Course code PAE302

PAE302 Agroecology: Action Learning in Farming and Food Systems

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Showing course contents for the educational year 2021 - 2022 .

Course responsible: Geir Hofgaard Lieblein
Teachers: Anna Marie Nicolaysen, Charles Andrew Francis, Tor Arvid Breland
ECTS credits: 30
Faculty: Faculty of Biosciences
Teaching language: EN
(NO=norsk, EN=Engelsk)
Limits of class size:
Teaching exam periods:
This course starts in the Autumn block.
Course frequency: Annually
First time: Study year 2011-2012
Preferential right:
Master´s degree students in Agroecology. Others must be approved by course responsible and be manually signed in by SIT
Course contents:
The course consists of two interlinked parts: group-based real-life project work (2) and an individual reflection on the project work. The real-life project work includes description, analysis and redesign of farming and food systems. Lectures and seminars deal with agroecology, organic agriculture, local and global food systems, systems thinking, learning, action research methodology, interview techniques, visionary thinking, reflection, dialogue, group dynamics, facilitation, agroecosystems structure and functioning from farm to global scales, sustainability in production, environmental, economic and social perspectives, ecological principles of farming and food systems design, food distribution, consumer issues on food, and food security. Students write one group report for their farmer clients and one for their food system clients. They also write an individual report where they reflect on their own learning during the course with emphasis on agroecological issues of the project work as well as their own development as an agroecologist.
Learning outcome:

Key competences

Observation competence: the ability to carefully observe a situation in the field; to create a comprehensive overview of a complex situation; and to allow for examination of the whole situation before drawing conclusions.

Participation competence: the ability to recognise values and goal conflicts of different stakeholders in society; to participate in work "out in the field" with commitment and dedication; and to empathise with the goals and feelings of stakeholders in the field.

Visionary thinking competence: the ability to understand factors that stimulate and block creativity in individuals and groups; to understand the processes that enhance a group’s ability to identify today’s critical challenges and envision a desired future state; and the ability to inspire change by helping a group develop and align around a shared vision.

Reflection competence: the ability to be aware of the role of reflection in personal learning and development; the ability to connect situations in the field to theory related to farming and food systems as well as personal growth and development; and to embrace self-guided learning.

Dialogue competence: the ability to understand the difference between discussion, debate and dialogue; to introduce a group to the purpose and guidelines for dialogue; to identify and formulate questions which stimulate a dialogic approach; appreciate and explore a variety of perspectives and be able to identify and challenge the assumptions behind one’s own and a group’s thinking.


  • Can describe systems by means of general systems theory and concepts
  • Can explain the difference between simple, complex and "wicked" or "messy" problems in human activity systems and between methodologies adequate for dealing with each category
  • Can explain various interpretations and applications of agroecology
  • Can describe farming and food systems (structure, properties and functioning) by means of general systems theory and agroecological theory
  • Can describe the concept of sustainability and approaches to working with it
  • Can explain key prerequisites for sustainability of ecosystems in general and agroecosystems in particular
  • Can describe principles and steps in participatory action learning or inquiry processes


  • Ability to observe, describe, analyse and facilitate improvement of farming and food systems by means of a holistic, participatory, action-oriented, stepwise inquiry process
  • Ability to work on relationships between parts and the whole and between different goals and worldviews in farming and food systems characterised by complexity, "messiness" and a need for a transition towards improved sustainability

General competences

  • Ability to open-mindedly observe a "messy" situation
  • Ability to participate in observing, describing, analysing and facilitating improvement in a "messy" situation
  • Ability to envision a desired future state
  • Ability to dialogue and communicate
  • Ability to reflect on experiences as linked to relevant theory and personal development
  • Ability of systems thinking
  • Ability to deal critically and constructively with attitudes and value-based choices
  • Ability of open-minded, autonomous and life-long learning
  • Ability to facilitate change processes towards sustainability in farming and food systems
Learning activities:
Basis is experiential learning in the field as the starting point for the learning process. Students do project work in groups dealing with real-life cases. Lectures and seminars are linked with the project work, that ends with the preparation of two group reports ("client documents"). In addition, the students are expected to write an individual report ("learner document") where they explore their learning process during the course, in relation to key agroecological topics and their own development as agroecologists.
Literature will be presented in class.
Bachelor´s degree or equivalent in agriculture, economics, natural resources, human nutrition or other relevant social or natural sciences.
Recommended prerequisites:
Mandatory activity:
Field excursions, workshops in class and group work, as well as all written assignments.
Basis for the evaluation are two written group reports (´client documents´), a written individual report (´learner document´), an oral presentation and discussion of their individual report (oral examination), and the student´s overall contribution to the course process. The weighting is: Group reports 40%, individual reflection report 30%, oral exam 20%, and course contribution 10%. All parts have to be passed.
Nominal workload:
750 hours.
Entrance requirements:
Minimum requirements for entrance to higher education in Norway
Type of course:
Details will be given at course start.
The external examiner participates in the major parts of the evaluation process.
Examination details: Portfolio assessment: Letter grades