Course code EDS333

EDS333 Practicum

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Showing course contents for the educational year 2018 - 2019 .

Course responsible: John Andrew Mcneish
ECTS credits: 10
Faculty: Faculty of Landscape and Society
Teaching language: EN
(NO=norsk, EN=Engelsk)
Limits of class size:
A maximum of 10 NMBU students
Teaching exam periods:
The course is run in the June block. Some preparation for the course will be made by students and staff in the Spring parallel.
Course frequency: Biannual starting in June 2019
First time: Study year 2018-2019
Preferential right:
Masters students of International Environmental Studies. Students from the Masters in International Development Studies and the Masters in International Relations are also encouraged to apply. 
Course contents:

What is a Practicum?

A practicum course is 10 credit, practice based field course for NMBU Masters students. Professors oversee student teams that complete consulting-style projects for external client organizations. The client presents its terms of reference (TOR) and the student team works together to produce deliverables that meet the client's needs, with the professor/s acting as a coach and facilitator. The Practicum is a real world, team oriented alternative to the other field course run for Masters students by NMBU. 

Practicum 2019: The Political Ecology of Land Use Conflicts- Pineapple Production, Costa Rica 

This practicum will be conducted as part of financed cooperation project between American University and The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU). The Norwegian Centre for the Internationalization of Education has provided the grant to establish collaboration (SIU). One stipulation of the grant is that a course is co-taught between American University and NMBU faculty in a country other than Norway or the USA. The course will take place in Costa Rica, where the United Nations University for Peace will be the principle client. SIS students will be combined with students from Norway and a group of students from Costa Rican universities. Prof. Scott Freeman will be teaching AU students and Prof John Andrew McNeish at NMBU will provide two weeks of pre-departure teaching for students. Freeman and McNeish will also assist Prof. Jan Brietling and Prof. Olivia Sylvester with instruction in Costa Rica. Freeman and McNeish will also provide students with supervisory help in the completion of their course assignments.

Learning outcome:

Learning outcome: 

Each Practicum course will have its own unique subject matter and deliverables tailored to client needs, but there are a few cross-cutting learning objectives: 

  • Critical Thinking and Analysis: Researching and conceptualizing problems, defining the scope of a project and breaking it down into workable components.
  • Teamwork: Working effectively as a team member by identifying key tasks, sharing responsibility for the project, and ensuring all deadlines are met.
  • Client Relations: Establishing a positive working relationship with a client by understanding the client's needs and deadlines, leading productive meetings, following up with client requests, and managing expectations.
  • Oral Presentation: Delivering an organized, articulate presentation to the client with effective remarks, digital media and graphical aids.
  • Written Presentation: Preparing a professional, cleanly written document that identifies the client's problem and offers thoughtful analysis and recommendations.
Learning activities:

Learning activities: 


In this practicum, we will examine the roots of land use conflict caused by the expansion of pineapple farming in Costa Rica. Students will gain experience in the practical application of political ecology as a means to study and understand these conflicts.


Political ecology focuses on the intersection of political economy and the environment, and broadly focuses on how power intersects with the environment. While methods of political ecology are interdisciplinary, they have been heavily influenced by ethnography and anthropological approaches. As such, this practicum will focus largely on anthropological field methods and will also engage participatory, critical, and indigenous methodological approaches to research.


Costa Rica is a country with a strong history of human rights and biodiversity conservation policies and practices. Despite these social-ecological strengths, many people, cultures and use-groups have not been adequately considered in Costa Rican land management. 


Some of the tensions regarding land use relate to the following areas:

ConservationAgriculture and Food SecurityIndigenous Rights.


Specifically, Costa Rica has around 26% of their national area designated as protected areas for biodiversity conservation; however, this protection has come at the cost of a command and control approach to conservation that has impinged upon the human rights of indigenous and non-indigenous communities. Furthermore, despite having ratified the human rights to food and prioritizing sustainable development, Costa Rica continues to be using the highest volumes of pesticide in the world - a practice harmful to human and environmental health. This is further problematized by the expansion of large-scale industrial agriculture practices that rely on low-wage labor.


In this practicum our focus will be to study the dynamics of land-use conflicts caused by expanding pineapple production. Pineapple has become CR's largest export agricultural crop in a short period of time. It uses high quantities of pesticides and research has illustrated the negative impacts on ground water and on biodiversity (e.g., toxicity). Pineapple has many lawsuits because it is encroaching on wetlands and protected areas. Its expansion is threatening forests. Unfortunately, the social conditions of workers as well as those living around the plantations violate human rights (e.g., life, food, water). Pesticides are in drinking water around plantations. Workers and community members report health impacts. And, the impacts of pineapple may affect people of social groups in different ways (E.g., there is a migrant worker community in Long Mai from El Salvador). 


To find out more see:


Students will learn to apply a political ecology framework to better understand and address these conflicts. The course is designed to teach students to gather rich data on one or more of these three issues and to guide students in the preparation of data that help to respond to the questions and concerns of the main and sub-clients below. In this practicum, students will apply participatory, critical, co-productive, indigenous methodological approaches to research and practice. 


Practicum Clients

Our main client will be the United Nations University for Peace, Costa Rica (https://www.upeace.org The University for Peace (UPeace) is an academic institution whose mission is to contribute to peace-building, human rights protection and sustainable development. For the University for Peace to contribute to their mission, it is essential that they work with local institutions in Costa Rica to better understand the conflicts that arise from different land use regimes.


Our secondary clients will be the community council of Longo Mai. We aim for the research carried out under the practicum to be of direct benefit to the community. We aim in particular for the research to be of value in explaining the impacts of pineapple production, but also the complex economic and political dynamics surrounding the industry in Costa Rica.

Teaching support:

Students will be provided teaching and supervision by teaching staff at NMBU, American University and the UN Peace University. The majority of supervision will be given in the last two weeks of the course. Teaching in practical methods will be carried out in both the classroom and the field whilst in Costa Rica. Depending on the aims of the practicum, students may also receive teaching and orientation on practical techniques and methods from external teachers and the client organizations.


Each practicum requires its own tailor made reading list. This reading list will provide students with both theoretical and practical information regarding the topic/s of the practicum. The reading list will be made available at the start of the course. Students will be expected to use the reading list as part of their preperation work for the practicum field study.

All Masters-level students at NMBU and AU with an interest and relevant skills in the field of environmental studies are encouraged to apply to take part in the practicum. 
Recommended prerequisites:
Students with both theoretical and practical knowledge within the field of environmental studies are welcome to apply to take part in the course
Mandatory activity:
The course involves both classroom and field research based learning. Students will take part in classroom learning in the two first weeks of the course, and the first three days of their visit to Costa Rica. Approximately ten days will be spent living and carrying out thematically focused field research in the community of Longo Mai. The final two weeks of the course will be dedicated to the completion of the research report. The report can be completed by students whilst staying in Costa Rica, or on returning home following the period of field stay in Longo Mai.

There is no final written exam for this course. Assessment will take the form of an evaluation of students abilities to participate in obligatory activities and the quality of their deliverables. See above.

Students will be required to submit a research report based on their thematic research in Costa Rica. This is to be submitted on the last day of the course.

Nominal workload:
300 hours of formal study hours. Students will also be encouraged to participate in group work, discussions and field visits outside of these hours. 
Entrance requirements:
The course is principally oriented towards social and environmental sciences. 
Type of course:
50 hours of classroom teaching. 

Assessment of students presentations and deliverable will be conducted by an examination committee formed by the course responsible professors and the client organization. 

Examination details: Continuous exam: A - E / Ikke bestått