Curriculum Design of and Rationale in Managing Agroecosystems: A Core Subject in the Sustainable-Agriculture Postgraduate Coursework Programme in Australia

Anantanarayanan Raman, Anthony McKenzie, Dennis Hodgkins

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Abstract

In sustainable agricultural-management education, agricultural ecology enables the postgraduatelearner to practice holistic and sustainable agriculture in real life. In recent decades agriculturaleducation has evolved necessitating learners to demonstrate high levels of intellectual capabilitiesand logistical skills in the ecological management of agriculture. To meet such a need,we developed Managing Agroecosystems at the Orange campus of Charles Sturt University(CSU'O). In this paper we describe the design and rationale in teaching this subject, which sitswithin a coursework programme in sustainable agriculture. Managing Agroecosystems operateswith other subjects that collectively represent and reinforce the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) conceptof sustainable development. The Sustainable Agriculture Programme (SAP) at CSU'O hasbeen constructed on the TBL concept. Curriculum of Managing Agroecosystems has been designedto empower the learner to (i) make sense of historical agricultural practice, (ii) apply thatlearning in issues of contemporary agricultural practice, (iii) recognize and validate those practicesthat favour sustainability, and (iv) determine those that have not. Teaching strategy ofManaging Agroecosystems emphasizes self-directed learning by engaging the learner in a contemporaryresearch challenge: the learner chooses an appropriate local problem and deals withit.To achieve alignment between learning activities and outcomes, we have designed ManagingAgroecosystems facilitating learners to explore patterns of ecological processes in naturalenvironments and apply that exploration in agricultural contexts. Learners are trained to honetheir already acquired research skills by applying systems principles in the evaluation of diversemanagement options; they learn to infer impacts of systems principles in terms of performance,productivity, stability, social equity, economics, and sustainable management of natural resources.To achieve the most desirable outcomes such as free and motivated learning, selfdirectedlearning reinforced in Managing Agroecosystems fosters capabilities to think, differentiate,and rationalize. Learners practice how to handle and solve unfamiliar problems in unfamiliarcontexts. Managing Agroecosystems, seated at the intersection of ecology, agriculture,and management, has been developing employable and intellectually flexible graduates with thecapability to develop new solutions to problems, as evidenced in learner feedback.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-12
Number of pages11
JournalAsian Journal of Biology Education
Volume6
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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