Module 2: Core Text and Resources
1. How do people learn?
It is very important to recognise that different people learn in different ways. We cannot just assume that everyone learns in the same way, and we need to develop the educational and training programmes in ways that are appropriate for their intended audiences. It is also critical to combine the input of both educators/trainers and learners in identifying the best teaching and learning approaches. Before starting the development of these programmes, therefore, it is vital to understand how different people learn and which teaching methods are appropriate.
1.1 Key teaching and learning methods in agriculture
Agriculture is essentially a very practical activity, which provides for many different learning possibilities. Presentation 2.1 describes a wide range of appropriate methods and approaches (click on box, below).
Guided by your own experiences and Presentation 2.1 consider the following questions:
Q1 – (a) How do you yourselves learn best; (b) which methods do you find most helpful; (c) what is your major sources of information and knowledge; (d) where do you normally go for information/knowledge; (e) where (or from whom) else can you obtain information/knowledge?
Stream 1: professionals involved in the formal education and training sector:
Q2 – Who are my learners/trainees?
Q3 – (a) What types of learning opportunities do I offer my learners/trainees;
(b) what kinds of learning methods do I use in my teaching and training?
Q4 – What sources of information do I provide for my learners/trainees?
Stream 2: professionals involved in the informal training sector, and farmers who share with others
Q2 – Do I share my knowledge and experience with others? Who?
Q3 – How do I share my knowledge and experience?
Q4 – What sources of information do I share with others?
1.2 Teaching/training and learning approaches of the WRC training and learning materials
Both the Water Harvesting and Conservation (WH&C) and the Agricultural Water Use for Homestead Gardens (AWHGS) materials propose a very ‘participatory’ approach to training. The other materials are not specific about their approach to training, but the participatory approach is clearly appropriate for all of them. Presentation 2.1 describes the different teaching / training and learning approaches, including the participatory approach.
2. How do we understand ‘participation’ in our situation?
The Additional information box below provides basic definitions of the participatory approaches identified in the WH&C materials, and used in the development and facilitation of the AWHGS materials. The Training of Trainers course is also very much focused on participatory approaches and on ‘social learning’. While stakeholder participation does not necessarily lead to social learning, it is viewed as a condition or method that may facilitate it (Reed et al., 2010).
Agricultural Extension Participatory Approach: Focuses on the expressed needs of farmers’ groups. Its goal is increased production and an improved quality of rural life. Implementation is often decentralised and flexible. Success is measured by the numbers of farmers actively participating and the sustainability of local extension organisations. (Axinn, in FAO, 1988)
Participatory Innovation Development (PID): Promoting local innovations in (ecologically oriented) agriculture and natural resource management. (Practicalaction.org, PROLINNOVA Initiative)
Participatory Technology Development (PTD): Involves collaboration between researchers and farmers in the analysis of agricultural problems and testing of alternative farming practices. (Wikipedia, Oct 2014)
Social Learning Theory and Practice: Based on the idea that change in people’s understanding can go beyond the individual to become situated within wider social units or communities of practice through social interactions between actors within social networks (Reed et al., 2010)
These definitions are quite broad and it would be useful to agree what we actually mean by participatory approaches and by social learning in our context; what value we see in them; what we expect out of such approaches; and what contributions we can make to them.
How do we understand participatory approaches in our context?
Using these definitions as a guide reflect on (or discuss with others) the following questions:
- What do you understand these approaches to mean to you?
- Are they appropriate approaches for you to take in your situation?
- What do you expect out of these approaches?
- What are the major contributions each of us (as lecturers, extension officers, trainers, development workers, farmers) can and should make to ensure real participation and the greatest benefit for everyone?
3. Reviewing our teaching/training and learning practices and programmes.
This module is focused on developing appropriate educational curricula and training programmes for RWH&C practices. The first step is to review our current teaching, training and information sharing practices.
