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Natural Sciences Education Abstract - Undergraduate Education

Incorporating Experiential Learning and Education for Sustainable Development into Study Abroad Programs


This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 43 No. 1, p. 127-136
    Received: Apr 21, 2014
    Published: August 18, 2014

    * Corresponding author(s): quesada@vt.edu
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  1. Henry J. Quesada-Pineda *a and
  2. Eva Haviarovab
  1. a Dep. of Sustainable Biomaterials, Virginia Tech, 1650 Research Center Dr., Blacksburg, VA 24061
    b Dep. of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue Univ., 175 Marsteller St., West Lafayette, IN 47907


The main challenge for university teachers is to create a course that is meaningful from the student’s personal, civic, and academic perspectives where students can learn to develop critical reflection and potentially engage in sustainability actions. The incorporation of education for sustainable development and experiential learning theory into a study abroad program has positive impact on the effectiveness of learning sustainability. A study abroad course was designed based on experiential learning theory and education for sustainable development principles. The effectiveness in learning sustainability of each activity was ranked by the students using a Likert scale. Dominant learning styles were determined for each student to develop correlations. Statistical tests indicated that accommodating (concrete experience and active experimentation) was the most common dominant learning style in the group. Results of the student perceptions on the learning effectiveness of the course activities show that 4 activities were rated as moderately effective and 21 were rated as highly effective in helping the students to understand sustainability. This work successfully demonstrated the incorporation of experiential learning theory and education for sustainable development principles in a study abroad program. Also, the article provides a template for other potential study abroad programs that center on the teaching of sustainability.

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