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    Beyond the And/Or divide | Exploring the potential for experiential learning during horsehuman interactions

    Parce, Lisa (2022) Beyond the And/Or divide | Exploring the potential for experiential learning during horsehuman interactions. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    The research examined horse-human interactions to discover what impact, if any, these experiences had on participants’ learning within and beyond the horse world. From decades of diverse experiences in education, I became concerned about the rise in disengagement. Learners who weren’t given sufficient opportunities to use their wholeselves became disjointed and lost enjoyment in the learning process. Likewise, disconnects occurred when classroom learning wasn’t linked to real life. The separation of the wholeperson - mind, body, and emotions - in the learning process appeared to parallel societal misperceptions that academic learning with its emphasis on mental knowledge production, was more or less than practical, hands-on knowledge and skill development. To examine these educational concerns and polarities, I looked to where I find joy in learning – horsehuman interactions. This study is intended for adult learners and educators who are interested in quality experiential learning situations. Dewey, among others like Freire, have suggested quality learning happens through educative experiences which include continuity and integration between learners and what and where learning occurs. The study was framed by an analysis of continuity, integration, and aesthetics which became a united foundation for whole-body, experiential learning. Research was conducted using qualitative, interpretive methodologies based on pragmatic and social constructivist principles. Biographical and visual methods were used to bring in the aesthetic, aimed to help readers and participants connect on a deeper level with the topic. Data were a collection of field notes. Primary data comprised of transcripts and summaries from interviews with twenty-four equestrians. Secondary data included embodied participation in the study, and biographical field notes which were written and auditory reflections from observations of horse-human interactions and learning-teaching experiences. An interpretation of results sought to honour participants’ experiences and led to an organisation of emergent themes into five central findings, uncovered through an inductive, researcher-created coding system. Conceptual/thematic findings suggested equestrians were regularly engaged in experiential learning which happened through their interactions with horses. They used their whole selves to draw on prior experiences and applied them to real challenges in the present. Collectively, these experiences prepared them to handle future situations. These educative experiences were relational, social, ecological, and held genuine interest. This study gave whole-body experiential learning attention. Examining experiential learning through horse-human interactions may help readers consider how to incorporate similar whole-body learning experiences in their learning-teaching practices. Better understanding of how learning is impacted because of the continuously integrated interactions between horses and humans deserves consideration because of its potential for developing and maintaining human growth. Horse-human interactions involve, among other things, movement, learning, and nature which, together, have proven to facilitate cognitive, physical, and emotional development. This study sought to contribute to experiential learning theory by moving beyond divisions of mind And/Or body towards a unified and meaningful learning approach through the unique insights of the dynamic interactions between humans and horses. A wider practice of respectful, interspecies interactions can encourage more opportunities to learn from others species and nature. This learning can promote individual responsibility, empathy for others, and actions which help us recognise and act to sustain the vital health of our natural world.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Exploring; potential; experiential learning; horsehuman interactions;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Adult and Community Education
    Item ID: 17573
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2023 14:41
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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