Future education in ecological agriculture and food systems: A student-faculty evaluation and planning process
Flora, Cornelia B.
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This paper provides an evaluation of three short graduate-level courses on ecological agriculture and food systems offered in Norway 1995-1997. The evaluation took place in 1999, in the form of a three day workshop involving both students and faculty. Their objectives were to evaluate the impacts of the courses, assess relative importance of the course content areas, evaluate the different learning methods used especially case studies, and develop a vision and plan for the future directions of ecoagriculture education. Both students and faculty considered soft systems research methods and varied learning processes to be more valuable than the more commonly taught technical material. They identified nine priority areas for ecological agriculture education: (1) systems thinking, (2) research methods, (3) farmer/stakeholder participation, (4) improving production methods, (5) relating agriculture to food systems, (6) learning about learning, (7) values and ethics, (8) faculty development and institutional change, and (9) agricultural and food policy. Case studies are an effective method for addressing and integrating many of these topics. The action plan they developed included four priority needs: : (1) publish a Nordic teaching text in ecological agriculture, (2) expand the network of educators and researchers with a short course for faculty, (3) broaden the focus from farm production to food systems by including additional disciplines and themes, and (4) coordinate thesis research activities in ecological agriculture among universities. Prior organization and mutual participant ownership of the process made the workshop time spent in evaluation and planning highly efficient and productive. All participants contributed to this final document.