Experiential learning for engaging nutrition undergraduates with sustainability

Judith Maher (School of Health and Sports Science, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Australia)
Sarah Burkhart (School of Health and Sports Science, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Australia)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Publication date: 6 November 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe students’ self-reported learning from engaging in an experiential learning task designed to develop their understanding of sustainable food systems and dietary practices.

Design/methodology/approach

In all, 143 first-year students enrolled in an entry level food and nutrition subject undertook a three-week eco-friendly food challenge (1. Reduce food (and food-related) waste; 2. localise food purchases; 3. eat seasonally and sustainably; or 4. reduce meat consumption). They blogged about their experience and respond to an action-orientated reflective question each week. Content analysis of the blogs was undertaken using NVivo 10. Content was systematically coded and categorised according to action/activity, learning and response to reflective question.

Findings

Students reported undertaking a range of self-selected practical activities throughout the challenge. Self-reported learning suggested students gained self-awareness and knowledge and demonstrated problem-solving abilities. The importance of planning and preparation was the most common theme in students’ blogs when responding to the action-orientated reflective question in Week 1. In Week 2, students identified socially mediated barriers and the time and energy required to undertake their challenge as the most likely barriers preventing others engaging in the challenge. They provided advice and solutions to overcome these barriers. In Week 3, a range of community, government and multi-sector initiatives to support consumer food-related behaviour change were identified.

Originality/value

This approach presents a possible means for engaging nutrition undergraduates with environmental sustainability.

Keywords

Citation

Maher, J. and Burkhart, S. (2017), "Experiential learning for engaging nutrition undergraduates with sustainability", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 18 No. 7, pp. 1108-1122. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-01-2016-0010

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Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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