traditional teaching and learning methodologies persist. For this study, a first year, first semester science subject (.Plants in Society) in a Bachelor of Horticulture university degree was redesigned to incorporate adventure-based group learning activities similar to those used in corporate training. For this particular class of science students new to university, these activities were both unexpected and contrasted sharply with their concurrent experiences of university teaching. This research was therefore designed as an interpretive qualitative study to explore in depth over the course of a teaching semester whether ABL activities do have an emotional impact on students in a tertiary learning environment and, if so, how that in turn impacts on the students’ enjoyment of the learning experience and their learning processes and outcomes. There are six main contributions from this study. First, students experienced a wide range of emotions mostly identified as positive throughout the progress of a semester, linked to adventure-based and other learning activities. Second, student perceptions showed a distinct contrast in emotional involvement and learning approaches and outcomes between their experiences in Plants in Society and their experiences of concurrently-taught science subjects. Third, the effectiveness of adventure-based group activities on developing individual and group behaviours in a tertiary setting was demonstrated in student self reports. In particular the longitudinal study of emotions experienced during the students’ group work throughout semester provided valuable insights into group dynamics in a tertiary setting. Fourth, adventure- based group activities may not facilitate students’ learning of specific factual science content within a subject in a tertiary setting. Fifth, exploratory findings were made on perceptions of the ways in which the emotions created by the adventure-based activities and other events throughout a semester of study impacted upon student learning processes and outcomes. There was a distinction made between personal behaviour change and group process development. Sixth, the value of using ABL activities in a science-based curriculum was established based upon the students’ perceptions of the overall learning experience. Findings from this study should be of interest to anyone interested in alternative approaches to adult education, in particular creative approaches to science education and the development of generic personal and interpersonal skills to enhance study performance. Potential future directions of research arising from this study include: investigation of the use of a similar approach with much larger classes of students; exploration of ways in which the group ABL activities could be modified to provide enhanced discipline-specific content learning for students; further investigation of the effect of student emotions on their adopted style of learning; the application of the principles of long term immersion to corporate training methods; clarifying how various modes of communication were enlisted to facilitate individual and team goals of ABL; and quantitative studies to relate improvement in student skill, knowledge and behaviour developed through the use of ABL strategies to records of academic achievement, or to retention of the cohort of students.
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