Fuhrman, N. E. & Rubenstein, E. D. (2017). Teaching with animals: The role of animal ambassadors in improving presenter communication skills. Journal of Agricultural Education, 58(1), 223-235. https://doi.org/10.5032/jae.2017.01223
Much is known about the benefits of interacting with animals for learners. However, little is known about the animals’ potential influence on the communication ability of the presenter/educator. The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe the experience of undergraduate students who used live animals (baby chicks, turtles, salamanders, and non-venomous snakes) during in-class and outreach presentations and the animals’ role in influencing their communication ability. The influence of an instructor who teaches with such animals was also examined. A purposive sample of students enrolled in an introductory environmental education course open to all majors was obtained and five students agreed to participate in semi-structured interviews. Once audio was recorded and transcribed, the constant comparative method was used to analyze the data. Six reoccurring themes emerged. Presenting with a live animal (1) helped students feel less nervous while teaching, (2) increased presenter confidence, (3) promoted flexibility while teaching, (4) encouraged audience analysis, (5) helped create a positive, comfortable learning environment, and (6) influenced student career decisions. These themes aligned with Bandura’s triatic reciprocality model. Pre-service teacher education programs may consider using small, live animals, when relevant, with apprentice teachers as they can equally benefit the presenter and learning environment.