Decision Making in Sustainable Agriculture Systems - Planning Grant
Increasingly, educators acknowledge what researchers in cognitive psychology have consistently found to be true: It is not enough to merely provide students with information. Quality education must also teach participants how to think and solve problems. In situations where the current technology will likely be "obsolete" in 10 years, education that targets ways to process information -- how to think or make decisions-- rather than information alone is likely to be more profitable and successful.
Similarly, research also suggests that individuals at all ages learn best through active, rather than passive, methods. Despite this fact, little has been done to develop such curricula, particularly for adult learners. Most educational experiences for adults involve only lecture or demonstration. This situation is true in the field of sustainable agricultural education.
Today's farmer faces an extremely complex and challenging task in managing a successful enterprise. While technology advances by leaps and bounds, and studies based in the natural sciences proliferate, few inquires into the social science aspects of implementing and maintaining successful agricultural systems exist. Little has been done to understand or to teach agriculturalists how to make effective decisions. Additionally, there is no curriculum that can be used by educators or extension professionals working in the field.
This project will begin to address these issues through a planning grant. Researchers will conduct an exploratory, descriptive examination of what distinguishes two groups of farmers: those who are leaders in adopting sustainable agriculture and those who are continuing with more conventional methods. This information will then be used to design and larger research study into the decision-making process in sustainable agriculture.