3.1 Reviewing your own curricula and programmes
To be able to make the necessary changes for the integration of education and training for RWH&C practices in your own curricula and programmes, you need to review what already exists. In order to do this, you should consider the following:
- Content – In terms of the practices themselves, and the underpinning knowledge required to implement the practices. This should also include the ‘General Activities (or Skills), Applicable to and Underpinning many of the Practices’ as identified in the Navigation Tool.
- Links between the various content components – Examining how well linked any practices may be to the essential underpinning knowledge or general activities or skills (if they are present). While much of the required knowledge may well be covered, its relevance and connection to RWH&C practices may not be clear.
- The teaching and learning methods currently used – Are the methods currently used for teaching RWH&C practices appropriate and effective? Alternatively, are the methods of teaching providing space for integrating RWH&C where appropriate?
- The forms in which information/knowledge is available to learners and trainees – Are the ways in which information and knowledge are made available to learners and trainees appropriate? Is the information/knowledge easily accessible in forms that are immediately useful?
A useful article to assist you in thinking about curricular change and integrating new content into your training programmes and learning practices is the Possible Options for Integration into College Curricula paper.
Presentation 2.2 provides further information on the curriculum review process (click on box, below)
Reviewing our curriculum or training programme
This Activity is linked to Activities 1.2 and 1.3 in Module 1. You can refer back to these when working through this Activity.
A very useful document to help you with this activity, and with integrating RWH&C into your curriculum or training programme is: Possible Options for Integration into College Curricula
Guided by the information above and in Presentations 2.1 and 2.2 work through the following questions:
- Does your current teaching, training or sharing of information include any elements of RWH&C?
2a. If YES:
- What particular aspects or RWH&C practices do you include?
- What other aspects or practices do you think it might be good to include (refer to Activity 1.2)
- Do you include any ‘underpinning’ knowledge or skills to support your discussions of the practices? (refer to Activity 1.3)
- How do you link these underpinning knowledge and skills components to the practices themselves?
- What additional underpinning skills and knowledge would be good to include?
- How can you strengthen the links between the underpinning skills and knowledge and the practices?
- What teaching, training or information sharing methods do you use in relation to the RWH&C practices – are these effective? (see Presentation 2.1)
- Which new methods could you use to make the teaching, training or information sharing more effective?
- How do you make information on the practices available to your students, trainees or fellow farmers – is this an effective way of sharing the information?
- What could you do to make the information more accessible?
2b. If NO
- What aspects or RWH&C practices do you think it would be good to introduce (refer to Activity 1.2)
- What underpinning knowledge and skills would be needed to support the learning about the practices?
(refer to Activity 1.3)
- How would you link these underpinning knowledge and skills components to the practices themselves?
- What teaching, training or information sharing methods do you use in your interactions? (see Presentation 2.1)
- Which methods could you use specifically for the RWH&C practices you wish to introduce?
- What are the most effective ways to make information on the practices available to your students, trainees or fellow farmers?
4. The Power of the Practical
This module has been concerned with analysing our current curricula and training programmes and teaching practices. One of the strongest teaching methods for the implementation of RWH&C (and other) practices is practical demonstration. This can be at two levels:
- Demonstrating the practice itself
- Demonstrating the teaching of that practice
4.1 Productive demonstration sites
A key activity in providing practical demonstrations of RWH&C practices is the development of productive demonstration sites. This is a central element in the learning in this Training of Trainers Course. The idea is that their development will be of great value not only to the course participants, but also to others in the future who wish to learn about RWH&C practices. They should be available for the long-term promotion of understanding of these practices.
Figure 2: A demonstration of harvesting rainwater from a roof
All our experience, and everything we hear from people learning about agricultural practices, tells us that it is very important to have working examples of these practices. Most people need to see the practices in action to both believe in them and fully understand how they should work.
Presentation 2.3 describes how the knowledge about/of a practice, and the underpinning knowledge supporting it, can be shared through practical actions. It focuses on teaching and learning through practical application using productive demonstration sites (click on box, below).
How important might productive demonstration sites be in your teaching and sharing activities?
Guided by the information above and Presentation 2.3 reflect on (or discuss with others) the following questions:
- How important could such sites be for your teaching and sharing? What might be the benefits and challenges?
