Development and Evaluation of an Introductory Course in Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems
Keywords:Course Assessment, Education, Higher Education Challenge Grant, Interdisciplinary Education, Sustainability, Sustainable Food Systems
AbstractThe purpose of this paper is to describe the development, instruction, and evaluation of the undergraduate pilot course, Introduction to Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems (SFBS), at Montana State University. Introduction to SFBS is an interdisciplinary, team-taught, experiential education course designed to introduce students to broad array of SFBS-related topics, expose students to career opportunities in these fields, and enable them to establish relationships with food, agriculture, and energy stakeholders. Students completed baseline and follow-up surveys in which they reported information about their backgrounds, values, and knowledge of SFBS-related topics. The surveys also tracked students' learning and allowed them to provide feedback on course methods. According to the follow-up survey, over the course of the semester students demonstrated development of course vocabulary and concepts. Students' experiences in the course prompted changes in their school- and career-related goals. Additionally, the team-teaching approach was highly valued. Students also indicated that teaching should be more solutions-focused. Evaluation of students' backgrounds and learning is an important tool for the future evolution of this course and the development of others like it. The survey tool was in its first iteration; it will require revision as the course evolves. Introduction to SFBS can serve as a model for curricula related to sustainable agriculture, food, and energy. Courses like this can prepare students to become informed, innovative, critical thinkers capable of excelling in a multitude of food, agriculture, and energy-related careers. This course will continue to be monitored and evaluated as the curriculum evolves.
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