Teaching and Learning in sustainable agriculture curricula: A case study of faculty work as learning at a land grant university

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Virginia Tech

In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences called for a dynamic approach to teaching and learning in colleges of agriculture. In response, innovative faculty at colleges and universities are implementing new frameworks for undergraduate education in the agricultural sciences. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to explore the experience of faculty teaching and learning in sustainable agriculture education curricula at a land grant university. A qualitative research methodology employing a case study approach was utilized. Methods of data collection included semi-structured interviews, participant/observer field notes, and secondary data analysis. This study contributed to understanding faculty work as learning by illustrating the triad approach to teaching and learning in the Civic Agriculture and Food Sytems (CAFS) minor comprising core areas of experiential learning, interdisciplinary teaching and learning, and community engagement. This triad approach to teaching and learning brings together a framework for understanding faculty work as a social practice and the inherent learning that occurs. CAFS faculty upheld the land-grant mission of their institution by promoting community engagement, experiential learning, and interdisciplinary collaboration toward teaching and scholarship. CAFS faculty learned from interactions with other faculty outside and within their disciplinary and departmental homes, which enhanced their teaching/learning experience. Collaborative work was described as a practice where faculty from different disciplinary perspectives and cultural practices engage in a collaborative teaching model that communicates value for resources to administrative leadership and clarifies navigation of faculty reward structures. Additionally, these faculty members were able to participate in an emerging pedagogical practice where service-learning and community partners were embedded in the curriculum, which legitimized the role of the community partner as educator. The findings from this research are expected to be useful for implementation in other sustainable agriculture education programs at other universities. This study may also serve as a catalyst for the adoption of collaborative and interdisciplinary teaching in colleges of agriculture. The implications of this research can inform an assessment methodology for agriculture education programs, as well as to create a framework whereby the essential tenets of the sustainable agriculture education movement in higher education can be promulgated in different disciplines.

Engagement, Civic, Qualitative, Sociocultural Learning, Experiential Learning, Collaborative Teaching, Service-Learning, Sustainable Agriculture Education