Impact of an Optional Experiential Learning Opportunity on Student Engagement and Performance in Undergraduate Nutrition Courses
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We examined the impact of an optional experiential learning activity (ELA) on student engagement and performance in 2 undergraduate nutrition courses. The ELA involved completion of a 3-day food record, research lab tour, body composition assessment, and reflective take-home assignment. Of the 808 students in the 2 courses (1 first-year and 1 second-year course), 172 (21%) participated. Engagement was assessed by the Classroom Survey of Student Engagement (CLASSE), and performance was assessed by percentile rank on midterm and final exams. Students' perceived learning was assessed using a satisfaction survey. Paired-samples t tests examined change in CLASSE scores and percentile rank from baseline to follow-up. Frequencies and thematic analysis were used to examine responses to Likert scale and open-ended questions on the satisfaction survey, respectively. There was an 11%-22% increase (P < 0.05) in the 3 dimensions of student engagement and a greater increase in percentile rank between the midterm and final exams among participants (7.63 ± 21.9) versus nonparticipants (-1.80 ± 22.4, P < 0.001). The majority of participants indicated the ELA enhanced their interest and learning in both their personal health and the course. Findings suggest ELAs related to personal health may improve interest, engagement, and performance among undergraduate students.
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