Educating and Training Future Farmers, Researchers and Extension Personnel in Sustainable Agriculture

2012 Annual Report for LS10-228

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $245,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Rosalie Koenig
University of Florida

Educating and Training Future Farmers, Researchers and Extension Personnel in Sustainable Agriculture


The purpose of this project is to ensure that the next generation of producers, researchers, extension personnel and other service providers understand the principles and practices of sustainable agriculture. This project will help instructors teach sustainable agriculture at institutions of higher learning to prepare students to meet the challenges that they will likely face in their careers.

Objectives/Performance Targets

(1) To develop a two-day workshop that provides the project implementation team members with an understanding of their own learning style and its effects on how they teach, how to incorporate experiential learning into curricula, ways of reaching the six teaching goal areas, and how to develop objective-based instruction. Additionally, the members will assess their team member style and learn how this influences the key roles that they can play on the implementation team.

(2) To create an inventory of programs in sustainable agriculture at US universities, determine which ones utilize teaching farms and evaluate the extent to which these programs use experiential learning, teach to multiple educational goal areas and employ objective-based learning.

(3) To develop a model for a multidisciplinary, integrated sustainable agriculture curriculum based on experiential and objective-based learning, using POGIL and other aids for experiential and discovery-based learning that incorporates a teaching farm component for instructors at the University of Florida, North Carolina State University, Clemson University, and the University of Puerto Rico.

(4) Implement curricula at partner institutions.

(5) To disseminate the results of the research and model curricula to other institutions, extension professionals and service providers, including a guide about how to use the materials that provides an overview of the theoretical approaches underlying their development.


Changes to Modules: After each team developed working drafts of their lessons, we realized that we needed to create two lessons that could be used in a more general fashion than the previously developed modules that focused on specific scientific/technical content areas. The two general lessons that we felt the need to create included Sampling and What is Sustainable Agriculture?

Lesson Development: Following the same guidelines as the previous year, we created 11 more lessons. Again, each lesson contained multiple activities. The lessons created were Pesticide Impacts, Eutrophication, Sampling, Introduction to Abiotic Factors, Soil Sampling, Field Contours, Soil Organic Matter, What is Sustainable Agriculture, Weed Management, Companion Planting, and Weed Seed Bank.

Evaluation of Lessons: As in Year Two, we had conference calls to evaluate progress and lesson development as a group. However, we moved those calls to a bimonthly basis. On the in-between months, each university had a private phone call with the project PI to discuss their particular progress and any changes that they needed to make to their lessons. This change was made so that each university could receive specific, targeted feedback on their lessons in a manner that was not rushed for time. After the universities finished creating lessons, we took a month to review each lesson in depth. We looked to ensure that the technical information included in the lesson was correct and precise. We also evaluated the presence of Angelo and Cross (1993) and other assessment techniques. Each university provided recommendations on additions or changes to be made to the existing lessons.
Instrument Development:
We used the teaching goals inventory out of Angelo and Cross (1993) to determine whether each lesson and/or module addressed any of the teaching goal clusters. We wanted to address each of the clusters at least once in each module. After using the instrument, we determined that some of our modules were lacking in the “Liberal Arts and Academic Values” and the “Work and Career Preparation” clusters. We started adding more Angelo and Cross techniques to those modules to fill that void.
We also looked into the UF Critical Thinking Instrument. We intend to use this instrument with the students that participate in the review of our teaching materials for effectiveness. We spoke with the current manager of the instrument and received our own online copy of the instrument. Once we reach the evaluation process of sending our material to outside institutions for testing in classrooms, we will be able to use this instrument to evaluate changes in critical thinking ability of the students being taught our lessons.
Data Analysis: The instrument we created in Year One to measure student interest in agricultural topics was disseminated to a variety of classes in our four institutions. We received the data from the instrument are currently running analyses and preparing future publications.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Our learning materials will be disseminated to other learning institutions and online. Students that use the materials will think more comprehensively about sustainable agriculture and will have learned skills that help them in their professional lives. Their sense of self efficacy may be higher, and they may have become interested in working in the field of agriculture in the future.


Pablo Morales-Pagan
Associate Professor
University of Puerto Rico
PO Box 9000
Mayaguez, PR 00681
Office Phone: 7874145429
Marilyn Swisher
Associate Professor
Family Youth and Community Sciences
Gainesville, FL 32611
Office Phone: 3522733538
T. Grady Roberts
Associate Professor
Agriculture Education and Comunication
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611
Office Phone: 3522732568
Geoff Zehnder
Clemson University
Department of Entomology
B28 Long Hall
Clemson, SC 29634
Office Phone: 8646566644
Michelle Schroeder-Moreno
Assistant Professor
NC State University
2406 Williams Hall
Raleigh, NC 27695
Office Phone: 9195130085