Integrating Experiential Learning into Animal Science Curriculum through a Hands-On Beef Cattle Management and Marketing Contest
Author(s)Harrison, Corinne J.
AbstractAccording to the Illinois Agricultural Education, nearly 61% of students beginning their undergraduate studies in Agriculture at a 2-year college in Illinois come from non-farm backgrounds. Yet, knowledge of and experience in livestock operations is still a requirement for many careers in the animal science industry. In response to this predicament, the Department of Agriculture at Illinois State University has implemented a course that provides students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience with beef cattle management and marketing. The course was designed to enhance learning by requiring students to develop and execute a management and marketing plan for a pen of steers at the University Farm, which encouraged practical application of classroom instruction. The objective of this study was to determine if participation in the course enhanced student knowledge retention. Eight student teams executed their own management and marketing strategies with the goal of obtaining the highest return on production. Quantitative data evaluated gain scores on a pre-test and post-test. Qualitative data was obtained by having the students reflect upon what they had learned. This reflection occurred at the end of each unit via Likert-scale and open-ended questions. Results obtained yielded encouraging results. Post-test means improved significantly (p=0.0) over pre-test means with gain scores being the highest in the unit topic areas of meat science, marketing and health. In addition, students produced highly positive reactions to course, noting it increased their beef cattle knowledge by making them aware of all of the factors that go into raising and marketing feed lot cattle.