At a Glance

Discipline

  • Environmental Science

Instructional Level

  • University

Course

  • Agro-ecosystems Field Course

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Individual
  • Group
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Collecting & seeking information
  • Discussing
  • Solving problems
  • Writing

Technical Details

Time

Part of a semester (4-6 weeks)

Purpose

  • Application & practice

Overview

This activity, using individual reflection, group work and peer-to-peer learning, is built to provide students with a deeper analysis and understanding of a visit to a farm.

The activity unfolds in two locations: a field visit to a farm nearby the university, where students get to see a farm system and ask questions to the person in charge and a discussion in class on the visit, facilitated each time by a different group of students.

In addition, out of the 11 visits, students in their groups have to write a ...

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This activity, using individual reflection, group work and peer-to-peer learning, is built to provide students with a deeper analysis and understanding of a visit to a farm.

The activity unfolds in two locations: a field visit to a farm nearby the university, where students get to see a farm system and ask questions to the person in charge and a discussion in class on the visit, facilitated each time by a different group of students.

In addition, out of the 11 visits, students in their groups have to write a collective 2-page, group reflection for 5 of them that covers the main issues impacting the farm, which gives them the opportunity to analyse the visit in further depth.

Read Less -

Instructional Objectives

  • Students engage in a critical analysis of a farm’s ecosystem to achieve a better and deeper understanding of the complexity of that system.

Workflow & Materials

Activity Workflow

Understanding Agro-Ecosystems by Observing, Writing and Discussing

Download

Assignment Guidelines

Student instructions

Download

Contributor's Notes

Benefits

  • This activity allows students to learn to really observe their surroundings, understand and reflect on what they are seeing and learn to ask insightful questions;
  • In addition, because the group work is quite intense, students get to know each other and become closer.

Challenges

  • A challenge encountered is making the in class discussion led by students a space where people feel safe and comfortable participating and sharing their doubts and opinions. Though it has never become an unsafe space per se, people (especially at the beginning) are afraid of saying what they think, making it hard for a meaningful discussion to occur.

Tips

  • The analysis-based reflection right after the site visit, with each entry contributing to a class-long journal, focuses people attention and requires them to think more deeply about their experience; 
  • It is also useful to give students sample questions to ask the person giving the tour, as often students struggle with coming up with insightful questions. Indeed, this is often the first time students have seen a farm. Moreover, this encourages participation and often by the end of the course everyone will have asked at least one question;
  • For the discussion, it is helpful to state that all opinions are welcome and also tell the facilitators that it may happen that people are afraid to engage;
  • For the group reflection it is useful to keep it short and have one member of the group be in charge of putting it together.

Applied Strategies

  1. 1
    Reflective Writing
  2. 2
    Case Studies

Feedback

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