Seminar “Teaching agroecology” 2017 : General information

This seminar is meant to favour the exchange of practices and dissemination of active learning. It also prepares the ERASMUS + ISSAE closing meeting, by defining political guidelines that will be presented and discussed on that occasion. It will take place in Toulouse (France) next April 2017: 26th afternoon and 27th morning. The seminar is addressed to teachers, professors, and staff in charge of educational planning and organisation in higher institutions of education and agricultural secondary schools. It will bring together 62 people (50 from France and 3 people per partner country). The official language of the Seminar is English, but simultaneous translation will be provided.

Educational method through and for action

Modern agriculture is the result of a top-down Research, Development, Diffusion and Adoption scheme (RDDA) from scientists and experts to end users. This strategy has severe drawbacks. It favours system reinforcement and is not flexible in the face of new challenges. Actors are generally locked in conventional thinking that make the system rather conservative. Transition towards agroecology implies a switch from RDDA to the Science Technology Society Environment approach (STSE), which acknowledges the role of society as a source of innovation. Traditional curricula mimic RDDA and are not very efficient for learning or training on complex issues such as the transition towards agroecology. Active learning methods are more suited to STSE. They increase motivation and interest for learning, and are fully adapted to flexible learning pathways, which take into account learners’ needs and objectives. They are the hallmark of the ISSAE project because they are an asset for students in a changing society.


Active learning

ISSAE is committed to Active Learning and more precisely to Project Based Learning (PBL). A PBL sequence starts with a project presented by a tutor to a group of learners, in which a task is assigned. The project is rooted in a meaningful real world context and therefore is engaging; it challenges the students because they feel they have something to say about it and they have to produce something at the end. The project should be complex but short so that learners can read it, ask questions to the tutor, map what they know or ignore about it, and organize and cooperate to meet the challenge. Then, they go and fetch information (web search, library, meeting and interviewing case study actors or experts, …). A “Minimum Documentary Resources Package” is provided, but students are free to enlarge their sources of information.

Through time allocated to information retrieval and knowledge exchanges, students build understanding of the problem and prepare their final presentation. The tutors are facilitators: they exchange with the students about their questions without providing answers that will solve the problem at once. They may also organize mini-lectures, including restructuration lectures, to help students organise the acquired knowledge into a big picture, to favour understanding, and remove deadlocks.

PBL sequences, like all active learning, follow a learning process that has been represented, for instance, by the Kolb experiential learning or the Star legacy models.

Some bibliography:
Duch, B.J., Groh, S.E. & Allen, D.E. (2001). The power of Problem-Based Learning. Sterling, Virginia, USA.
Freeman, S., Eddy, S.L., McDonough, M., Smith, M.K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H. & Wenderoth, M.P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. PNAS, 111 (23).
Østergaaed, E., Lieblein, G., Breland, T.A. & Francis, C. (2010). Students learning Agroecology: phenomenon-based education for responsible action. J. Agric. Education and Extension, 16 (1).