Developing linkages to improve agri-science education

Material Information

Developing linkages to improve agri-science education
Series Title:
Teaching and learning paper series
Wade, Mark A
Minton, Tara M
University of Florida -- Food and Resource Economics Dept
Place of Publication:
Gainesville Fla
University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Food and Resource Economics Dept.
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
10, 5 p. : ; 28 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Agriculture -- Study and teaching -- Curricula ( lcsh )
Motivation in education ( lcsh )
Vocational education ( lcsh )
Classroom environment ( lcsh )
Indian River ( local )
College students ( jstor )
Agriculture ( jstor )
Funding ( jstor )
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (p. 10).
General Note:
Cover title.
General Note:
"December 2001"--Cover.
Electronic resources created as part of a prototype UF Institutional Repository and Faculty Papers project by the University of Florida.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Mark A. Wade and Tara M. Minton.

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University of Florida
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TLP 01-8
JAN 1 1 2001
Mark A Wade and Tara M. Minton
Teaching and Learning Paper TLP 01-8 December 2001
The goal of the Teaching and Learning Paper Series is to improve, enhance, and enrich the teaching and learning environment in the department, college, university, and profession through the publication of papers on teaching philosophies and techniques, curricular issues, and case studies. Papers are circulated without formal review by the Food and Resmource Economics Department and thus the content is the sole responsibility of the faculty author or co-author.
Institute of Food and Agricuitural Sciences Food and Resource Economics Department Gainesville, Florida 32611

Developing Linkages to Improve Agri-Science Education
Mark A. Wade and Tara M. Minton
Abstract: Students gain knowledge and skill through interaction and hands-on experimentation. The formation and development of successful educational coalitions or partnerships are examined, including diversity of membership, plan development, funding and infrastructure. Potential pitfalls and strategies for success are presented. Students learn best from those that are doing and by doing.
Key Words: agribusiness education, educational coalitions, experiential learning

Developing Linkages to Improve Agri-Science Education by
Mark A. Wade and Tara M. Minton'
Methodologies utilized in both "classical" education and vocational or technical education programs (referred to as Cooperative Education in the 1960's) recognize the importance of experiential learning as part of the overall transfer of skills and knowledge from teacher to student (McKeachie, 1994). It has long been acknowledged that most students benefit when classroom lectures are accompanied by hands-on experience (Davis, 1993; McKeachie, 1994; Cushner et a], 1996). At the same time, industry concerns about the appropriateness of university training and its application to industry standards has grown. Agriculture in the 21't century is far more complex and i nter-discip i nary in nature, making the job of developing future agribusiness leaders more difficult (Krebs, 1998). Compounding the problem is a research network, which often fails to incorporate industry needs with research objectives or to involve students in what could be tremendous learning opportunities. It is important that synergy occur. within the education research agribusiness triangle so that all partners can benefit from the successes experienced by individual members. This then creates an agricultural environment where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
1 Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Economic Analysis, respectively, in the Department of Food and Resource Economics, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Fort Pierce, Florida.

The objective of this study was to examine the formation and development of educational coalitions as a means of providing a link between agribusiness student education, research and industry partners (Coalition for Science Literacy, 2001). This study is important, in part, because of the financial constraints faced by students, researchers and agribusinesses today. Resources can be utilized more efficiently when members share technical information and develop collaborative efforts. The transfer of knowledge occurs at a faster rate when funds are shared, mentoring programs exist, professional standards are established, and School-to-Work programs provide a flow of qualified graduates into the agribusiness sector.
It can be a vast understatement that coalitions and other activities that utilize group
consensus are time-intensive. It is often easier to do something yourself than to involve others. The question of coalition formation and success then becomes one of costs and benefits. Are the benefits of participation greater than the costs involved? It is important to note that costs and benefits can take on many forms, some more tangible than others. For example, networking, an important by-product of coalition membership, can be essential to fund generation, publication, and even tenure and promotion. Yet, it can be difficult to evaluate the cost of network development. Coalition membership frequently offers future benefits that may involve immediate costs.
Upon examination, successful coalitions generally include six elements: diverse
membership, a plan of development (infrastructure), common goals and objectives, funding,

