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Fire Ecology, 2015
Volume 11, Issue 1

Assessment of Experiential Education in Prescribed Burning for Current and Future Natural Resource Managers
Authors: John D. Scasta, John R. Weir, and David M. Engle
Pages: 88-105
DOI: 10.4996/fireecology.1101088

Acquiring experiential prescribed fire education is difficult for college students.  In order to evaluate the effects of instruction on students, we surveyed those who were taking or had completed Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) prescribed fire courses since 2000.  Of those surveyed, 32 were current students and 99 were former students.  We assessed changes in their perception, knowledge, skills, abilities, the total area that they have prescribed burned since leaving OSU, their career trajectories, and how they rated the importance of different types of instruction.  One third of the current students had never participated in a prescribed burn before the course; however, after the course, they had participated in seven burns on average.  Current students had increased confidence in planning prescribed fire, operating a drip torch, and leading a prescribed fire program.  Former students were employed in 20 US states and one Canadian province.  Only one third of former students had participated in a prescribed burning association (or similar local cooperative), of which two thirds became federal government employees.  Former students had conducted or assisted with 6247 prescribed fires on a total of 803 252 ha after taking the courses, from 2000 to 2013.  Experiential learning such as conducting prescribed burns, writing burn plans, and spot fire and equipment training ranked higher in utility than passive types of instruction such as lectures.  Of the 37 universities assessed, only eight offer any courses explicitly focused on prescribed fire.  Based on our results that demonstrate that both current and former students value experiential fire ecology educational training, we recommend that university curricula should increase the focus on prescribed fire, emphasize experiential learning, and facilitate greater interaction between student and instructor.

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