Interest and Motivation in Learner-Centered Animal Sciences Education
This thesis examines learner-centered animal science education and its relationships with emotion, motivation and performance. Part I focuses on active learning strategies implemented in an introductory animal sciences course. This large-enrollment course had traditionally been taught through traditional, passive learning methods. Instructors added learning activities such as case studies and hands-on laboratory stations to supplement lecture-based instruction. Chapter Two summarizes the impacts of different active learning techniques implemented in the course and characterizes students enrolled in the course based on their interests, past experiences, and demographic information. Building on these findings, Chapter Three describes an experiment quantitatively comparing the effects of three learning strategies (lecture, case study, and laboratory station) on students’ experience of interest and motivation. In both studies, students rated themselves highly interested in animal sciences throughout the semester. More collaborative, problem-based instructional methods (i.e. laboratory stations and case studies) were favored by students and resulted in higher student interest and internalized motivation. Results presented in Part I may inform the creation of instructional techniques to support student motivation, retention, and performance. Part II describes an online learning program contextualizing STEM learning within poultry science and implemented in high school classrooms during the fall 2018 semester. The program was designed to increase students’ knowledge and interest in both poultry and STEM fields to support the development of poultry- and STEM-literacy and meet workforce needs. Chapter Four describes program effects on students’ knowledge, awareness, and interest in the poultry industry. In contrast, Chapter Five focuses on the program’s effects on students’ STEM learning and STEM motivation. In addition, Chapter Five provides background on teacher and contextual factors influencing the program’s implementation. Results from these studies indicate that the program effectively increased students’ STEM and poultry knowledge, and increased motivation for some students. However, other qualitative and quantitative data indicated that some students experienced difficulties relating content to their lives. In addition, the program’s effects on students differed substantially based on teachers and classroom implementation. Both students and teachers also mentioned a need for more hands-on, collaborative elements in the program. Although results from Part II show promise that contextualizing STEM learning within agriculture may effectively increase knowledge and motivation, more research is needed to understand how to select and personalize contexts to maximize their relevance to students, and how to support teachers in effectively implementing these approaches. In conclusion, learner-centered instructional strategies such as problem-based and hands-on learning can be designed to enhance students’ interest, motivation, and performance. However, more research is needed to understand the complex personal and contextual factors moderating the effectiveness of these approaches when implemented in authentic classroom settings. Future studies clarifying these effects can advance the development of theory-based educational resources.