Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



International Journal of Agriculture and Natural Resources (2020) 47(3): 280-294

doi: 10.7764/ijanr.v47i3.2262


Copyright 2020, the authors. Open access material

License: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0)


Educational methods have evolved rapidly in agroecology, which is a complex and holistic field without a long history or the formal tradition of any single academic discipline. Definitions of agroecology have evolved from its initial conception as a marriage of agriculture with ecology, to an aggregation of different paths including science, practices, and movements, and recently as a broad appreciation of the ecology of food systems. In contrast with traditional courses that begin with a history of the discipline and review the contributions of early leaders, we have embraced phenomenology to firmly establish roots in students’ learning through their experiences interacting with farmers and practitioners in food systems. We have pursued close collaborations among students, teachers, farmers, processors, retailers, consumers, and government officials to build ownership of the learning process in a transdisciplinary education model. Working together in the learning landscape, we have codeveloped visions of sustainable systems for the future. As a team, we are searching for meaning and applications to help advance substantial changes in the production and consumption of food and more importantly, a transformation in thinking about educational alternatives. Our learning program’s focus is catalyzing the student journey by developing five competencies: observation, dialogue, participation, reflection, and visioning. Implementing the program requires fundamental changes towards colearning involving students, instructors, and stakeholders, plus modifications in the institutional environment. With well-focused skills and practice, our graduates are prepared to deal with a complex and unpredictable future, where many of the questions and challenges are yet to be discovered. By involving students and others in design, this becomes a process of empowering each participant to take responsibility for their education and preparing them for lifelong learning with the motivation to be an active and responsible agent of change.