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  • Author or Editor: Catherine C. Lavis x
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In the Fall 1999 semester, the Department of Horticulture, Forestry, and Recreation Resources at Kansas State University introduced a 3-credit-hour irrigation system principles and installation course with experiential learning as the core of the instructional format. The experiential learning component of the course is the multiweek installation of a residential irrigation system during the laboratory sections that allows students to learn the procedural skills necessary to properly install an irrigation system. To assess the influence that this experiential learning activity may have on students' confidence to perform specific irrigation installation skills, a survey was administered to 70 undergraduates enrolled in the course (HORT 550: Landscape Irrigation Systems) during the Fall 2006 and 2007 semesters before and after the completion of the irrigation system. Using a Likert scale, students responded to two questions pertaining to 10 specific irrigation skills used during the installation project: 1) whether they actually performed the particular skill during the installation (coded 0 = did not assist, 1 = did assist); and 2) how confident they were to perform that aspect of installation on their own (on a 9-point Likert scale with 1 = not at all confident to 9 = extremely confident). The correlation between whether students actually performed the particular skill during the installation and how confident they were that they could actually do it on their own was significant (r = 0.46, P < 0.0001). During the Fall 2006 semester, 44 students were asked to compare their actual experience installing the system to what they learned during lecture and by reading the textbook; participants said that installing the system greatly increased their understanding (mean = 7.84, sd = 1.41) and increased their confidence to perform particular skills (m = 7.84, sd = 1.03). As documented in the survey, students benefitted significantly from this experiential learning activity.

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