Experiential learning provides an opportunity for students to develop hands-on experience and apply didactic learning to real-life situations. Diabetes camp is a setting that provides experiential learning on a topic that is crucial for future dietitians.
The objective of this study was to explore whether and how educational experiences at a residential camp for children with type 1 diabetes changes knowledge, perceptions, confidence, and empathy of the disease for dietetics students. Qualitative research methods were used to explore and understand participants’ experience of hands-on involvement with type one diabetes.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
This study was a qualitative, 2-year longitudinal case study at Camp Kno-Koma, the Diabetes Camp of West Virginia. Four dietetic students were recruited to participate in this study through convenience sampling. Students were in varying stages of their dietetics education.
Multiple qualitative methods were used to collect data: interviews; observations; Photovoice, a type of participatory action research in which photographs identified significant learning experiences; journaling; and focus groups. Thematic analysis was used to identify emerging themes and summarize findings through triangulation.
Qualitative data analysis revealed that experiential learning at diabetes camp provides an opportunity for dietetics students to experience in-depth learning, including: increase in knowledge of the disease, perceptions of living with the disease, confidence in treating the disease, and empathy for those who have been diagnosed. While attending camp for one week is beneficial for experiential learning, returning for another week the following year provided a deeper understanding of the disease process. Students identified wearing an insulin pump and “living with diabetes” were their best learning experiences.
This study adds to the limited body of knowledge concerning dietetics students’ experiential learning at diabetes camps. The study's greatest contribution is the ability for educators to understand how experiential learning opportunities at diabetes camp provide in-depth education and how these learning experiences can be incorporated into dietetics curricula.