PAE302 Agroecology: Action Learning in Farming and Food Systems

Credits (ECTS):30

Course responsible:Geir Hofgaard Lieblein

Campus / Online:Taught campus Ås

Teaching language:Engelsk

Limits of class size:22

Course frequency:Annually

Nominal workload:750 hours.

Teaching and exam period:This course starts in the Autumn Block and continues through the Autumn Parallel.

About this course

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


  • 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 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 (farming and food systems) 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 participate with empathy and dedication in complex situations including value and goal conflicts ("messy situations")
  • Ability to carefully and openmindedly observe a "messy" situation in the field, create a comprehensive overview, and allow for examination of the whole before drawing conclusions
  • Ability to engage in and facilitate dialogue among stakeholders
  • Ability to envision a desired future state and help a group of stakeholders develop a shared vision
  • Ability to reflect on experiences as linked to relevant theory related to farming and food systems and to personal development as an autonomous, life-long,learner
  • Ability of systems thinking and facilitation of change towards more sustainable farming and food systems
  • The 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 in farming and food systems. Lectures and seminars are linked with the project work, that ends with the preparation of two group reports ("stakeholder documents"). In addition, the students write an individual report ("reflection document") where they explore their learning process during the course, in relation to key agroecological topics and their own development as agroecologists.
  • Bachelor's degree or equivalent in agriculture, economics, natural resources, human nutrition or other relevant social or natural sciences.
  • Basis for the evaluation are two written group reports ('client documents'), a written individual report ('reflection document'), an oral presentation and discussion, and the student´s overall contribution to the course process. The weighting is: group reports 20%, individual reflection document 50%, oral presentation 20%, and course contribution 10%. All parts have to be passed.

    Portfolio assessment Grading: Letter grades
  • The external examiner participates in the major parts of the evaluation process.
  • Field excursions, workshops in class and group work, as well as all written assignments.
  • Details will be given at course start.
  • Master's degree students in Agroecology. Others must be approved by course responsible and be manually signed in by SIT
  • Minimum requirements for entrance to higher education in Norway