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Developing Global Curricula: An Experiential Learning Approach to Education in Sustainability and Entrepreneurship


Our overall objective is to establish a multi-institution international experiential learning program focused on the principles of sustainable agriculture and entrepreneurship for undergraduate students from Purdue University (PU) and the University of Florida (UF). This grant focuses on the collaboration of these two schools plus Escuela de Agricultura de la Region Tropical Humeda (EARTH University) as a pilot study to create the curricula and the assessments for experiential learning in the context of an international experience. Purdue University will develop curricula and materials focused on experiential learning and problem solving, addressing comprehensive content such as sustainable rural development, plant diagnostics, organic agriculture, animal production, entrepreneurship, and agricultural business. We will be creating assessment tools for experiential learning and publish the results. A unique aspect of the program is to explore ways to improve student exposure to experiential learning related to globalized agricultural businesses while working with rural agricultural communities to protect agroecosytem sustainability and biosecurity. Biosecurity, whether food-borne such as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow Disease), animal vectored such as Avian influenza, or any number of soil-borne crop diseases, is arguably one of the most important concerns for the Crop, Animal Science and Soil Science disciplines. Today there is the utmost need to highlight examples of biosecurity and to have students explore entrepreneurial mentalities directed at these challenges. To help US students interact with undergraduates at EARTH and participating students at the partnering institutions this program will highlight student to student centered learning. The infrastructure will establish effective student interactions, where US students will begin to explore how EARTH students have developed new bio-based products and technologies (e.g. EARTH students and faculty have produced Eco-hum, a bio-stimulant). They have also produced fruits and milk byproducts to increase the sale value of agricultural primary products. By introducing cross-disciplined coursework and experiential learning opportunities, universities will strengthen their ability to provide knowledgeable instructors for agricultural education and other youth, family, and community programs. All materials created will be available on the World Wide Web. The following products will be developed: Students will be better prepared for employment by developing their problem solving skills. The experiential learning and research emphasis will build student capabilities, which should translate to credibility when pursuing employment. New curricula will be developed and published that can be incorporated into traditional classes and shared among universities. Assessment tools for improving instructional methods addressing experiential learning and problem solving skills will be shared and available to other universities. We will create global partnerships that result in broader and more encompassing instructional programs than any one institution could provide.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: This project will improve the quality of instruction by creating new curricula with the context of addressing international food and agricultural science. Projects will develop analytical skills by providing research opportunities and experiential learning skills. This curricula design will not be centered on lecture but by a combination of lecture and then extending that learning beyond the classroom to the field in real world situations.

<P>APPROACH: This program will address curricula design and materials development and experiential learning. These tasks will be completed by creating a set of course materials and methods to help students develop analytical skills by providing research opportunities in an entrepreneurial setting. These opportunities will expose students to development of a research hypothesis, an experimental design to test that hypothesis and then the conduct of that design. Once the experiment is completed the students will participate in the data analysis and interpretation of that data. Problem solving skills will be introduced and honed in class work but also as students interact with real world community and or farmer problems. Open discussion of these problems with faculty and students leading to potential solutions will be the focus. Finally, decision making will occur as students must make decisions on the solutions provided and communicate those to faculty and students as well as to the community and/or farmers. This curricula design will not be centered on lecture but by a combination of lecture and then extending that learning beyond the classroom to the field in real world situations. The proposed program is interdisciplinary in nature, pulling together expertise from three universities and several departments within the College of Agriculture at Purdue. This project will have instrumentation that is quantitative in nature, reviewed by a panel of experts for face and content validity and pilot tested with populations similar to the research populations under study. Qualitative measures will include by conducting online and directly administered surveys. In addition, we will measure knowledge items direct measured by the PIs; perception items will be derived from the Bennett model, a standard evaluation model used to evaluate and measure educational outcomes. Overall this project will document how this experience impacted the students career goals. Also we will create an evaluation including both faculty and industry to assure that students meet the project objectives and we will promote student interest to become professional personnel in the area of Crop Science, a discipline with lower enrollment. Overall, the proposed program will improve the number and quality of courses offered to undergraduate students in food and agricultural sciences in the USA, increase the number of undergraduates, and greatly improve the efficient use of faculty and teaching resources. The results of our findings will be compiled in a formal report, and results will be utilized in the preparation of manuscripts for submission to appropriate academic research journals.

Ebner, Paul; Snyder, Lori
Purdue University
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