- Do you know of a potential site?
- Which practices would you like to demonstrate using such a site? (refer to your responses in Activity 2.2, above)
Working through this Reflection Question will help you with developing Assignment 2
Collaborative learning: A situation in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together. Unlike individual learning, people engaged in collaborative learning capitalise on one another’s resources and skills (asking each other for information, evaluating one another’s ideas, monitoring one another’s work, etc.) (Wikipedia, Jan 2015).
5. Collaboration on the development of the sites: the value of Learning Networks
The Amanzi for Food approach to learning about RWH&C and developing RWH&C practices is very much that of collaboration. This course encourages the development of Learning Networks where different stakeholders in the farming sector, including farmers, farmers’ associations, extension officers, education and training institutions, NGO personnel and others come together to learn about and implement new practices. In the WRC Amanzi for Food project the initial focus for learning networks is on RWH&C practices, but they can agree to open discussion and collaborate on any other issues in which they have a shared interest. Learning Networks are essentially collaborative groups, sharing a range of different experiences, skills, understandings and resources with each other. They can use social media, such as WhatsApp to communicate among themselves and collaborate on practical activities. Collaboration can only strengthen everyone’s learning and increase the chances of developing viable productive demonstration sites. These sites can then be used to spread the interest in and understanding of the use of RWH&C practices to others.
Presentation 2.4 provides more information in relation to learning networks for RWH&C, and includes case studies from the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga provinces (click on box, below).
5.1 Collaboration around the development of your site(s)
Once you have identified, potential productive demonstration sites you have to decide who could be involved in the development of each site. These people could also be brought together to establish a Learning Network.
Who should be included in the process of developing the site and/or the establishment of a Learning Network?
Guided by the information above and Presentation 2.4 Reflect (or discuss with others) who should be invited to join you in developing a productive demonstration site, and who you would like to bring together a learning network.
Some of the main criteria for deciding on the composition of your group could include:
- Interest in the particular practice
- Knowledge of and/or experience in the particular practice
- Ease of access to the site (within same geographical area)
- Groups to include a range of people with different backgrounds and responsibilities
Working through this Reflection Question will help you with developing Assignment 2
Ideally, your collaborative group should include a range of people with different backgrounds, interests and responsibilities, with each group potentially including farmers, extension officers, lecturers/trainers and others active in the agricultural sector
5.2 Curriculum and training programme implications of development of the sites
The development of the sites is a vital practical component within any RWH&C curriculum or training programme. The process of productive demonstration site development, from the initial ideas through to the planning and implementation phases and the use of the sites, can be built into any RWH&C education and training process. In this way, the sites, and the collaborative activities in which people become involved, become integral and add value to the teaching and learning
5.3 Use of the WRC materials in the development of the sites
The selection of the practices and the development of the sites should be strongly informed by the information provided in the various WRC materials. The selection of the practices is supported by the use of the WRC Navigation Tool (introduced in Module 1).
As you have seen, this information is now available in different forms – as handouts, case studies and the key materials themselves. There are also the summary ‘infocards’ on most practices, available from the Amanzi for Food website. While not every detail of the development of every practice may be immediately available, there is certainly sufficient information to provide a good starting point.
6. Planning the development of the sites
When planning the development of a productive demonstration site, the most valuable information comes from local knowledge of the area. It is absolutely essential to have a good knowledge of the site in terms of its ownership (or tenure), location, size, aspect (which way it faces), slope, soil type, current use, and the presence of any roads or buildings in the area. In addition there are several tools, such as photographs, maps, and Google earth images which can help greatly in the planning process.
As with all other aspects of learning, the planning process is always best done collaboratively. Developing the site therefore becomes a process of working and learning together (as described in Presentation 2.4) which helps create a strong supportive bond between the people involved. This is essential for the future sustainability of the site and its continued value as a place of teaching and learning.
Presentation 2.5 provides information regarding the collaborative planning and development of productive demonstration sites. It also includes Case Studies of existing demonstration sites (click on box, below).
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