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To explore the effects of the inclusion of an experiential-learning and curricular unit related to food system sustainability on dietetic student learning and perception in two community nutrition courses.
Use of Theory or Research
Sustainable food system knowledge is becoming a priority in dietetic undergraduate and graduate programs and embedded in curriculum due to its inclusion in program accreditation standards set by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. Grounded theory was utilized to qualitatively explore student reflections following their experiential learning with sustainable food systems via University-based farms.
The purpose of this research was to explore the perception of undergraduate dietetic student learning after participating in an experiential learning experience combined with traditional teaching methods. Students from two community nutrition courses across two universities (mid-sized private university and one public university) in the Midwestern US participated in the learning experience.
In each of the community nutrition courses, students completed the Sustainable Food Systems Primer from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation, engaged in course discussion related to sustainability and completed 2-5 hours learning and working on the university farm.
At the end of the semester course, students completed a guided, written reflection on their food system sustainability experience. The Mirror, Microscope, and Binoculars reflection prompts were adapted and utilized to organize student reflection responses. Two trained coders engaged in a line-by-line and selective coding process to identify course themes and categories related to the influence of experiential and classroom learning.
Main themes included an increased awareness, interest, understanding and sense of connection to the food system; appreciation for farming, farmers, and local food production; transferable skills to community and personal behaviors and exploring the integration of knowledge and skills to future dietetic practice.
Incorporating experiential learning and reflection into curriculum related to food system sustainability can provide students a more profound learning experience.
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