Wednesday, 16 August 2017

How to teach students and farmers the skills required in the professional world (including know-how on biochar use)?

Feedback from alumni, employers and the general community about the skills actually needed from university graduates is putting increasing pressure on educational institutions to change their teaching practices from lecturing towards learning activities that better promote competences relevant to tomorrow’s work life. These practices usually include employing joint efforts to target open-ended problems using internet-based tools and social media, and being able to publicly present the outcomes. Trialogical learning is one approach emphasizing collaborative knowledge-creation practices aiming to produce new knowledge via developing novel reusable solutions or improvements on real-life artefacts (e.g. operation models, plans, products) in collaboration with other parties. It familiarizes students with working life environments and aims to teach skills required in the professional world.

In our recent paper, we proposed a course design combining effective group working practices with trialogical learning principles in life sciences. We strove to make the model as concrete as possible so that it is easy to apply in practical course design, but also to be in line with and follow the abstract trialogical design principles. We assessed the usability of our design in (a) a case study on crop science education and (b) a questionnaire for university teachers in life science fields.

The case study course was an eight-week graduate degree (MSc) course entitled ‘Current issues in crop science: nutrient cycling’. The course consisted of a pre-task, facilitating lectures and nine topic lectures on novel methods on how to close nutrient cycles in agriculture (e.g. ‘biochar’ or ‘catch crops’). The students’ learning was partly assessed based on the group work task (the artefact) of a 15-year crop rotation plan for a real-life farmer (stakeholder) on a problematic field: the written task and an oral presentation and their feedback was collected.

Our approach was considered useful and supportive of the learning process by all the participants in the case study: the students, the stakeholders and the facilitator. Correspondingly, a group of university teachers expressed that the trialogical approach and the involvement of stakeholders could promote efficient learning. In our case in life sciences, we identified the key issues in facilitating effective group work to be the design of meaningful tasks and the allowance of sufficient time to take action based on formative feedback. Even though trialogical courses can be time consuming, the experience of applying knowledge in real-life cases justifies using the approach, particularly for students just about to enter their professional careers.

Read the full paper here!

No comments:

Post a Comment