defined programs, and measurable results. Figure I provides a simple diagram of this coalition structure.
Diversity of membership is important because each member brings a unique set of inputs or resources to the coalition and expects a specific benefit from participation. While participants may be diverse, each must have a vested interest in the success of the coalition.
The initial key to successful coalition formation is having a well-defined objective or mission statement. A clear definition of what the coalition stands for and hopes to achieve is needed to keep members involved or to solicit potential members. Members will quickly splinter and become disillusioned if results fail to manifest. Each member should be able to state their degree or level of participation and their expected gain from coalition involvement. The term "member" can refer to an individual, but is generally meant to define an organization, institution or firm that has committed to coalition participation.

Fuding 4Smrm~
Figure 1. Coalition Structure and Flow
Once goals and objectives are established, funding and program implementation issues can be addressed. Given the diverse membership of the coalition, a multi-discipline and multiagency or organization approach to funding can be taken. Legislative and grant funding, which rewards this type of partnering, can be more easily obtained because programs are multidimensional and are focused on a specific target audience.
Coalition Profiles and Results
A general discussion of the coalition or partnership philosophy was initiated previously. While the structure described in Figure 1 may be abstract, the framework has been utilized in the creation of many successful coalitions in which the University of Florida Indian River Research

and Education Center has participated. Three specific coalitions were profiled in terms of the six identified elements. Each of the coalitions was selected at random from a wider assortment of partnership programs. Some effort was made to select a variety of coalitions with respect to the complexity of structure.
Research and Education Coalition
The Research and Education Coalition was initiated by members of the St. Lucie County (Florida) community as a means of coordinating educational activities, programs and funding along the Treasure Coast. Membership includes the University of Florida, Indian River Community College, Barry University, Florida Atlantic University, four individual school districts, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, the Smithsonian Field Station, area businesses and politicians. Each participant contributes to the coalition in a different way. The university partners provide a higher level of knowledge and specialization in a variety of subject areas including agribusiness, agroecology, horticultural science, virology, entomology and aquaculture. These faculty members serve as academic mentors, science fair sponsors, judges at scientific competitions, guest lecturers, provide job-shadowing opportunities to future scientists, provide laboratory space and equipment, and the opportunity for students to practice the concepts they have learned in the classroom. The community college provides dual enrollment courses that apply towards Associate of Arts and/or Associate of Science degrees, at the county's expense. Area school districts provide students, transportation, facilities and funding which allows K-12 students access to coalition programs. Harbor Branch and Smithsonian provide scientists, ocean-going research vessels, laboratories and classrooms. Industry groups provide leadership and established standards of performance that each program must meet. Finally, area

politicians provide media identification, visibility and the political clout needed to gain legislative funding.
The common objective of the coalition is to bridge the gap between research, classroom teaching, extension, and practical skill development. In other words, students learn the foundations of knowledge in the classroom and then put that knowledge to work in the field or laboratory. For their effort students earn Advanced Placement credit, International Baccalaureate credit or community college credits. Student interaction with industry leaders and research scientists facilitates the sharing of faculty, coordination of K-I 12 and college research initiatives, dual enrollment, School-to-Work programs, science fair sponsorship, and generation of funding through grants and legislative appropriation. Through the collaborative efforts of the coalition, special legislative allocations, state educational supplements and grants, such as the National Science Foundation, have been earned. These funds would not have been made available if not for the collaborative partnership.
It is easy to see that K- 12 students benefit greatly from the Research and Education Coalition. However, all participants benefit as well. University researchers gain from student internships and School-to-Work programs that provide free lab assistants, equipment and support funding. In addition, interaction with researchers from other institutions and industry, as well as the political world, provides avenues for additional funding and collaboration. Faculty members with extension appointments benefit from increased access to current and future industry leaders, and the research community. Community colleges benefit from the increase in student enrollment brought-on by dual enrollment programs, and benefit, as do universities in general, from a more academically enriched student body. County school districts benefit from the enhanced rigor of coursework supplemented by college level instruction, laboratory and field

