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Transformative food systems education in a land-grant college of agriculture: the importance of learner-centered inquiries

Listed author(s):
  • Ryan Galt


  • Damian Parr


  • Julia Van Soelen Kim


  • Jessica Beckett


  • Maggie Lickter


  • Heidi Ballard


Registered author(s):

    In this paper we use a critically reflective research approach to analyze our efforts at transformative learning in food systems education in a land grant university. As a team of learners across the educational hierarchy, we apply scholarly tools to the teaching process and learning outcomes of student-centered inquiries in a food systems course. The course, an interdisciplinary, lower division undergraduate course at the University of California, Davis is part of a new undergraduate major in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. We provide an overview of the course’s core elements—labs, exams, assignments, and lectures—as they relate to social constructivist learning theory and student-centered inquiries. Then, through qualitative analysis of students’ reflective essays about their learning experiences in the course, we demonstrate important transformative outcomes of student-centered inquiries: (1) most students confronted the commodity fetish and tried to reconcile tensions between what the food system is and ought to be, and (2) students repositioned themselves, their thinking, and social deliberation in relation to the food system. Students’ reflections point to the power of learning that emerges through their inquiry process, including in the field, and from critical self-reflection. We also highlight the importance of reflective essays in both reinforcing experiential learning and in helping instructors to better understand students’ learning vis-à-vis our teaching. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

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    Article provided by Springer & The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS) in its journal Agriculture and Human Values.

    Volume (Year): 30 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 1 (March)
    Pages: 129-142

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:30:y:2013:i:1:p:129-142
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-012-9384-8
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    1. Patricia Allen, 2008. "Mining for justice in the food system: perceptions, practices, and possibilities," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 25(2), pages 157-161, June.
    2. Patricia Allen, 2010. "Realizing justice in local food systems," Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Cambridge Political Economy Society, vol. 3(2), pages 295-308.
    3. Julie Guthman, 2007. "Commentary on teaching food: Why I am fed up with Michael Pollan et al," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 24(2), pages 261-264, June.
    4. Richard Bawden, 2005. "A commentary on three papers," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 22(2), pages 169-176, 06.
    5. Damian Parr & Cary Trexler & Navina Khanna & Bryce Battisti, 2007. "Designing sustainable agriculture education: Academics’ suggestions for an undergraduate curriculum at a land grant university," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 24(4), pages 523-533, December.
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