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Improving graduate attributes by implementing an experiential learning teaching approach: A case study in recreation education

Recreation students lack some skills and competencies at the beginning of their careers. This may be related to passive learning settings with limited or no exposure to practical experiences during training. To gain the required competencies, students need to be exposed to active learning processes. The focus of this study was to establish if an experiential learning teaching approach, implemented in a recreation degree programme, could develop students' graduate attributes. A holistic single-case, case study design employing a convergent parallel mixed method pre-post-test design was used. An adapted Twin-Cycle Experiential Learning Model (TCELM) was applied in a final year recreation module at a higher education institution. The Review of Personal Effectiveness and Locus of Control (ROPELOC) questionnaire and a self-report competency assessment survey were completed by 28 students at the beginning and end of the semester. Qualitative data included student reflections and focus group interviews. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and inductive coding. The ROPELOC revealed statistical significant improvement in the student's leadership skills (p = 0.04) and their overall effectiveness (p = 0.01). Research skills (p = 0.00), adaptability (p = 0.00), leadership skills (p = 0.00), personal qualities (p = 0.02) and knowledge of the profession (p = 0.00) were competencies that increased significantly over the semester. From the qualitative data several categories, linked to graduate attributes required by recreation professionals, emerged. Knowledge of the profession was the most mentioned category. These results support the view that an experiential learning teaching approach is beneficial in the preparation of recreation graduates, and should form the teaching foundation for recreation in higher education.

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