study, and allows for magnate school development. Industry benefits from having access to a more highly trained workforce, which adds to political stability.
Westwood Agricultural Academy Advisory Council
The Westwood Agricultural Academy Advisory Council was established by members of the agricultural community to develop an academy within the area high school solely dedicated to training students in agriculture. The council is composed, in part, by veterinarians, animal scientists, university and college faculty, extension agents, key agribusiness leaders from the livestock, fruit and vegetable industry, school board members, and high school teachers. The members of this coalition have assisted in the development of an industry-standard based curriculum, one that meets Florida Sunshine State Standards and provides students'with the hands-on training industry partners require. Training modules are broken into lecture and lab components, with lecture responsibilities being shared by high school instructors, university faculty and industry experts. Once the lecture component has been mastered, the lab component is started. This component entails working in the field, grove or lab, depending on the task. Some modules will include elements of all three tasks. Each year, students work through corresponding modules, but each year the modules are more complex.
Coalition members benefit from the interaction with industry and community leaders and from access to improved training facilities. Extension programs that rely on livestock pens and field demonstrations have found the agricultural farm to be an excellent place to hold meetings and training in-services. Industry leaders are excited about the improved quality of graduates exiting the program, as are the university and community colleges who have hired agricultural assistants and biological scientists from the program. The program has generated over $500,000

in external funding for program support and development as a result of the coalitions efforts, with an additional $4.5 million in funding requests currently being considered.
GIS Training Program
The GIS Training Program established a grant-funded center for training students on Global Positioning System technologies applied to agriculture. A dedicated classroom was established at a local high school and equipped with laptop computers, software, plotters, soil analysis materials and a vehicle to map out groves and environmentally sensitive areas. Local tractor dealers, fertilizer and chemical sprayers, and growers were recruited to provide hands-on experience and application of the technology. University extension faculty provided expertise in the area of precision agriculture and assisted with grant writing and program development. Research faculty assisted with the technical aspects of GIS training and provided field experience for students involved in the program. Researchers were aided by student experts in the mapping and analysis of research plots.
Funding for the program was generated by a grant that provided over $100,000 to the program. As a result of this program, students are being trained to fill a vital need within the agricultural community.
Agricultural education has evolved from "watch-me-and-learn" to theoretical lecture to experiential learning (Trede and Andreasen, 2000). Subject matter has grown across discipline and national boundary, so new educational approaches must be examined that integrate the sciences and include those in education, industry and the public sector (Wolf and Schaffner,

2000). This paper examined the formation of educational coalitions that become mutually inclusive groups of vested individuals with one goal or mission in common --the transfer of knowledge and skill through interaction and hands-on experimentation. This symbiotic relationship must benefit all involved parties and provide students with a living laboratory. Students learn from those that are doing and by doing. This brings good science to life. Agribusinesses are then supplied with well-trained employees and agricultural leaders.

Literature Cited
Coalition for Science Literacy. June 2001. University of South Florida.
httpiieb.usf edu/-s/CSL/.
Cushner, Kenneth, Averil McClelland, and Philip Safford. 1996. Human Diversity in Education.
2nd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
Davis, Barbara G. 1993. Tools for Teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Krebs, Candace. September 1998. Early Intervention. Hogs Today. pp. 22-23. McKeachie, Wilbert. 1994. Teaching Tips. 9th ed. Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company. Trede, Larry D. and Randall J. Andreasen. December 2000. An Analysis of Experiential
Learning and Instructional Techniques in AgEdS450 at Iowa State University. NACTA
Journal 44 (4): 35-40.
Wolf, Marianne McGarry and David J. Schaffner. 2000. Curriculum Development: Starting with
the Marketplace. NACTA Journal 44 (3): 60-67.

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