Long-term work with improvement and customization of teaching methods has yielded results. For the past fifteen years faculty at the Department of Plant Sciences have worked to constantly improve teaching and learning methods in order for the students at the Master's programme in Agroecology to achieve a better learning outcome.
A vote of confidence that stimulates further work
The work has resulted in an “Action learning model”. The teaching model has been popular among both students and educators, and now it has won the recognition of NOKUT (the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education). During this year's Education Celebration, the “Action learning model” was named winner of the Education Quality Award among 13 nominees.
“This is great recognition and a vote of confidence from an international education community that has carried out a thorough assessment of all nominees. The award stimulates and inspires further work, and we will use this to reinforce our efforts,” says professor Geir Hofgaard Lieblein at the Department of Plant Sciences.
A complete change of focus from subject to student
He says that the “Action learning model” is aimed at developing the students' skills in dialogue, observation, visionary thinking, reflection and participation, and that each of these competences have been given specific learning measures such as e.g. observation walks, regular reflection assignments, regular use of cases, and seminars and workshops. This has resulted in a major upheaval for the manner in which teaching has taken place:
“Well, it isn't as uncomplicated as it might sound. We have completely shifted focus from subject to student in our education. The agroecologist became more important than agroecology,” Lieblein says.
Enabling lifelong learning
In work on the model they asked themselves a completely open question: What can we do to enable the development of expertise and lifelong learning? The answer was extensive.
“We had to turn 180 degrees away from focus on the subject and lectures and towards an approach of facilitating learning. We went from focus on what we needed to say and cover in lectures to focus on what the students needed to know and do to be good practitioners of their profession. We must learn together, and develop the entire individual and realise that learning cannot be separated from identity development,” says Lieblein, who adds that the students have provided good feedback on the learning model.
Lieblein adds that this is not only recognition of this model in particular, which was developed in the Master's programme in agroecology, but of NMBU that has encouraged such developments.
“This model is very close to NMBU's learning philosophy, so the award is a vote of confidence for this,” Lieblein says.
The award will stimulate higher quality
The Education Quality Award is NOK 1 million and is administered by NOKUT. The entire award is given to a single educational measure. The purpose of the Education Quality Award is to reward excellence in education quality in Norwegian higher education, and to stimulate the institutions and academic communities to work systematically on refining the quality of their courses, NOKUT states on its website.